Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Education

First Advisor

Debi Briggs-Crispin, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Jenelle Stone, Ph.D.


This improvement science dissertation in practice (ISDiP) investigated the influence of universal design for learning (UDL) on student engagement and motivation in middle school classrooms at a K–8 school in Northern California. The plan-do-study-act (PDSA) framework examined the potential of UDL practices in the context of a Diocesan-wide professional development initiative and assessed if teachers’ deliberate integrations of UDL strategies contributed to enhanced student engagement and motivation. The study navigated nuances of transitions to UDL practices, observing teachers as they attempted to implement strategies while students participated in UDL lessons. This process uncovered intrinsic challenges educators face—adherence to traditional teaching methods and the struggle to fully embrace required UDL pedagogical shifts. Students participated in UDL lessons, providing a practical perspective on adoption of inclusive teaching strategies. Research also scrutinized the long-term viability of UDL practices, their alignment with teachers’ existing methodologies, and overall school culture. The study also yielded unexpected insights that were impactful from a leadership perspective, shedding light on the critical role of leadership in facilitating and supporting educational change, and importance of addressing emotional and professional hurdles educators encounter during such transitions. These revelations contribute significantly to ongoing discourse on how educational transformations are managed and sustained, offering a candid reflection of the intersection between theory, practice, and leadership in educational settings. This candid account holds potential to inform future educational practices, policy making, and professional development, emphasizing need for a nuanced approach to fostering an inclusive and engaging learning environment for all students.

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