Getting started: The Plus One Approach

The best way to begin embedding the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in your practice is to start small. The “Plus One” approach is a widely adopted strategy for incrementally embedding UDL principles in your practice. Embedding UDL in your teaching, learning and assessment is an evolving and iterative process so by making small incremental changes you can increase the inclusiveness of your course.

What is the Plus One Approach?

The UDL “Plus One” approach (Behling and Tobin, 2018) is a process for reflecting on how you are teaching and to add one more option for students to provide flexibility and remove potential barriers or “pinch points” in the learning process. Take a look at this brief (2 minute) video introduction below from Thomas Tobin.

Follow the steps outlined below to get started with the Plus One approach.

1. Identify a “pinch point” in your teaching

  • Where do your students always have lots of questions?
  • Where do your students often misinterpret assignments or exams?
  • Where do your students always ask for explanations in a different way than you provide?

2. Brainstorm just “one more thing” you could add to assist students in their learning

  • Provide one more way your students can access or view content. Example: If your students often have difficulties with a particular process or skill, create or post a video or screencast of the process so they can review it themselves.
  • Devise one more way you can engage your students. Example: If your students often find it challenging to relate to a particular aspect of the programme or module connect the course content explicitly to real-world experiences. Invite past students to show your learners how they have used what they have learned from your course in their own careers.
  • Give your students one more option to demonstrate what they have learned. Example: If you set an assignment which asks only for a written response, consider offering more options for students to submit their response, such as through video, audio, or annotated PowerPoints.
  • Provide one more way for students to communicate with you and each other. Example: If your office hours are on campus only, provide an online option so that students who cannot make it to campus can reach you.

By gradually adding in “Plus Ones” to your teaching, learning and assessment design, you will discover what works for your students and your practice will become incrementally more inclusive.

Key questions to ask

  • What flexible ways can I use to engage my learners?
  • What flexible ways can I use to present the learning content?
  • What flexible ways can I provide for learners to demonstrate their knowledge?
  • How much can I involve the learners in the process of teaching and learning?
  • What barriers exist in my course (either through my observation or learners’ requests to be accommodated)?

See more Plus One examples here