Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


Universal design for learning (UDL) is a pedagogical framework that utilizes the principles of equal access, flexibility, simplicity, perceptibility, and efficiency in the process of teaching and learning. This multi-institutional cross-sectional study examined instructional methods and designs that occupational therapy students identified to be useful or not useful for their diverse learning needs based on principles of UDL. The study also sought to determine if select methods or designs were perceived to enhance learning for those who are neurodivergent in contrast to other students. An online survey was distributed to students across four occupational therapy programs. The survey consisted of demographic questions, lists of instructional methods and designs framed by the Center for Applied Technology (CAST) domains, and two general questions about overall learning and self-efficacy. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and non-parametric comparison. Of the 81 participants, results indicated that nearly all perceived an instructor who is approachable, learning through real world activities, and practicing hands-on skills in the classroom to be useful for their learning. Students with neurodivergence identified six learning methods significantly less useful than not neurodivergent students including doing first with discussion to follow, being preassigned group membership by the instructor, flexible seating and classroom arrangement, and course requirements with flexible due dates. The CAST domain of engagement had the strongest impact on student preferences. This indicates that attention to engaging students and methods that draw students into the why of learning may meet all student needs in graduate occupational therapy education.


Jennifer Yee Cole, OTD, MHA, OTR/L is an assistant professor at Pacific University’s School of Occupational Therapy with a clinical background consisting of adult physical and neurological rehabilitation. Research interests include scholarship of teaching and learning focusing on Universal Design for Learning and integration of advocacy into professional identity.

Julia Graham, OTD, MFA, OTR/L is an assistant professor for Hawai’i Pacific University’s developing OTD Las Vegas program. Her clinical background is working with adults in the acute care setting. Research interests include exploring the incorporation of dance and yoga into occupational therapy practice and the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Shelly Norvell, OTD, OTR/L, DipACLM is a clinical assistant professor in the School of Occupational Therapy at University of Puget Sound with a clinical background in adult orthopedic rehabilitation and hand therapy. Research interests include integrating lifestyle medicine in occupational therapy education, universal design for learning, and provider wellness.

Patricia Schaber, PhD, OTR/L is a professor in occupational therapy at the University of Minnesota with a clinical background in cognitive functional assessment and population interventions with older adults. Research interests include scholarship of teaching and learning.

Declaration of Interest

The authors report no declarations of interest.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.