22 February 2024

UDL and differentiation and how they are connected

Suggestion for implementing the strategy ‘Find out about UDL’

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Definitions of UDL and differentiation

Definitions of UDL and differentiation

An approach and a strategy.

UDL is an overarching approach focused on the inclusive design of the whole learning environment at the outset. UDL aims to ensure all students have full access to everything in the classroom, regardless of their needs and abilities. Student's supported to self-direct learning and monitor progress.

Differentiation is a strategy aimed at addressing each student’s individual levels of readiness, interest, and learning profiles. The teacher modifies content and processes to address the needs of each student. The teacher directs students to specific activities to further their learning.

Source: Adapted from 6 myths and the facts behind them (opens in a new tab/window)

UDL vs DI: The Dinner Party Analogy

UDL vs DI: The Dinner Party Analogy

Katie Novak, EdD, breaks down what is Universal Design for Learning (and what it isn't!).


Reflection questions

Reflection questions

  • How does the idea of differentiation and UDL impact your practice?
  • Where do you make one off changes for learners that could be offered to everyone from the start?
  • Reflect on how your teaching approaches support students to independently identify next steps for themselves.

Useful resources

Useful resources


UDL Intersections

Read time: 2 min

This short paper provides an overview of the differences and intersection between Universal Design for Learning and Differentiated Instruction. Developed by CAST.

Publisher: CAST

Download PDF (334 KB)


UDL vs DI: The dinner party analogy

Katie Novak uses the analogy of preparing a meal to meet a range of dietary request to highlight the differences between UDL and Differentiated Instruction (DI).

Publisher: Katie Novak

Visit website

Next steps

More suggestions for implementing the strategy “Find out about UDL”:

Return to the guide “Universal Design for Learning”

Guide to Index of the guide: Universal Design for Learning

Strategies for action: