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Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Created for a faculty inquiry group project on UDL.

Provide Multiple Means of Engagement

Affect represents a crucial element to learning, and learners differ markedly in the ways in which they can be engaged or motivated to learn. There are a variety of sources that can influence individual variation in affect including neurology, culture, personal relevance, subjectivity, and background knowledge, along with a variety of other factors presented in these guidelines. Some learners are highly engaged by spontaneity and novelty while other are disengaged, even frightened, by those aspects, preferring strict routine. Some learners might like to work alone, while others prefer to work with their peers. In reality, there is not one means of engagement that will be optimal for all learners in all contexts; providing multiple options for engagement is essential. For greater detail, please refer to the CAST UDL Guidelines on Engagement.

Provide Multiple Means of Engagement


  • Provide options for recruiting interest: Information that is not attended to, that does not engage learners’ cognition, is in fact inaccessible. It is inaccessible both in the moment and in the future, because relevant information goes unnoticed and unprocessed. As a result, teachers devote considerable effort to recruiting learner attention and engagement. But learners differ significantly in what attracts their attention and engages their interest. Even the same learner will differ over time and circumstance; their “interests” change as they develop and gain new knowledge and skills, as their biological environments change, and as they develop into self-determined adolescents and adults. It is, therefore, important to have alternative ways to recruit learner interest, ways that reflect the important inter- and intra-individual differences amongst learners.
  • Provide options for sustaining effort and persistence: Many kinds of learning, particularly the learning of skills and strategies, require sustained attention and effort. When motivated to do so, many learners can regulate their attention and affect in order to sustain the effort and concentration that such learning will require. However, learners differ considerably in their ability to self-regulate in this way. Their differences reflect disparities in their initial motivation, their capacity and skills for self-regulation, their susceptibility to contextual interference, and so forth. A key instructional goal is to build the individual skills in self-regulation and self-determination that will equalize such learning opportunities (see Guideline 9). In the meantime, the external environment must provide options that can equalize accessibility by supporting learners who differ in initial motivation, self-regulation skills, etc.
  • Provide options for self-regulation: While it is important to design the extrinsic environment so that it can support motivation and engagement (see Guidelines 7 and 8), it is also important to develop learners’ intrinsic abilities to regulate their own emotions and motivations. The ability to self-regulate – to strategically modulate one’s emotional reactions or states in order to be more effective at coping and engaging with the environment – is a critical aspect of human development. While many individuals develop self-regulatory skills on their own, either by trial and error or by observing successful adults, many others have significant difficulties in developing these skills. Unfortunately some classrooms do not address these skills explicitly, leaving them as part of the “implicit” curriculum that is often inaccessible or invisible to many. Those teachers and settings that address self-regulation explicitly will be most successful in applying the UDL principles through modeling and prompting in a variety of methods. As in other kinds of learning, individual differences are more likely than uniformity. A successful approach requires providing sufficient alternatives to support learners with very different aptitudes and prior experience to effectively manage their own engagement and affect.

UDL Principle, Engagement: Take-away strategy

How do I involve students in the learning process?

Knowing that active participation is key to learning, consider adopting various ways that students can actively participate in class.  Active participation strengthens learning and, ultimately, the effectiveness of your instruction.

Take-Away Engagement Strategy: The Pause Procedure

What:  Short (4-minute) periodic breaks to review notes and or discuss course content.

Why: Increases accuracy of notes (Ruhl & Suritsky, 1995); higher exam scores and less need for sustained attention (Braun & Simpson, 2004).

How: Pause at natural breaks (15 minutes). Provide clear instructions, signal beginning and end of Pause Procedure, and include time for unresolved questions.


  • Independent review of notes
  • Short writing assignment (Quick Write)
  • Group (Think-Pair-Share) discussion of notes or materials