Week 3: Provide multiple means of engagement

The why of learning.

Affective network icon


This week you will provide multiple means of engagement to your chosen online activity using UDL.


This week you will be introduced to ways to re-design your chosen educational activity to address providing multiple means of engagement


When you offer choice and allow for students to select varying degrees of difficulty within an activity to find the right balance of demands and resources.

This weeks content is from Chapter 4: Universal Design for Learning > Provide Multiple Means of Engagement>

chart of three guidelines for engagement

Figure The affective areas of the brain and the UDL Guidelines for Engagement. © 2013 CAST, Inc.

With UDL, our aim is to enable all learners to become expert. In the all-important affective domain, expertise involves developing interest, purpose, motivation, and, most importantly, strong self-regulation as a learner. What researchers call “self-regulation” is the ability to set motivating goals; to sustain effort toward meeting those goals; and to monitor the balance between internal resources and external demands, seeking help or adjusting one’s own expectations and strategies as needed.

Within the UDL framework, it is important that learning environments support the development of affective expertise for all. Since individuals vary a great deal in the affective resources they bring to any one learning task, this requires providing options that adjust demands and provide support as needed.What kinds of options? From both research in the learning sciences and evidence from pedagogical practices, three broad kinds of options emerge: options for recruiting student interest, options for sustaining effort and persistence, and options for developing the ability to self-regulate.

 Understanding student strengths and challenges

It is critically important to design learning contexts that offer flexibility in the domain of engagement so that each student can find a way into the learning experience, remain persistent in the face of challenge or failure, and continue to build self-knowledge. We know that what sparks learners’ interest and keeps them engaged differs radically from person to person. Some individuals are highly engaged by spontaneity and novelty; others may be put off or even threatened by spontaneity, preferring predictable routine and structure. particular subject or activity inspires passionate interest in some people and bores others to tears. Their histories as learners also exert strong influences on learners’ optimism and confidence about engaging with new ideas and disciplines.

Variability changes depending upon the learning context

Students, in interaction with their contexts, vary systematically along largely predictable dimensions in affect. They vary in what they find engaging, including, for example, the amount of choice they find optimal; what they perceive as relevant, interesting, and valuable; and what they perceive as threatening. They vary in the reasons they persist and in their ability to persist, including their ability to formulate goals, their comfort with collaborative environments, their optimal level of challenge and support, and the types of feedback they find most helpful. Finally, students vary in their ability to regulate their own learning, including their beliefs about personal effectiveness, their coping skills and strategies, and their ability to monitor personal progress and make adjustments. These kinds of variability are not fixed “traits” within students but rather emerge and change depending upon the learning context.

Engagement and a focus on assessment

In the all-important affective domain, expertise involves developing interest, purpose, motivation, and, most importantly, strong self-regulation as a learner.

Variability demands corresponding flexibility in the learning context if each student is to find an inviting, appropriately challenging, and supportive experience. A universally designed learning environment is planned around learning goals and the predictable range of variability. Teachers take advantage of the built-in range of options in order to calibrate learning for each student. Fortunately, the flexibility in a given lesson need not cover every type of variability; rather it should be specific to the particular goal of a lesson. In that context, the variability that is most germane to the goal can become the focus for providing particular kinds of flexibility. 

Providing options for engagement is critical for affective development because there is no one means of engagement that is optimal for all students. Igniting the learning spark and keeping the fire of enthusiasm burning is arguably the most important thing educators can do to enable learners to become experts. We need to provide just the right balance between challenge and support so that each student’s appraisal of the difficulty level will lead them to feel capable of, and interested in, the learning task. This balance differs for each learner, so it is essential to provide environments with varied supports for self-regulation, persistence, and engagement.

The UDL principle—multiple means of engagement—suggests offering flexible means and multiple pathways to reach the learning goal so that learners directly experience their own strengths, creativity, and intelligence as they learn. We can help learners become expert by building on their interests and their strengths, by helping them sustain their effort and persistence, and by helping them learn to set their own goals and monitor their progress. These are foundational to learning. Indeed, much kindling is needed to start a fire. For some, technology itself can be the spark. Since we know that no one means of engagement can be optimal for all learners in all contexts, providing multiple options for engagement is essential.

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Provide multiple means of engagement

This principle focuses on how learners can become engaged and stay motivated and whether they feel challenged, excited, and interested in what they are learning (CAST, 2011). Without engagement, learners will struggle to attend to content and make deep learning connections.
  • Adjust the activity/task
  • Add choice in the selection of activities when possible.
  • Offer scaffolded challenges that vary in degree of difficulty.
  • Create learning communities that connect content to interdisciplinary topics and personal interests.
  • Support the learner to cope with challenges within the activity/task
  • Set the tone by making it clear that student emotional engagement and motivation matters.
  • Embed self-checks in task and ask students to rate the difficulty of a task.
  • Support relevance and persistence through tasks by making the purpose explicit.
  • Offer clear expectations that support motivation.

The Why


  1. Capturing interest
  2. Fostering self-regulation
  3. Sustaining effort and persistence
Capturing Interest

You can capture students’ interest by providing multiple access points so that all students can access the concepts or skill.


  • Help students make connections to prior knowledge and experiences.
  • Share the goal or purpose of the assignment or reading.
  • Design material so it’s relevant to student needs and interests.
  • Connect learning to the real world.
  • Provide detailed directions, examples, rubrics, and options for assignments.
Fostering Self-regulation

In order for students to stay engaged in the learning process, it’s important to help them develop strategies that support self-regulation.


  • Require students to evaluate their work using the rubric as a guide.
    • Ask them to assign themselves a grade for each criterion.
    • Ask them to identify areas of strength and areas they need to improve upon.
  • Provide students with opportunities to reflect on their learning, and their learning processes, to see what’s working and what isn’t.

Self-evaluation and reflection are both effective strategies to foster student self-regulation.

Sustaining Effort and Persistence

Capturing your students’ interest is a necessary first step, but it’s also important to help them sustain their effort and persistence so they can meet your learning goals.


  • Provide opportunities for students to develop their work.
    • Establish check-in-times so that students can receive feedback on their work.
      • Require students to submit drafts of their work.
      • Provide developmental feedback and require students to incorporate the feedback into their final submission.
    • Require students to conduct peer reviews and use the rubric to provide feedback to one another.
  • Encourage students to make and learn from their mistakes.

Earn Your Badge


Action Plan

Follow the steps below to complete your action plan this week.

  • Complete all the action plan items.
  • In the  Google+ Community, comment ON at least two other Google Doc worksheets, by the end of Sunday.
    • Provide further insight into to the participant’s results.
    • Practice improving your online interaction with insightful commenting.