In recent years, CAST’s R&D has expanded significantly in scope. In 2000, it was focused primarily on middle-school literacy of students with disabilities. Today, CAST’s R&D addresses a range of content areas, grade levels, and student populations. Postsecondary, alternative, and workplace environments have become more prominent in CAST’s work, indicating a commitment to improve learning for everyone and at all stages of life.
CAST’s research team has also recognized the need to conduct more basic and applied research to test the UDL framework—research that informs and is explicitly informed by the problems of education practice. Given the challenges facing contemporary education, education practitioners and policymakers are rightly looking to the learning sciences—and increasingly to research in UDL—for guidance on how to improve education.
As a transdisciplinary approach that synthesizes insights from the fields of developmental psychology, neuropsychology, neuroscience, and education research, as well as from education practice, UDL can serve as a catalyst to spark deeper connections between research, practice, and policy.
CAST is pursuing several lines of work in R&D through proposals to federal agencies, philanthropies, and other potential funders. Many of these initiatives are pursued in partnership with universities, publishers, states and school districts, and other R&D organizations. These lines of work include:
- Affect, Engagement, and Motivation: Projects to address the emotional demands of students and how UDL can support them. How can UDL approaches reduce negative emotional experiences and mindsets in school and increase positive ones to support greater effort, persistence, and engagement by students in learning.
- Executive Function, Organization, Attention, and Working Memory: Projects to address UDL’s ability to address students’ needs for organizational support in planning for and navigating challenging learning situations or environments.
- Supports and Scaffolds in UDL: Projects to study how educational supports and scaffolds, especially those that are computer-based, can be used to improve learners’ understanding.
- Learning Analytics and Progress Monitoring: Projects to explore how individual student performance data accrued in digital environments can be used to deliver feedback and recommend interventions in “real time” to students, teachers, and administrators so they can make data-based decisions.
- Authoring Platforms: Projects to enable educators and others to create their own feature-rich curriculum materials based on UDL principles.
- UDL in Literacy, Science and Math: Projects to explore and test UDL-based, media-rich learning environments built to teach and learning particular content and skills, including projects that address the needs of specific disability population.
- Smart Images: Projects to explore interactive, digital images that offer alternatives to print as a means of learning and encourage active, exploratory learning.
- Online Learning: Projects that work to make online learning more accessible and effective for all learners.
- Implementation of UDL to Improve Teacher Effectiveness: Projects that explore ways to put increase the capacity of educators to implement UDL through professional development, professional learning communities, online resources, and district-wide implementation initiatives.