Diversity and Inclusion

Day 4: UDL Principle 3 – Multiple means of engagement

Principle 3: Multiple means of Engagement – the ‘Why’ of learning

Affective NetworksToday we look a the third UDL guideline ‘Providing multiple means of engagement.’

The goal of the third UDL guideline is to provide ways of building students ‘affective networks.’ The goal of this principle is to ‘provide multiple means of engagement for students’ resulting in students being more ‘motivated, challenged, excited or interested in what they are learning about’  (“What is Universal Design for Learning | National Center On Universal Design for Learning”, 2017).


The three Guidelines that accompany this Principle are: 

  • 7.Provide options  for recruiting interest
  • 8. Provide options for sustaining effort and persistence
  • 9.Provide options for self-regulation

You can view the checkpoints for each guideline  in detail here at the National Center on Universal Design for Learning.


The following video takes a humorous look at ways in which not to provide Multiple means of engagement.


Activity :

I think we can all relate to this experience in some way as students. You might like to make some suggestions in the forum of ways in  which this teacher could have incorporated multiple means of engagement into this setting.


The UDL Guidelines

Here are each of the guidelines and checkpoints for UDL for Principle 3 – Provide multiple means of engagement.

*numbering continued from previous principle

07. Provide options for recruiting interest
08. Provide options for sustaining effort and persistence
09. Provide options for self-regulation

Each Guideline has supporting checkpoints that provide concrete actions on what to do exactly to meet the guideline.


07. Provide options for recruiting interest

7.1 Optimize individual choice and autonomy
7.2 Optimize relevance, value, and authenticity
7.3 Minimize threats and distractions

08. Provide options for sustaining effort and persistence

8.1 Heighten salience of goals and objectives
8.2 Vary demands and resources to optimize challenge
8.3 Foster collaboration and community
8.4 Increase mastery-oriented feedback

09. Provide options for self-regulation

9.1 Promote expectations and beliefs that optimize motivation
9.2 Facilitate personal coping skills and strategies
9.3 Develop self-assessment and reflection

The National Center on Universal Design for Learning produced this graphic organizer with the UDL Guidelines in PDF format.

CAST (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.0. Wakefield, MA: Author.

“Provide Multiple Means of Engagement” in a nutshell

What does ” Provide multiple means of engagement” look like in the classroom?

Below are some practical examples for providing this principle in the classroom:

  • Provide multiple resources or options that students can choose from
  • Give them activities that encourage autonomy
  • Provide feedback through such things as non- assessed quizzes to encourage reflective learning
  • Chunking content
  • Let the students create assessment tasks
  • Have activities that have a ‘real world’ context and provide authentic learning experiences
  • Provide rubrics for students so that they are clear on what the expectations are and can work towards that
  • Use peer or group activities in which the group decide on the activity and its goals


Have a think about one of the courses you are working on developing or convening have you built in ways to challenge or excite students? Maybe think about what types of things motivate, challenge or excite you!

Have a look at the checkpoints for this third principle. Select one of the checkpoints and think about how you could cater for this within your course. What technologies or tools could be used to accommodate this checkpoint?

Add your ideas to the forum outlining  which checkpoint you are addressing.


UDL and assessment:

Applying the UDL guidelines to content is one thing but it also needs to be applied to assessment tasks.

Here are a few things you need to consider when applying multiple means of engagement to assessment tasks:

“Do students think that they can be successful? Emphasizing the importance of effort and motivation and expressing confidence that students can meet high expectations can improve their performance.

Do assessments provide different levels of challenge? One way to do this is to provide options on essay exams so that students can choose a question they feel they can answer well. Another way is to allow students to answer essay questions in different formats. Perhaps students could write a classic essay, create a short play, or create a video response. Once an instructor has addressed the question, ““What do I really want the learner to learn?” (i.e., construct relevance) then the individual motivations and desires of learners and the time constraints of their instructors may be the only limits to the possibilities.

Are different formats used for assessments over the course of a semester? As mentioned earlier, the demands and benefits of any one form of assessment will differ for each student. Therefore, the options and supports provided for the first two UDL principles (representation and action and expression) can enhance engagement in the assessment process.”  (UDL On Campus)



If you have an example of an assessment task that provides multiple means of engagement please share it on the forum.

You might also like to select one of the checkpoints outlined and suggest ways that you could provide for this in an assessment task.

Have a close look at an assessment task  you have developed what could you incorporate into the task to better provide multiple means of engagement? Please share on the forum.

The following template can be used to help you in the review your course or activities within your course by working through each checkpoint. Not every checkpoint will necessarily be able to be applied so please do not feel that you have to fill in every box!

Coffee get together!

The ANU Science Teaching and Learning Day  is on this Friday, which is about ‘Inclusive teaching: Making it happen.’ As many of you will be attending this event we have decided that we could meet for our face to face coffee session during the morning tea break at 10.40 am, 3rd floor Teaching Room, Science Teaching Building, 136. We look forward to seeing you then.


25 thoughts on “Day 4: UDL Principle 3 – Multiple means of engagement

  1. The focus on assessment in this post is really helpful. One approach I’ve found worked well this semester was for students’ final essays; they all wrote an 800-word essay in French, but rather than just giving them a couple of set topics to choose from, I made the process more interactive. For those who wanted to follow a prompt, I did make a list of possible topics. But I also encouraged them to formulate their own question and discuss it with me. Then in week 11, we spent our class in three sets of small 25-minute groups, where we sat around a table and workshopped the essays together (in French), with a focus on students’ sharing their difficulties rather than trying to impress me with how much work they had done. This provided a number of opportunities to give guidance to those who struggling, but also encouraged students to take responsibility for their work and feel involved in the process of their final assessment piece.

    1. Thank you for this sharing Gemma. Did you get a chance to ask the students about their experience on this activity? Did it work well for them?

  2. It has been great to see the discussions that have been taking place so far throughout the week and to hear about the challenges being faced in implementing UDL. We look forward to your continued conversations.

  3. This is all good stuff, and reading the responses from everyone else over the last few days has given me lots of great ideas in this area as well… so thanks everyone! Y’all probably know this, but the Ben Stein clip (from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) was improvised. Stein is a Columbia-trained economist who happened to be on-set during filming and just add-libbed this speech off-camera. Everyone cracked up, so John Hughes (the director) had him deliver it again to camera and they filmed the students later. Stein reckons he based the performance on a teacher he had who delivered his lectures in exactly this way. Anyway, the thing I find most interesting about the speech is his reference to George Bush (Snr.) who had derided Reagan’s supply-side economics (the so-called trickle-down effect) during the 1980 election campaign. No-one remembered Bush’s “Voodoo economics” from the election, but everyone knew it after this movie came out, and Bush was elected president two years later. So the speech IS memorable, and I’d argue that it’s memorable because it’s funny. The inter-shot students make it more funny, in fact, than if we’d seen their original reactions (laughter) so maybe the take-home lesson here is try to be funny… at least sometimes…

    1. Chris I love your comment – great to hear about the behind-the-scenes info! Provides an interesting new perspective for me on the film (and its interpretation!)

    2. Yes thanks Chris. I think trying to be funny would certainly be a step in the right direction to student engagement!

    3. Yep, it always helps to break the ice and engage the students if you don’t take yourself too serious. Just think about that guy who every year comes up with a really nice April fool’s day lecture 😀

    4. Wow, that was a good behind the scenes info Chris. And yes, a little humor from the teacher doesn’t hurt 🙂

  4. I find this session has a lot of overlap with yesterday’s session on Multiple means of action and expression but maybe that’s just me being a little confused… However, I do actually think that engagement from students and their contribution to courses go hand in hand. Only a well-engaged student will enjoy contributing to a course. In my experience, there are a few things that work really well when trying to engage students, especially things that give students the feeling that their opinion and contribution matters as well as a certain autonomy. I’ve already mentioned this in one of my previous comments, in biolgoy short reports in manuscript style after a prac is a very common type of assessment. I sometimes use a peer-review exercise in this process, meaning that the students review a report from a fellow student and the students then submit their revised report which is then being assessed. Even though that means a bit of extra work for the students this is really something the students enjoy and some of them really give fantastic and thorough feedback to their peers, a very good skill to have as well.

    1. Hi Hannah,
      I wanted to implement something similar for peer-feedback and marking, but I’ve been told it’s extraordinarily complicated to mark and track who gave what advice to whom, whether it was followed, whether the advice was right to begin with, etc. etc.. Have you found this, or do you not mark that part of the assignment? Is it more work for you, or just the students?

  5. Telling a joke in class can sometimes backfire – the difficulty is to get the students to laugh with you, not at you! 10-15 years ago I regularly referenced scenes or phrases from Seinfeld, and my classes would appreciate them and laugh along. If I do that now I get blank expressions. Every year my class seems to be getting younger, but it’s just me getting older. With regards to checkpoint 7.2 (optimise relevance), I need to work on using more contemporary cultural references!

    One thing I try to do in class to ‘wake up’ the students after bombarding them with typically dry mathematical and statistical theory, is occasionally weave in anecdotes about how applying the techniques have changed over the years. They seem to always like hearing about how computers were so much slower ‘back in my day’ or the manual steps that we had to take which are now automated. They are particularly surprised when I explain that when I had to do an essay or find a reference I had no choice but to go to the library, because the internet (as we know it) didn’t exist in the early 1990s.

    When possible, I also try to weave in stories about the origins of the discipline – eg, how risk management strategies were used in Mesopotamia, China, ancient Greece etc, along the lines of ‘Horrible Histories’ which my own kids loved when they were younger. I’m not sure to what extent these distractions recruit my students’ interests in the subject, but at the least it provides some light moments and breaks up the maths.

    It’s also the case that some of our students struggle to understand why they are learning the material. When I get a job, am I ever going to need this? I certainly felt this way myself from time to time when I was a student. In these cases, giving ‘real world’ examples of how the theory is used in practice to answer questions facing government and industry is so important to maintain student interest and motivation. This is something I do currently in my class, but I know I need to work harder to incorporate more examples.

    1. Hi Tim, what’s Seinfeld? 😛 😛

      I think all the techniques that you are applying in your class to engage your students are great. As a student I loved hearing anecdotes and stories from my teachers. Although sometimes I remember the stories more than the lesson 🙂 So make sure you make the connection obvious 🙂

      Great post!

  6. Checkpoint 7.2: it can be hard to convince a student of the relevance and authenticity of a particular lesson when the teaching environment is so far removed from the ‘real world’ where it might be applied. I suspect the reason Tim’s war stories go down well is that they provide this element of authenticity. In response to criticism that Australia computing courses are not turning out graduates with industrially relevant skills, I recently heard a proposal that academics should take regular sabbaticals in industry. This could help guide our course development to make it more relevant, as well as refreshing our stock of war stories 🙂

    Checkpoint 9.3: I’d like to try asking the students to mark their assignment submissions themselves. That is, they would assess their own submissions against the provided rubric, and give a mark that is justified by comments as to their success against each of the criteria.

  7. One thing that I tried this semester in assessment was providing students options to do their research essay. Students were required to write a policy memo rather than a usual research essay. But they could design their own research essay question if policy memo was not in their interest. With the policy memo, they also had the option to write to different audience (for different state governments).

    This is an international studies course and we have students from different countries. The purpose of the policy memo was to make relevance for their future career. With the flexibility of choosing their audience, I think it would work better to meet students’ diverse studying interests and allow them to bring their background knowledge (especially for international students). Students who would like to do their own research papers had the opportunities to consult teachers to develop a proper research question, which would be a valuable experience particularly for those who want to do their honours in future.
    I think that students appreciated this flexibility provided. It’s also a good interaction experience in terms of grasping students’ research interests and helping them shape a feasible research question. However, it was so time consuming….

    1. Jade, I have students write an assignment in the form of recommendations to a management committee. However, those who have only written scientific papers struggle with this. They keep putting in a whole lot of preliminary waffle. I keep telling them to put the conclusion first and then the supporting material, but this goes against what they have been trained to do.

      If we are going to ask students to do such real-world tasks, then perhaps their basic training needs to cover these. One way would be to use peer feedback. I don’t think it has to be or should be only at the end of programs.

      Another task some students struggle with is writing a job application. This is the final assessment item for the ANU Techlauncher program. This is 20% of the overall assessment and the only non-group task, so it is important. Those students who have already had to write a job application in another course do much better at this.

  8. 7.1 Optimize individual choice and autonomy -> I have not designed assessments myself, but when I do I would like to allow students to pick a topic that is interesting to them for their essays or presentations. The problem is that students often want a preset list of possible topics, so I suppose those will need to be included as well (although as a marker these are the least interesting topics). I also like the idea of diversifying beyond essays or presentations, although, as I said yesterday, I still feel the bulk of the marks shoudl be made up of these ‘traditional’ assessments. But, I can at least allow the students to choose their topic!

    7.2 Optimize relevance, value, and authenticity -> This is something I really feel is important. Because I study what could be considered a fairly esoteric field, I really want to emphasise how the study of primate behaviour relates to everyday situations for my students (who are primates!). Thus, I think I’d like to incorporate more links between our [human] behaviour and nonhuman primate behaviour within the lectures, and when I first introduce a jargon-y concept in class, checking with the students to see if they can think of something in their life that applies to. Conversely, if they cannot relate to something like scent marking or solitary animals, we could then discuss what it is that is different about humans (and the human lineage) that makes those concepts more foreign. I just have to be careful about not making the entire class about comparisons to humans – instead I just need to make it accessible and interesting to real-life situations for the students.

    8.4 Increase mastery-oriented feedback -> I would very much like to try a peer-marking or self-marking system so that students learn argumentative and content-related skills through iterations of attempts. It’s definitely a weak point in my teaching that I take so, so, SO long to give feedback and make sure I’m marking fairly, so anything to help that process along is good!

  9. 7.1 A course I taught into this year involved an oral presentation where the students had to pick a topic from one of 3 lectures and find a paper on that topic to present to their peers. The students really got into the whole process of choosing a ‘good’ paper that they were then responsible for explaining to the class.

    7.2 I gave a lecture on personalised medicine, where I spent about 15-20 minutes discussing the ethics of this relatively new science – e.g., would you want to know if you had a high risk of developing a genetic disease, would you take action as a result of knowing, should insurance companies know this info about you… I kept throwing questions of that nature at the students and I also told them some stories about how DNA testing companies had led to some interesting discoveries (e.g., that a persons’ biological father was actually their IVF doctor, and that a criminal had been convicted when his relative added his DNA to a public database). The students were really engaged in this topic and led a lot of the discussion themselves, so I feel like it was pretty successful to bring in those real-world elements.

  10. My car was damaged due to the flood on campus in February. I used this story all through the semester to explain some key definitions, such as the opportunity cost, changes in demand and attitudes towards risks. I met a student in the parking lot this morning and he yelled:”Wow, so this is the famous car!”
    I find that my first-year students were not so keen on “the latest research results”. However, they were attracted by the anecdotes (Our tutor is a human being, not a machine!) and the specifically designed examples (I didn’t know this course could be used to explain XXX!). I checked the students’ majors so some examples were chosen for their discipline. I also talked about the Champions League for boys and K-pop star for girls. I could tell they were excited. A pleasant feedback from a Barcelona fan was that he couldn’t help thinking about pricing when watching his favorite team.

  11. Ferris Bueller’s teacher could have used incorporated multiple means of engagement by relating it to topics of current interest to students. In Ferris’ case that might have been cars, girls and music. 😉

    To sustain effort a more complex task could be set, rather than just quick answers to rote learning questions. Self-regulation could have been by setting a project for the students: Ferris and friends exploring history by participating in a street pageant, for example.

    ps: According to the Wikipedia entry for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the monotonous lecture was improvised in front of student-actors.

  12. One way I challenge students is to ask them open ended questions each week. Of course, the catch with this is that I end up asking questions I find exciting, and that may not enthuse people who are not older male WASPs like me.

    Guideline seven “Provide options for recruiting interest” has has checkpoint three “Minimize threats and distractions”. I try to minimize threats by designing the assessment system to buffer the students. Their best ten out of twelve week’s work are counted, so they don’t have to constantly worry each thing they do could lower their grade.

    To avoid distractions I minimize the number of readings. I find it really distracting when doing a course and there is this long list of suggested readings, which might be interesting, but will take ten times as long as I have to do. On occasions I have found myself reading all the readings and not doing the assessment tasks.

    Moodle has an excellent feature where it will put a tick next to what the student has completed. This way they get a subtle reminder that they need to do that quiz, or post something.

  13. In the ANU TechLauncher program students have an “audit” of their group project every few weeks. Teams take turns giving each other feedback on their project. This provides multiple means of engagement as the students present, respond verbally, do exercises devised by the other students and provide formal written feedback.

    However, there are problems with the students expectations and that these exercises are for assessment. Students think they have to give a conventional power-point presentation and only give verbal and written feedback. Checkpoint 3.8 “Foster collaboration and community” might be applied by having some of the audits not for assessment and also explicitly training students in other forms of collaboration and community building.

    As an example, students this semester did an exercise using Lego to foster interaction in their teams. Rather than just have them just do this exercise as students, they might be encouraged to devise their own hand on exercises for their fellow students. One of the problems with this is that these are engineering and computer science students who tend to see such exercises as not real learning.

  14. I try to excite my students with opportunities to apply their knowledge to real-world scenarios. Students consistently report that the role-play simulations are the highlight of their entire degree.

    Regarding more specific practices, my assessments foster individual choice and autonomy by almost always giving students a choice of questions or scenarios to choose from. This often includes the option to create their own question. If going down the MYO route, students are supported with coping skills and planning strategies through a series of mini-deadlines. They have to advise what their question (not topic) is by a set date. This usually involves forming a pseudo-supervisory relationship with me, as the question you formulate affects the research and writing, and thus outcome. This autonomy in choosing assessment questions facilitates engagement by allowing students to address the content and type of question that excites them and plays to their strengths within the scope of the curriculum. Some students are drawn to more theoretical questions, while others prefer more policy-oriented opportunities.

  15. This is something that I have been wondering about for a long time. One of the elements of academia that I really struggle with is academic reading. It is very difficult for me to read something if I am not already interested and engaged in it, and even if I am I will put it off for as long as I can (the same cannot be said about novels…). But with the majority of content in courses presented in the form of academic readings, I wonder how this can foster student engagement seeing as there is really only a single means. I get excited by discussion and connecting ideas from other things that I am working on, and then realising that there is a gap that I need to know more about. Then I actually have a reason for reading the academic work. It’s really interesting that courses are presented so that the reading has to be done first, as background to the lecture material, rather than as extension above and beyond the lectures or as examples of general principles in lectures. Or even by supplementing the readings with video content which then leads into readings, or activities which examine similar topics. Then students might actually be motivated and understand their goals in performing these tasks, and have some kind of variation between the weekly tasks.

  16. I have given in an assignment a lot of freedom to the students to choose their content, based on their previous knowledge, skills, and capabilities and learning needs. That is, I have included two main tasks with options a and b for each task. The a option has been more business and economics like and b more computing and engineering like. Then the students have had an option to mix their own preferred set of activities. I have also included an assignment plan where they need to justify their selections, based on their interests and learning needs, and address the feasibility of them delivering the plan over 10 weeks of time.

  17. In the PHYS1101 labs, the first lab involves the students dividing into groups of 4 and going through a set of activities related to calculating the amount of solar energy a farm is producing, followed by prompts to discuss ways to increase productivity, followed by more calculations, etc. At the end of each section the group was required to write their responses and have a member of the group elected to present it to the demonstrator. With 4 exercises, each member was able to present a section of the group’s findings and with the small audience, there was much less pressure on the students not fond of presenting. After each short presentation, the group would discuss their answers and reasoning with the demonstrator before moving on. I thought that this was an excellent icebreaker not only for the student-student interactions but also for the student-demonstrator interactions, enabling the students to feel more secure in asking for help and clarifications in the subsequent labs. This activity really set the tone for the remainder of the semester and I thought that it was a great inclusion and use of time for what is typically just an orientation lab anyway.

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