Special Librarians and Recognition Networks: The “How” of Learning

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

May 05, 2020

The final network in Universal Design for Learning is the strategic network. Its focus is on how learning takes place. The goal for this network is for learners to be “strategic and goal-directed” (CAST, 2019b). To do this, CAST (2019a) recommends educators provide multiple ways for students to express their learning.

Every individual expresses themselves in different ways. This means they also convey what they have learned in various ways. These variations can be due to physical limitations, language barriers, or different ways of understanding content. When we are working with library users in training sessions, in new hire orientations, or conducting internal staff training, we want to provide many opportunities for each person to showcase their learning. Taking time for individuals to demonstrate what they have learned helps us know that our instruction was effective and it provides opportunities for us to clarify content. 

So, what does this mean in practice? How do we provide multiple ways for our library users to express their learning? 

First, it is important to recognize physical limitations our users may have. Therefore, it is necessary to reduce the number of items a user needs to select and navigate to interact with library resources. UDL recommends the following:

  • Select software that works seamlessly with keyboard alternatives and alt keys
  • Build switch and scanning options for increased independent access and keyboard alternatives
  • Provide text-to-speech software (voice recognition), human dictation, recording (CAST, 2019b).

Second, it is important to provide options for how users create content and express their learning. To do this, UDL recommends:

  • Compose in multiple media such as text, speech, drawing, illustration, comics, storyboards, design, film, music, dance/movement, visual art, sculpture, or video
  • Use web applications (e.g., wikis, animation, presentation)
  • Provide scaffolds that can be gradually released with increasing independence and skills (e.g., embedded into digital reading and writing software) (CAST, 2019b).

There may be times when we help others work towards goals, this could be with internal library staff or outside stakeholders. To help others achieve goals, a third way to help users express their learning is to support the development of learning goals and then support their plans to achieve those goals. To do this, UDL recommends:

  • Provide prompts and scaffolds to estimate effort, resources, and difficulty
  • Embed prompts to “stop and think” before acting as well as adequate space
  • Provide checklists and project planning templates for understanding the problem, setting up prioritization, sequences, and schedules of steps 
  • Provide checklists and guides for note-taking 
  • Prompt learners to identify the type of feedback or advice that they are seeking
  • Use templates that guide self-reflection on quality and completeness (CAST, 2019b). 

For a full list of all the checkpoints associated with the strategic network visit this page. There are other strategies to incorporate to design learning that is truly universal. 

This concludes this four part series on Universal Design for Learning. I hope you found it beneficial and are ready to implement new teaching strategies for the many library users with whom you work. 


CAST. (2019a). About Universal Design for Learning. Retrieved from http://www.cast.org/our-work/about-udl.html#.XfLQdmRKhPY

CAST. (2019b). The UDL guidelines. Retrieved from http://udlguidelines.cast.org/?utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=none&utm_source=cast-about-udl

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri. Please learn more about Lauren and read her other posts about skills for special librarians; then take a look at Lucidea’s powerful ILS, SydneyEnterpriseused daily by special librarians to empower their users.

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