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Dissertation Writing Sample



Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a recently established model for teaching especially adults. Adult learning theory was established by Knowles (1990) with an aim of explaining the different mechanisms in which adults learn differently when compared to children. The theory was first proposed by Knowles in 1968. This particular theory by Knowles is known as andragogy. The past years have seen studies conducted on pedagogy while little attention has been paid towards adult education. Apart from this theory, the study will also use transformational learning and self-directed learning theory as the theoretic basis of the study. There is limited information regarding the use and significance of UDL and thus this study carries out an exploration into the issue. The study will thus note some of the views of faculty members in the use of using UDL and what are the outcomes as assessed from their students. Some of the stumbling blocks into the implementation of the model will also be evaluated.


Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles are centered on equal and flexible teachings that revolve around simple and intuitive teaching practices that ensures that the teaching materials are presented in different formats that establish access to all learners (Combs, Elliott & Whipple 2010). Moreover, the core purpose of establishing UDL is ensuring that there is accessibility within the education systems regardless of factors such as disability, age, economic status or even ethnicity (Gordon, Meyer & Rose 2016).

Lohmann et al (2018) notes that numerous studies have confirmed that there is limited resources in terms of literature when it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of UDL in both teaching and learning. Therefore, there is need of conducting further studies on this model particularly with participants from diverse populations inclusive of learners with disabilities and the elderly learners to assess its efficacy.

Background Information

The UDL was developed by The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), a research and development center that is aimed at developing greater access to education material for all learners in an education institution (Al-Azawei, Serenelli & Lundqvist 2016). The principles that were established for the model comprise of:

  1. Multiple means of representation
  2. Multiple means of engagement
  3. Multiple means of expression

Through the implementation of this model, the appreciation of a broad student body within educational institutions will be demonstrated. Over the past 20 years, there has been a tremendous increase in the diversity of students within post-secondary education. Therefore, there is significant need for a model that will accommodate for all these students from diverse natures of life (Lohmann et al. 2018). UDL was first approved in the year 2008 as a legal educational model that has the ability of enhancing teaching and learning in the classroom by the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) (Hartmann, 2015). Though it had been initially passed in the year 1965, in 2008 it was reauthorized and since then there has been notable progress in its implementation though there is still much that needs to be dine in terms of implementation (Gordon, Meyer & Rose 2016).

Situation self

The ontological assumptions are that the current educational institutions do not carter for the learning of students with disabilities. Therefore, through the use of UDL model, there is a possibility that the challenge will be eliminated. Regarding axiological assumptions of the study, this particular qualitative study will be imperative to students taking online general education causes that are taught at technical colleges since it will help improve their learning progress. By doing this, the study will be worth being conducted and of great value to the society. Through the study, it will be possible to identify the perception of faculty members particularly when it comes to student learning outcomes since the faculty will be able to put into practice multiple means of expression. Moreover, the study is worth because it will enable the faculties to identify the barriers to implementation of multiple means of expression. In order to capture the rhetorical philosophical assumptions in this particular study, I will ensure that the presentation is appealing so that readers are persuaded to read and practice it. Therefore, the study will be formatted in the most appropriate structure that scientific structure reports are supposed to have.

Positivism and post positivism will be attained; the entire study will be formulated on the basis of scientific research methods. The research will thus employ the use of interviews and focus group discussions in the course of collecting data since they are known to have good reliability and representativeness. Since positivism and post positivism requires even sociological study to incorporate data collection strategies that match up to quantitative methods due to their reliability and validity. Regarding constructivism, participatory and pragmatism, the researcher will ensure that all the data gathered and processes undertaken are valid a reliable.

Problem statement

Despite the fact that there are studies that have been conducted to explore UDL, there is scarce information when it comes to the efficacy of the model. Therefore, there is need of further studies that will evaluate its efficiency and impact that it has in the contemporary classroom.

Purpose statement

The study is aimed at explaining how the faculty employs UDL model in teaching through the different principles established for the framework.

Significance of the study

The study will be very integral in offering information that will help in closing the literature gap on the efficacy of UDL model within the current classrooms. The study will also inform on how the faculty can employ UDL model in teaching students from diverse backgrounds.


Chapter two encompasses the review of literature relating to the subject under study. In this section, I will explore the theoretical framework that will be used in guiding the entire study. Three theories will be employed in forming up the theoretical framework. These theories are andragogy, transformational learning and self-directed learning theories. The first section which is the theoretical framework will carry out an in-depth exploration of the theories and its principles in relation to UDL and adult online teaching in technical colleges. The section will also provide an overview of the UDL framework drawing literature from previous works by other researchers. Apart from an overview, an in-depth presentation of UDL literature will be provided touching on various issues such as distance education, learners with disabilities and the impact of technology on UDL framework.

Theoretical Framework

The study will employ the use of three theoretical frameworks in the course of. Thus research will gather diverse methods that will be used in the practice of multiple means of expression. The research will use three theoretical frameworks in an effort to explore adult learning theories and how they can be integrated into universal design for learning. Through this theoretical frameworks, the study will try to bring out the effectiveness of UDL particularly multiple means of expression in the course of teaching online general education courses that are taught in technical colleges (Gordon, Meyer & Rose 2016). The three adult learning theories that will be employed in this study’s theoretical framework comprise of andragogy, transformational learning and self-directed learning theories. The reason for choosing these three theories is because there is no particular theory that can be solely applied to all adults. It is for this reason that UDL emphasizes on using multiple means of expression in adult instruction. Adult learning theories have been formed basing on the past literature which have established models, sets of expectations, principles, theories and descriptions that form the knowledge base of studying adult learning. Creating an understanding of these theories or rather adult knowledge base will among adult learners, the more responsive will be their practice to their needs (Lohmann et al. 2018).


Andragogy is an adult learning theory that popularized by Malcom Knowles. In this particular theory, Knowles explores the art and the science of helping adults enhance their learning process. This is a theory that was formulated to contrast pedagogy; a theory that was formulated to explain the art and science of teaching children. Knowles came up with assumptions regarding the features of adult learning that vary from the characteristics of children learning. These five characteristics are self-concept, adult learner experience, readiness to learn, orientation to learning and finally motivation to learn. Knowles (1990) asserts that as individuals mature, their self-concept transforms from one that is dependent personality into a self-directed person. Regarding adult learner experience, as individuals mature, they gather a growing reservoir of experience that forms their background for learning. Thirdly, the theorist explains readiness to learn among adults in regard to their maturity claiming that when people mature, readiness to learn is inclined in the developmental tasks of the social roles. On the other hand, when people mature, their time notion changes from one of postponed orientation of knowledge to immediacy of orientation (Gordon, Meyer & Rose 2016). Therefore, their learning orientation transforms from one that is subject centered to one that is centered on their problem. Lastly, motivation among adults is internal. The author has formulated four principles of andragogy which asserts that it is imperative for adults to be incorporate in planning and evaluation of how they are taught. Secondly, experience is a key construct of learning activities among adult learners. The third principle states that adults are usually interested in learning disciplines that are of immediate relevance and influence to their job or even personal life. Finally, adult learning is not content oriented but rather problem centered.

Self-Directed Learning Theory

According to Karimi (2016), nearly 70% of the adult learning process is self-directed. The theory of self-directed learning (SDL) was initially formulated from Knowles concept of andragogy. In his theory of andragogy, Knowles proposed that leaners should be increasing self-directed in the course of their maturity. The theory entails the process whereby individuals take the ingenuity without aid from their fellow or their instructors while they are executing and assessing their experiences. It can thus be regarded as an informal procedure that typically occurs outside the classroom.

In their study, Merriam, Caffarella and Baumgartner (2007) describe SDL’s goals in three perspectives. The first goal of the theory is enhancing the ability of students to be self-determined in their learning process. The second goal is supporting transformational learning and lastly, the theory is focused on promoting emancipatory learning and social action as an important section of SDL. The role of teachers in this theory is encouraging their learners entirely in their learning process and aiding them identify their growth and development in learning strategies. Also, teachers are tasked with providing their students with alternatives for attaining successful learning outcome (Gordon, Meyer & Rose 2016).



This qualitative study is aimed at identifying the views of the faculty members when it comes to students learning success when they use UDL. The study will seek to promote research through the technique of inductive inquiry.


The design that will be employed in this particular study is qualitative transcendental phenomenological design. This particular design will aid the researcher in comprehending the personal perspective on a specific phenomenon which in this case is the outcome of UDL model in current classroom as asserted by the faculty members.


The setting of the study will be in a community college. The college has to have been in operation for at least three years and legally accredited to offer postsecondary education.


Purposeful sampling will be employed in gathering the population for this particular research. Faculty members teaching varied subjects will be sampled. Also, they must have taught in community colleges for at least three years. They must also have a master’s degree.


The initial step will acquiring a written permission from the school to conduct the research. When it is done, I will seek out to obtain an Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval. Recruitment of participants will then follow for the study. The faculty members will then be assigned the interview and survey questions on the set date.

Data Collection

Interview questions will be administered to the qualified members with the structured both closed ended and open ended questions. The data collection will be carried out solely by the researcher. Every participant will be required to sign a consent before they commence on the interview. The interview sessions will run for 20 minutes though additional time will be provided if a participant has more to say. The interviews will be conducted in the college conference hall since the room is bigger enough to accommodate all the needed participants especially in a focus group.


The participants will be provided with an online survey following the interview. The use of an online survey will be appropriate for the study as it is a faster mechanism of collecting data compared to other techniques. The participants will be required to login to the research’s web page and fill in their answers.

Data Analysis

NVIVO analysis software will be used in analyzing data for this particular study. The software is the most suitable as it will aid in systematizing the analytical process, identifying the topics of interest and coding the gathered data. In the course of maintaining consistency and accuracy, memoing will be employed.

Ethical Considerations

Some of the ethical considerations that will be considered in this particular study will comprise of data security, confidentiality, voluntary participation and freedom from unwarranted influence.


Al-Azawei, A., Serenelli, F., & Lundqvist, K. (2016). Universal Design for Learning (UDL): a content analysis of peer reviewed journals from 2012 to 2015. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning16(3), 39-56.

Bruce, T. (2015). Early childhood education. London, United Kingdom: Hodder Education Group.

Bongey, S., Cizadlo, G., & Kalnbach, L. (2010). Using a supplemental online course site to deliver universal design for learning (UDL). Campus-Wide Information Systems, 27(1), 4–16.

Burgstahler, S., & Cory, R. (2008) Universal design in higher education: From principles to practice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education.

Combs, S., Elliott, S., & Whipple, K. (2010). Elementary Physical Education Teachers’ Attitudes towards the Inclusion of Children with Special Needs: A Qualitative Investigation. International Journal of Special Education, 25(1), 114-125.

Gordon, D., Meyer, A., & Rose, D. H. (2016). Universal design for learning: Theory and practice. CAST Professional Publishing.

Hartmann, E. (2015). Universal design for learning (UDL) and learners with severe support needs. International Journal of Whole Schooling11(1), 54-67.

Izzo, M., Murray, A., & Novak, J. (2008). The faculty perspective on universal design for learning. Journal of Postsecondary Education & Disability, 21(2), 60–72.

Lohmann, M. J., Boothe, K. A., Hathcote, A. R., & Turpin, A. (2018). Engaging Graduate Students in the Online Learning Environment: A Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Approach to Teacher Preparation. Networks: An Online Journal for Teacher Research20(2), n2.

Karimi, S. (2016). Do learners’ characteristics matter? An exploration of mobile-learning adoption in self-directed learning. Computers in Human Behavior, 63, 769-776.

Knowles, M. S. (1990). Fostering competence in self-directed learning. Learning to learn across the life span, 1, 123-136.

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