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  6.  — Getting Started: Plus one approach

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Getting Started: Plus one approach

When integrating Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles into your practice, it’s most effective to begin with small steps. The Plus One approach is “a mental model for prioritising interactions to be expanded in terms of adding media alternatives, learners choices, and modes of learner engagement.” 1 It is widely acknowledged for its incremental approach, which facilitates the gradual embedding of UDL principles in your teaching, learning, and assessment methods. Given that the process of incorporating UDL is ongoing and iterative, making small, progressive changes can enhance the inclusivity of your course over time. Watch the video below for some more insight.

Two steps

Step 1: Identify ‘pinch points’ for your module/programme.

  • Where do my students always have questions?
  • Where do students struggle with assessments?
  • Where do students need additional support for engaging with module content?

Step 2: Add one other alternative way for your students to engage with content, for example by providing a video as well as reading material.

In short: Identify an interaction/activity between you and your students and add one other alternative. 2

Video: Thomas Tobin on plus-one thinking


How can +1 thinking help me and my students:

  • Equity and Inclusion: UDL allows every learner, regardless of ability or needs, to access and engage with learning content, promoting inclusion and celebrating diversity.
  • Flexible Learning: It encourages designing flexible learning experiences. Offering multiple ways to access information accommodates various learning styles and preferences.
  • Motivation and Engagement: It considers learners’ interests, strengths, and needs. Motivated and engaged students are more likely to participate actively and succeed academically.
  • Reduced Barriers: It proactively identifies and addresses barriers to learning. By anticipating challenges and providing supports, it minimizes obstacles that might hinder student progress.
  • Personalisation: It allows customisation based on individual differences. Students can choose tools, resources, and approaches that work best for them, enhancing their learning experience.
  • Neuroscience-Based: Based on research in neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and the learning sciences. It aligns with how our brains process information, making learning more effective.

Implementation checklist

Have I provided multiple means of:

Learner engagement:
How do students engage with the content and how do you keep them engaged?

Representing information:
Captions in videos, text transcripts, describing what’s on the screen.

Demonstrating skill:
How do students show what they know? Give them options on how they can demonstrate their understanding.

Key questions


  • What flexible ways can I use to engage my learners?
  • How can I create an environment that motivates and sustains their interest?


  • What flexible ways can I use to present the learning content?
  • How can I ensure that information is accessible and comprehensible to all students?


  • What flexible ways can I provide for learners to demonstrate their knowledge?
  • How can I accommodate for a variety of ways to express understanding?


  • How and how much can I involve learners in the process of teaching and learning?
  • How can I empower students to co-design their learning experiences?

Page updated 24/04/2024

  1. What is plus-one approach. IGI Global. (n.d.).
  2. Behling, K. T., & Tobin, T. J. (2018). Reach everyone, teach everyone: Universal design for learning in higher education. West Virginia University Press.
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