Graphic Organizers with UDL

This paper discusses the research evidence for the effectiveness of graphic organizers.

Strangman, N.
Hall, T.
Meyer, A.
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum
Publication Year
Resource Type
Number of Pages

This paper begins with an introduction to graphic organizers (a definition, a sampling of different types, and a consideration of their curriculum applications) and a discussion of the research evidence for their effectiveness. The literature review addresses important questions about graphic organizers that are relevant to classroom practice, including whether graphic organizers are beneficial to students with disabilities and what instructional context makes them most effective. In the second part of the paper the discussion transitions to Universal Design for Learning (UDL) applications of graphic organizers. This section develops an understanding of UDL and proceeds to identify ways that graphic organizers can support UDL at both the theoretical and teacher practice levels. The paper concludes with general guidelines for UDL implementation and a list of Web resources that provide further information.

What the experts say

This is a useful resource for the field.  There is a solid research base that supports the use of graphic organizers for learning and this research base includes studies of individuals with learning disabilities.  The connection between graphic organizers and UDL provides clear guidance for teachers on how to use the potential of graphic organizers in a way that incorporates technology and more individualized/flexible approaches that UDL promotes.  The first part of the document provides good research based information on graphic organizers and basic instructional considerations.  The second part of the document helps teachers recognize how incorporating graphic organizers into instruction can be a way to apply UDL principles to broaden the effectiveness of graphic organizers for diverse learners.  The limitation of this resource is that it does not include any information on adult education research or practice.


I feel this resource is of value to the field of adult education for the following reasons:

  1. It presents very clear explanations of graphic organizers and their intersection with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles for learning.
  2. It includes a very comprehensive sampling of graphic organizer types, explanations, and visual models.
  3. It presents strong research evidence supporting the effectiveness of graphic organizers and UDL for students of all ages with or without disabilities.
  4. It presents digital graphic organizers as having inherent flexibility, which aligns with UDL’s three principles for flexible teaching and learning methods.
  5. It presents a step-by-step plan for implementing digital graphic organizers and UDL that is applicable to adult education and professional development: self-educate, build technology, plan curriculum and delivery, and secure administrative support.
  6. It provides many web resources for digital graphic organizers and more UDL information.
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