Practical Tips & Tools

Use Professional Development to Model Inclusive Instruction of Adult Learners

February 20, 2024

Professional development for adult educators is especially important because adult learners are so diverse, from their learning styles to the educational experiences they bring with them to their skill levels and goals. Being prepared with an arsenal of instructional strategies for every learner can be the difference between success and failure.

So, tutors need professional development to best serve their students, but just like adult learners, adult educators are very different in everything from why they’re completing professional development to how they learn to the level of teaching experience they bring with them.

Therefore, PD opportunities need to be inclusive and engaging so that every person participating can benefit.

In the current issue of Adult Literacy Education: The International Journal of Literacy, Language, and Numeracy, we include a Report from the Field about using Universal Design for Learning (UDL) for professional development. The authors Amanda Bastoni, Luis Pérez, and Cassandra Sell from the nonprofit education research and design organization CAST propose that in adult education we need to ask the question:

“Has the PD been designed with the same care we expect adult educators to use when teaching their own adult students?”

In “Using Universal Design for Learning to Design Self-Paced Professional Development Modules for Adult Education Instructors,” the writers share the results of a two-year study in which they found that the best way to help educators build inclusive classrooms that support all learners was to model that same framework during the professional development. In this case that framework was UDL.

UDL was developed by CAST to offer suggestions on how to design learning environments that are flexible, customizable, and accessible to all learners and provide multiple means of engagement, representation, and action and expression.

Through research, surveys, and interviews the group identified accessibility and relevance as two key areas that could improve the effectiveness of professional development. The group then built a collection of accessible and relevant UDL Self-Paced Professional Development Modules to train adult educators on using a UDL framework in their own instruction.

Modules include:

  • It All Starts with the Goal
  • Learning that Works for All
  • Making Math Matter
  • Making Reading & Writing Matter
  • Building Communities for Learning
  • Self-Advocacy for Work & Learning
  • Improving Systems for Adult Education

The CAST-developed modules can be accessed for free through the Literacy Information and Communication System website.



Read more about the research and process to develop the UDL Self-Paced Professional Development Modules in the winter issue of Adult Literacy Education.

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