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Planning for all

Effective planning supports all students to access rich and broad learning opportunities across the learning areas of the New Zealand Curriculum. Such planning recognises different ways to support student achievement. Effective teaching and learning is based on teacher belief that the core of teaching and learning is the same, regardless of whether a student has a disability or requires additional support.

Effective teachers:

  • ensure that every student can access learning, if necessary drawing on specialist support to achieve this
  • ensure that learning opportunities connect with students’ prior knowledge and experience
  • ensure that every student has multiple opportunities to interact with others and with a variety of material
  • provide opportunities for students to express themselves in a range of ways
  • provide opportunities for students to show what they know and are learning.

Universal Design for Learning

No two students are alike in their thought processes, abilities, interests, and approaches to learning. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a useful framework to support schools to plan for all students from the outset. It helps them to ensure that the school curriculum meets the needs of all students, providing everyone with equal opportunities to learn.

"UDL is a framework for looking at how we plan our goals, our teaching methods, the resources and materials we use, and the way we design assessments. UDL is based around three principles that ensure that there are options for all learners to have equal access to learning."

Te Kete Ipurangi (n.d.)

The principles are:

  • provide multiple means of representation – the "what" of learning – because students differ in how they perceive and understand information
  • provide multiple means of action and expression – the "how" of learning – so that all students can participate and show what they have learned
  • provide multiple means of engagement – the "why" of learning – because different students are engaged by different types of tasks and learning situations.

(Adapted from Center for Applied Special Technology, 2011, page 5)


In Example 13, a teacher provides her years 5-6 students with multiple options for engaging in a technology task and showing their learning.

Approaching school and classroom planning by considering the Universal Design principles will help develop a classroom programme that gives all students equal opportunities to learn. The emphasis is on designing the most responsive curriculum and environment for all students. At the outset, barriers to students’ learning are identified and minimised in partnership with students and those that know them well. This can reduce the demands on you during teaching and learning activities, as students are often able to independently adapt the environment and activities to meet their own needs.


As a group, view the video clip in which Learning facilitator Chrissie Butler discusses Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

Drawing on the video, what do you think you need to consider at the outset of planning a lesson or series of student tasks? Why?


More information on Universal Design for Learning is available on Enabling e-Learning and in the guide on UDL on the Inclusive Education website.

Next – Teaching as inquiry

Published on: 19 May 2015