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Universal Design of Instruction

Universal Design of Instruction

Initially UD was developed through architecture and product design, with the aim to:
“…design products and environments to be usable by all people to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptations or specialised design.

Ron Mace, The Center for Universal Design (Accessed Jan 2017)

Educators and researchers took the main principles of UD and applied them to various educational settings, developing the principles of Universal Design of Instruction.

The Center for Universal Design in Education (Accessed Jan, 2017).

Burgstahler, Sheryl, E., and Rebecca Cory C., Eds. 2008. Universal design in higher education; from principles to practice. Cambridge MA: Harvard Education Press

Note from Researcher Jürg Koch

The principles and approaches presented on this website are based on ongoing research and practice.

In my article Find your own pace – and move together, The Application of Universal Design of Instruction in Dance Degrees in Higher Education, I provide a more detailed presentation and discussion of the research.

Written in 2010, the article presents my approach up to that point. It challenged me to rethink my own teaching conventions and served as a blue print to develop further material and processes.

The collection of material has grown since then, as each new teaching environment and presentation provides opportunities to apply and develop these approaches further.

The application of a UD informed approach varies from class to class depending on the participants. In the context of the research, we exclusively used an UD approach, including an introduction session for the participants.

When I was teaching class regularly in the BA program at the University of Washington I would mix in UD based exercises into my otherwise conventional teaching of contemporary dance, even when there were no dancers with a disability present in the class. I believe all students benefit from this individualised teaching approach and need to be familiar with the process.

I see the UD informed approach as a tool box which a teacher is familiar with and uses flexibly for pedagogic, artistic and access reasons. As a teacher I need to introduce, guide and develop this process.

Basic Guidelines for a Dance Class informed by Universal Design of Instruction

General questions for accessible teaching:

  • How do we train the required dance skills with a diverse student population?
  • How can students demonstrate these skills through their movement range?
  • How do I provide feedback and assessment?

Exploring – Improvising – Setting

In principle the class develops from open to more specific parameters. It starts with exploration and moves via improvisation to various degrees of individually set material and relating this to partners and the group.

Me – You – Us

We move from the individual (Me) to relating our own material first to one partner (You), then to other partners and the group (Us). The dancers discover overlapping and contrasting material in the process.


Individualising is an approach that is widely used in regular school teaching. There is a large body of pedagogic research and experience available in terms of individualised teaching approaches.

Applying individualised teaching approaches in the class context moves away from disability specific approaches or working with ‘adapting’ movements for or by disabled dancers.

Working with individualised material in a dance class, teaches all the students how to make the material relevant to their movement range and learning goals.

Ground Rules

Set up ground rules for working in the studio together, below a few examples:

  • Be Ready for Class (Arrive on time to prepare yourself, gear/attire for the duration of the class)
  • Find your 100%, participate through moving, observing, questions
  • Recognise your strengths, limits and interests
  • Take responsibility in creating access
  • Work safely

Questions for your class:

  • What are aims and criteria for your class?
  • What is your class structure?
  • How do you inform about the task/material in your class?
    • Do you use verbal instructions, descriptions, physical demonstrations etc.
    • How can you create access to this information?
  • What are your teaching goals? Are you working with open or closed teaching goals?
    • Open teaching goals – What are the skills you are working on, how can they be met by a range of dancers?
    • Closed teaching goals – What is the form, function and intention of a movement?