Promoting Student Self-Determination Skills in IEP Planning

By Wood, Wendy M.; Karvonen, Meagan et al. | Teaching Exceptional Children, January/February 2004 | Go to article overview

Promoting Student Self-Determination Skills in IEP Planning


Wood, Wendy M., Karvonen, Meagan, Test, David W., Browder, Diane, Algozzine, Bob, Teaching Exceptional Children


Goals and Objectives

* I will select which type of work I want and why,

* I will develop action steps to achieve my employment goal.

* I will evaluate my functional reading and writing skills using my daily check sheet.

* Do you consider self-determination for students a high priority in planning instruction?

* Do you include self-advocacy goals in students' education programs?

* What is best practice in developing such goals and promoting self-determination in students?

It may be that you or your colleagues have not received instruction in how to write self-determination goals and objectives for your students with disabilities. This article explores ways to increase the inclusion of self-determination and self-advocacy goals and objectives in individualized education programs (IEPs) as a first step to increasing their inclusion in classroom instruction.

The Self-Determination Synthesis Project

The Self-Determination Synthesis Project (SDSP) was funded in 1998 to synthesize and disseminate best practices related to promoting self-determination for students with disabilities. To this end, the purpose of the project was to improve, expand, and accelerate the use of this knowledge by the professionals who serve children and youth with disabilities; parents who rear, educate, and support their children with disabilities; and students with disabilities. To accomplish these tasks, the SDSP Project conducted an extensive review of the literature, a meta-analysis to determine what levels of outcomes researchers have achieved using self-determination interventions (Algozzine, Browder, Karvonen, Test, & Wood, 2001; see box, "What Does the Literature Say?") and qualitative case studies of six school-based programs.

One of the findings of the SDSP is that whenever researchers discussed self-determination in relation to the IEP, it was usually with regard to increasing student involvement/leadership in the IEP and transition planning processes (i.e., achieving self-determination by involving the student in the IEP process; Field et al., 1998; Martin, Huber-Marshall, Maxton, Jerman, & Miller, 1996; Powers, et al, 2001; Wehmeyer & Lawrence, 1995). Although we believe student involvement in the development of IEPs and participation or leadership in the IEP meeting process is essential, we also feel that IEPs should specifically target self-determination and transition plans, in the form of goals and objectives.

To assist teachers with developing IEP goals and objectives targeting self-determination, we provide sample goals and objectives in this article. We garnered some goals and objectives from the six model school programs that we visited for the qualitative component of the SDSP. We wrote other goals for fictional students derived from a composite of students. We emphasize that students should be involved or take a leadership role in developing their own IEP and transition goals.

Self-Determination in IEPs

In developing self-determination goals and objectives, you need to know what skills comprise self-determination, decide what skills to teach to individual students, and know where to find instructional materials to provide instruction (i.e., self-determination curricula). In this article, we address the first two of these issues, as well as offer some examples of self-determination goals and objectives that might be included in an IEP. Test et al (2000) provided helpful information about choosing a self-determination curriculum.

Knowing What to Teach: Skills That Comprise Self-Determination

First, self-determination is a complex construct that includes a combination of skills and knowledge. Wehmeyer, Kelchner, & Richards (1996) used factor analysis to empirically validate one conceptualization of the construct of self-determination and broke self-determination down into teachable, measurable skills. Wehmeyer, Agran, and Hughes (1998) further defined these measurable skills as the following components and subcomponents:

* Choice making. …

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