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UDL Guidelines - Version 2.0: Research Evidence

Checkpoint 2.1: Clarify vocabulary and symbols

I. Provide Multiple Means of Representation

Language, expressions, and symbols


The use of vocabulary or symbols that are not familiar to the individual creates obstacles or barriers to comprehension and learning.  The majority of the experimental studies listed here evaluate the effectiveness of the various tools and strategies designed to reduce those barriers and/or to build vocabulary knowledge. Other experimental studies focus on supporting students' understanding of the symbols that they encounter in their learning (e.g. interpreting graphs and maps, "reading" pictures and images, etc.). The scholarly reviews and opinion pieces provide more classroom-based perspectives on supporting vocabulary development and symbol interpretation. Some of the articles in this list focus on the development of second language vocabulary acquisition. For a more complete list of references on second language learning, please be sure to explore the references for "Options that promote cross-linguistic understanding" as well.

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Experimental and Quantitative Evidence:

Al-Seghayer, K. (2001). The effect of multimedia annotation modes on L2 vocabulary acquisition: A comparative study. Language, Learning & Technology, 5(1), 202-232.

Boone, R., & Higgins, K. (1993). Hypermedia basal readers: Three years of school-based research. Journal of Special Education Technology, 12(2), 86-106.

Bosseler, A., & Massaro, D. W. (2003). Development and evaluation of a computer-animated tutor for vocabulary and language learning in children with autism. Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 33(6), 653-672.

Chun, D. M. (2001). L2 reading on the web: Strategies for accessing information in hypermedia. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 14(5), 367-403.

Chun, D. M., & Plass, J. L. (1996). Effects of multimedia annotations on vocabulary acquisition. The Modern Language Journal, 80(2), 183-198.

Chun, D. M., & Plass, J. L. (1996). Facilitating reading comprehension with multimedia. System, 24(4), 503-519.

Dalton, B., & Strangman, N. (2006). Improving struggling readers' comprehension through scaffolded hypertexts and other computer-based literacy programs. In M. C. McKenna, L.D. Labbo, R.D. Kieffer and D. Reinking (Eds.), International handbook of literacy and technology volume II (pp. 75-92). Mahwah, NJ: Lawerence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

Dalton, B., Pisha, B., Eagleton, M., Coyne, P., & Deysher, S. (2002). Engaging the text: Final report to the U.S. Department of Education. Peabody: CAST.

Guthrie, J. T., Weber, S., & Kimmerly, N. (1993). Searching documents: Cognitive processes and deficits in understanding graphs, tables, and illustrations. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 18(2), 186-221.

Hebert, B. M., & Murdock, J. Y. (1994). Comparing three computer-aided instruction output modes to teach vocabulary words to students with learning disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 9(3), 136-141.

Higgins, N. C., & Cocks, P. (1999). The effects of animation cues on vocabulary development. Reading Psychology, 20(1), 1-10.

Jones, L. C., & Plass, J. L. (2002). Supporting listening comprehension and vocabulary acquisition in French with multimedia annotations. The Modern Language Journal, 86(4), 546-561.

MacArthur, C. A., & Haynes, J. B. (1995). Student assistant for learning from text (SALT): A hypermedia reading aid. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 28(3), 150-159.

Mioduser, D., Tur-Kaspa, H., & Leitner, I. (2000). The learning value of computer-based instruction of early reading skills. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 16(1), 54-63.

Nagy, W., & Scott, J. (2004). Vocabulary processes. In R. R. Ruddell, & N. Unrau (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of reading (pp. 574-593). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Nagy, W. E. (1985). Learning words from context. Reading Research Quarterly, 20(2), 233-253.

Nikolova, O. R. (2002). Effects of students' participation in authoring of multimedia materials on student acquisition of vocabulary. Language, Learning & Technology, 6(1), 100-122.

Olson, R. K., & Wise, B. W. (1992). Reading on the computer with orthographic and speech feedback. Reading and Writing, 4(2), 107-144.

Papalewis, R. (2004). Struggling middle school readers: Successful, accelerating intervention: Read 180 program. Reading Improvement, 41(1), 24-38.

Plass, J. L., Chun, D. M., Mayer, R. E., & Leutner, D. (2003). Cognitive load in reading a foreign language text with multimedia aids and the influence of verbal and spatial abilities. Computers in Human Behavior, 19(2), 221-243.

Proctor, C. P., Dalton, B., & Grisham, D. L. (2007). Scaffolding English language learners and struggling readers in a universal literacy environment with embedded strategy instruction and vocabulary support. Journal of Literacy Research, 39(1), 71-93.

Rice, M. L. (1990). Words from" sesame street": Learning vocabulary while viewing. Developmental Psychology, 26(3), 421-428.

Stewig, J. W. (1994). First graders talk about paintings. Journal of Educational Research, 87(5), 309-316.

Walsh, M. (2003). 'Reading' pictures: What do they reveal? Young children's reading of visual texts. Reading, 37(3), 123-130.

Winn, W. D., & Sutherland, S. W. (1989). Factors influencing the recall of elements in maps and diagrams and the strategies used to encode them. Journal of Educational Psychology, 81(1), 33-39.

Xin, J. F., & Rieth, H. (2001). Video-assisted vocabulary instruction for elementary school students with learning disabilities. Information Technology in Childhood Education Annual, 1, 87-103.

Yeung, A. S. (1999). Cognitive load and learner expertise: Split-attention and redundancy effects in reading comprehension tasks with vocabulary definitions. Journal of Experimental Education, 67(3), 197-217.

Scholarly reviews and expert opinions:

Blachowicz, C. L., & Fisher, P. J. (2007). Best practices in vocabulary instruction. In L. B. Gambrell, L. M. Morrow & M. Pressley (Eds.), Best practices in literacy instruction (pp. 178-203). New York: Guilford Publications, Inc.

Caldwell, B., Cooper, M., Guarino Reid, L. & Vanderheiden, G. Web accessibility guidelines 2.0; guideline 3.1 Readable: Make text content readable and understandable. Retrieved May 26, 2009 from

Koskinen, P. S., & Wilson, R. M. (1993). Captioned video and vocabulary learning: An innovative practice in literary instruction. Reading Teacher, 47(1), 36-43.

Pisha, B., & Coyne, P. (2001). Smart from the start: The promise of universal design for learning. Remedial and Special Education, 22(4), 197-203.

Rose, D., & Dalton, B. (2002). Using technology to individualize reading instruction. In C. C. Block, L. B. Gambrell & M. Pressley (Eds.), Improving comprehension instruction: Rethinking research, theory, and classroom practice (pp. 257-274). San Francisco: Jossey Bass Publishers.

Strangman, N., & Dalton, B. (2005). Using technology to support struggling readers: A review of the research. In D. Edyburn, K. Higgins & R. Boone (Eds.), The handbook of special education technology research and practice (pp. 545-569). Whitefish Bay, WI: Knowledge by Design.

Strangman, N., & Hall, T. E. (2003). Text transformations. Wakefield, MA: National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum.

Verdi, M. P., & Kulhavy, R. W. (2002). Learning with maps and texts: An overview. Educational Psychology Review, 14(1), 27-46.

Werner, W. (2002). Reading visual texts. Theory & Research in Social Education, 30(3), 401-428.

Last Updated: 02/01/2011

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