Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


STEM Education & Professional Studies


Instructional Design and Technology

Committee Director

Tian Luo

Committee Member

John Baaki

Committee Member

Justin Haegele


Faculty face a rising challenge in supporting diverse student populations on campuses (Bastedo et al., 2013). Inclusive pedagogy, facilitated by UDL, helps alleviate learning barriers for diverse student groups (Basham & Blackorby, 2021). However, the ambiguous operational definition of UDL poses practical challenges in implementation and assessment (Diedrich, 2021), especially when it is described variably as a practice, framework, or intervention in the literature (Basham & Blackorby, 2021). This hermeneutic phenomenological study explores the meaning faculty and instructional designers ascribe to the experience of implementing UDL in higher education.

The main question is: what is the meaning that faculty and instructional designers ascribe to the experience of implementing UDL in higher education? Research sub-questions guiding this study include: (1) What are the lived experiences of faculty and instructional designers when implementing UDL in higher education? (2) What meaning do faculty and instructional designers that have implemented UDL in higher education ascribe to UDL? (3) What process do faculty and instructional designers use when planning to implement UDL in higher education? The research design involved two semi-structured interviews and a think-aloud activity to observe faculty and instructional designers implementing UDL in response to a prompt. Purposive sampling was used when five faculty and five instructional designers were recruited with UDL experience in higher education. The analysis involved a whole-parts-whole process (Vagle, 2018) of the semi-structured interviews. The think-aloud activity was analyzed using a standardized coding manual based on UDL principles from CAST (2018) and concepts from Sheridan et al. (2019).

Findings from the study included themes related to the lived experience, meaning, and process of implementing UDL. The study highlighted diverse UDL interpretations like accessibility, inclusive design, and equity, and key implementation factors, such as influence from instructional designers and a plus one approach (Tobin & Behling, 2018) for faculty development. Faculty and designers in this study shared insights on implementing UDL in higher education. Recommendations included practical professional development with classroom examples and technology for flexible classrooms. Institutional expansion calls for administrator buy-in, awareness-raising policies, and framing UDL as an inclusivity tool. Engaging faculty involves providing a variety of training opportunities, instructional designer consultations, and fostering personal meaning-making and reflection on course design. UDL implementation, ultimately, is a continuous journey towards accessible, inclusive, and impactful learning for students.


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