Skip to main content Skip to main menu

Optimizing Relevance, Value, and Authenticity in Universal Design for Learning

Optimizing relevance, value, and authenticity is a universal design for learning (UDL) guideline that supports multiple means of engagement. The UDL guidelines were developed by an organization called CAST. This article will explore how teachers and other educators can construct lessons that learners feel are worthwhile.

Optimizing relevance, value, and authenticity in Universal Design for Learning

Optimizing relevance, value, and authenticity means designing learning activities that seem important. Many learners may feel more engaged by course content that they feel personally connected to. For example, this connection could come from a learner’s:

  • Interests
  • Goals
  • Cultural background

Alternatively, learners may feel that a lesson is relevant if it refers to current social concerns.

Teachers can use many strategies for optimizing relevance, value, and authenticity. For instance, teachers can display the learning objectives of every lesson and assignment. Explicit learning objectives will help learners understand the purpose of each task required of them. Moreover, teachers can design assignments that learners can approach in ways that engage them, such as:

  • Experiments
  • Research or exploration
  • Creative problem-solving

In addition, teachers can use examples that reflect diverse:

  • Racial or cultural backgrounds
  • Gender identities or expressions
  • Abilities

When examples include people from diverse backgrounds, students with these backgrounds may relate more closely to those examples. In contrast, examples without diversity may actively discourage learners’ engagement. For instance, if all scientific examples feature non-disabled men, female learners and those with disabilities may believe that only non-disabled men have careers involving science, such as doctors or astronomers. As a result, learners may lose interest in pursuing the subjects leading to these career paths. In contrast, examples including women and people with disabilities show female learners and learners with disabilities that those subjects are possible for them. Moreover, male and non-disabled classmates also learn that all subjects should involve all learners.

Finally, teachers can create assignments with self-reflection, evaluation, or other response components. Learners required to respond to an activity may realize that it felt meaningful to them in ways they did not expect.