MARIO Framework & Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Creating Expert Learners Together

The MARIO Framework wants to empower special educators to apply UDL principles within a one-to-one learning context. To this end, the MARIO Framework has teamed up with internationally renowned UDL expert Katie Novak, Ed.D. to ensure UDL principles are woven seamlessly throughout the MARIO 101 Framework and course.

Katie Novak, Ed.D.

Powerful learning happens when we focus on what’s meaningful, and what is meaningful for one learner isn’t necessarily meaningful for another learner.

Philip Bowman

Founder of the MARIO Framework
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The Creator of Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

CAST, the creator of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), defines UDL as a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn. UDL is a framework built on the core belief that all learners are capable of learning at high levels, personalizing their learning, and becoming expert learners when educators design and deliver instruction with firm goals and flexible means. The MARIO Framework empowers educators to create personalized learning experiences that are measured, ambitious, research-informed, innovative, and structured around one-to-one learning.

Learn more

Multiple Means

UDL is an educational framework built upon decades of mind, brain, and education research that espouses three primary principles, all of which remind educators to provide students with options for personalizing their education.

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Multiple means of engagement

The why of learning

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Multiple means of representation

The what of learning

Group 2036 (3)

Multiple means of action and expression

The how of learning

The MARIO for Me ™ Software Takes UDL Even Further

In a MARIO classroom, the Personalized Learning Plan reflects these principles by providing options for recruiting learner interest, sustaining effort and persistence, and encouraging self-regulation. Learners are given the choice and autonomy to work toward and reflect on goals that are personally relevant and meaningful, allowing them to make direct connections about the work they are doing.
When learners are provided with options and choices, they have opportunities to become expert learners who develop meta-attention, meta-comprehension, and meta-cognitive reflection.
The MARIO for Me Software takes UDL even further by empowering students with tools that give them increased ownership of their personal learning journey.

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Through the MARIO Approach, learners begin to develop…

  • Meta-Cognitive Reflection through self-assessment in the one-to-one learning environment where the educator asks leading and guidng questions and provides self-monitoring tools
  • Meta-Attention through the creation and planning of their personalized learning goals
  • Meta-Comprehension through regularly discussing their learning process in the one-to-one space with the educator modeling thinking processes

MARIO & Universal Design for Learning

All students deserve access to engaging and challenging learning experiences that authentically meet their needs. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework, or set of design principles, that embrace student variability and provide flexible opportunities for students to learn as they become purposeful, motivated, resourceful, knowledgeable, strategic, and goal-directed. Universal Design for Learning strategically aligns with the MARIO Framework’s goal of ultimately creating successful self-directed, expert learners. Teaching learning strategies that foster meta-comprehension, and meta-cognitive reflection are routinely implemented to build these skills over time. Together, UDL and the MARIO Framework provide special education students with practices and scaffolds to build their independence and agency, while fostering collaboration, community and personalized, individual growth.



All MARIO Educators
learn to measure
the efficacy of their
instruction and
continuously improve
student learning.



All students have the capability to do things that will amaze us. Educators help students set and achieve high



Interdisciplinary research is kept at the core of pedagogical decision making in the classroom.



The MARIO Framework
and MARIO Educators
are always striving to
become better versions of themselves via healthy experimentation based on cutting-edge research.



One-to-one learning is at the heart of the MARIO Framework. The most meaningful learning becomes possible when students talk and teachers listen.



Individualized education isn’t enough for our learners. We empower our students to truly own their learning.

Connections to Universal Design for Learning


UDL is focused on “firm
goals, flexible means.”
When educators
heighten the salience
of goals and objectives
and continually monitor progress toward those
goals with learners, they build shared responsibility for learning and growth.
The UDL Flowchart helps us determine if our UDL lesson plans are having the intended outcomes.

UDL Flow Chart

All students can reach
high expectations when practitioners critically
examine “one-size fits-all” approaches to
teaching and learning and
provide flexible pathways
for students to reach goals. Additionally, UDL
practitioners help to
build student motivation
and reach those goals
through meaningful
relationships, scaffolds,
supports, and flexible
This video provides a teacher’s account on how setting high expectations
helps students with
special needs excel.

Expectations for Special Needs Students

CAST, the founders of
UDL note, “UDL is based
upon the most widely
replicated finding in
educational research:
learners are highly
variable in their response to instruction. In virtually every report of research on instruction or
intervention, individual
differences are not only
evident in the results;
they are prominent.”
UDL Guidelines are
informed from research
in neuroscience, the
learning sciences, and
cognitive psychology.

UDL Guidelines

UDL aims to foster
expert learners who
have built critical skills
for innovation. Through
a process of choice and reflection, learners are able to find the optimal pathway to reach their learning goals. The same is true for educators in the MARIO framework.
Learn how choice works in UDL through Katie
Novak’s Dinner Party

Dinner Party Analogy

David Rose, the father
of UDL, was known for
saying, “Teaching, at its
core, is emotional work.” As educators, we have
the power and privilege
to create meaningful
relationships with students as they become their best
selves. By carving out time for 1:1 conferencing and support, students will have dedicated time to reflect, set goals, grow, and make
meaningful connections in a model rich with
scaffolding, mentoring, and
modeling. Start creating a UDL lesson
with the UDL Teacher’s

UDL Teachers Guide

The goal of UDL is for
students to become
expert learners – those
who are purposeful and
motivated, resourceful
and knowledgeable,
and strategic and goaldirected – by learning to
self-differentiate and
make the best choices for themselves.
Learn about expert
learning with this blog
and infographic from

Making Expert Learners


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