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.
* Decision making.
* Independent living (risk taking and safety skills).
* Goal setting and attainment.
* Self-observation, evaluation, and reinforcement.
* Self-instruction, self-understanding, self-advocacy, and leadership.
* Positive self-efficacy and outcome expectancy.
* Internal locus of control.
In our review of articles on self-determination, the SDSP developed a list of definitions for 8 out of 10 of these components (see Table 1). Independent living was not addressed here because it has been adequately addressed apart from self-determination in student IEPs. Locus of control was not included because of concerns related to construct validity.
Teaching these component skills will not guarantee that every individual student will achieve self-determination. The environment remains a critical factor in how well a student achieves self-determination, in that the people in the student's lives must
* Encourage generalization of self-determination skills and behavior.
* Honor the choices and decisions the student makes.
* Support the goals that the student sets.
Therefore, when you as the teacher decide to promote self-determination skills with your students, you may also need to commit to some level of school staff and parent education. By preparing others in addition to the student, you can ensure that a student's emerging self-determination skills will have a receptive audience.
Deciding Which Self-Determination Skills to Teach
Second, you should assess student selfdetermination skills. Many methods and materials are available that you can use to assess a student's knowledge and skills related to self-determination, including the following:
* Reviewing records and background information.
* Interviewing the student and others.
* Observing the student.
* Using of norm-referenced or criterion-referenced tests (Wehmeyer & Kelchner, 1995).
* Using curriculum-based assessment techniques.
* Creating a portfolio of skills (Field et al., 1998).
A few examples of published assessment instruments include the Arc's Self-Determination Scale, (Wehmeyer, 1995; the ChoiceMaker Self-Determination Transition Assessment (Martin & Marshall, 1995); the Self-Determination Assessment Battery (Hoffman, Field, & Sawilowski, 1995); the AIR Self-Determination Scale (Wolman, Campeau, DuBois, Mithaug, & Stolarski, 1994); and the Minnesota Self-Determination Scales (Abery, Elkin, Smith, Springborg, & Stancliffe, 2000).
Publishers have developed several self-determination assessment instruments to accompany curriculum packages focused on teaching self-determination skills (e.g., ChoiceMaker); whereas other publishers have developed other assessments, such as the Arc's Self-Determination Scale and the AIR Self-Determination Scale (Wolman et al., 1994) as stand-alone instruments. The Arc's Self-Determination Scale is designed for self-reporting by adolescent students with disabilities, whereas other assessments gather data from a combination of sources including the student, teachers, and parents. Some self-determination assessment instruments also offer ways to evaluate the environment to determine to what degree students have opportunities to act in self-determined ways and to what degree the environment is receptive to students' self-determined behavior (e.g., the Minnesota Self-Determination Scales; Abery et al, 2000).
Although most assessment instruments offer information that educators can use to develop goals and objectives for instruction, a few that specifically address this step are the AIR Self-Determination Scale and the ChoiceMaker Self-Determination Assessment.
Teacher-Made Assessment Measures. In the absence of a published self-determination assessment instrument, you can take several steps with students to assess their strengths and needs for the purpose of developing IEP goals and objectives. For example, you can construct a general-purpose, teacher-made checklist or questionnaire based on any one or more of the self-determination components in Table 1. If you were interested in teaching choice-making, you might include some of these questions:
* "What kinds of choices does the student make?"
* "When given a choice between two or more options, does the student indicate a choice?"
* "How does the student indicate her or his choice?"
* "How does the student assess different options in preparation for making a choice?"
* "Does the student understand that there are consequences associated with the choices that we make?"
* "Can the student use experiences from past choices to make better choices in the future?"
To determine where to begin, you may ask questions pertaining to how well students can articulate things about themselves. For example, can they identify things they like and dislike, people they like to be to be with, places they like to go, things they like to do, and personal strengths and weaknesses?
Where to Begin. In deciding which skill component or components to start with, you might want to consider the age of the student and current and future environments of the student. Doll, Sands, Wehmeyer, and Palmer (1996) examined the typical ages at which children begin to exhibit certain self-determination skills. First, they found that although young children (ages 2-5) exhibit some here-and-now choice-making skills, they have limited knowledge of their options and limited ability to reflect on past choices.
Second, children between the ages of 6 and 8 begin to identify and solve simple problems and can generalize solutions across different and future problems. These children, however, still have trouble learning from consequences of prior choices and require adult guidance to set and work toward goals.
Third, children between the ages of 9 and 11 begin to set goals and use those goals to determine their actions and can recognize and make corrections when actions are not working to achieve their goals.
Finally, students over the age of 12 can make decisions, generalize problem-solving skills, set and focus on long-term goals, and evaluate and change plans as needed to achieve goals.
You will want to consider teaching students skills based on current and future environments where the student will need to function. For example, teaching the student to take the lead in her IEP meeting may help her take the lead in the rehabilitation counselor's office when it comes time to set career goals and plan services. Teaching one student about his rights as a student covered by IDEA and how to be a self-advocate with his teachers, may help him when he needs to learn about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and needs to practice his self-advocacy skills with an employer. In some cases, given the particular needs of the student, her age, and abilities, the teacher may find that it makes sense to skip teaching about IDEA and focus on teaching about the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Social Security.
A transition-aged student learning to take more responsibility for his learning by selecting elective courses; choosing what academic areas to work on each day; and, in some systems, making decisions about his graduation options, can then use those skills when making decisions about what services he may want to access as an adult. For students with more severe disabilities, teachers will need to provide specific training in future environments to ensure the transfer of skills.
Writing Self-Determination Goals and Objectives
The final step is to write specific goals and objectives designed to promote self-determination. Table 2 contains examples of IEP goals and objectives targeting at least one of each of the self-determination skill components. Most are written as "I" statements from the student's perspective. Though educators have traditionally written goals and objectives in third person, goals and objectives written in first person imply that the student is integrally involved in the planning and decision-making process pertaining to her IEP. It also suggests that a student has accepted a personal responsibility for achieving her goals.
Because it is expected that students are involved in all phases of the IEP process, the use of "I" statements in the IEP document is appropriate and indicates the student's role as the key participant. Assisting students to develop their own goals and objectives as "I" statements in the IEP can and should be generalized to all goals, not just those targeting self-determination skills.
You can write IEP goals to target content to be learned, (e.g., "I will learn the skills I need to advocate for myself by taking the Self-Advocacy class") or to target content or skills to be applied in real situations, (e.g., "I will complete three job shadowing experiences and report my preferences to my career teacher"). For example, if a student wanted to begin self-advocating for his own teaching accommodations as specified on his IEP, he may first want to learn about his interests, his strengths and weaknesses, and how he learns best.
Goal: I will learn more about my particular learning needs.
Objective #1: I will learn about my learning needs by reviewing my IEP document.
Objective #2: I will learn about my disability.
Objective #3: I will learn about various accommodations that might be used to assist me to learn more better.
Then the student may want to apply what he has learned by being able to explain his disability and what teaching accommodations he needs to his classroom teachers.
Goal: I will explain my disability and ask for learning accommodations that work for me.
Objective #1: Given in-class practice, I will explain my disability to another person.
Objective #2: Given a menu of options of learning accommodations, I will try various options and record which ones work best for me.
Objective #3: Given in-class practice, I will negotiate with my teacher to allow accommodations that facilitate my learning.
In many cases, when students begin to participate more in their IEP planning and implementation, they may need to learn content related to what an IEP is, the different parts of an IEP, about their specific learning needs, and their rights as a student under IDEA. Skills that they will use as they assume a more active role in the IEP process may include: introducing IEP team members, summarizing their present level of performance, expressing their future goals, asking questions of meeting participants, and others (Martin et al., 1996).
All these skills will contribute to students' being more self-determined adults and may transfer directly from the IEP process to the rehabilitation counselor's office for the development of the Individual Plan for Employment, or to a college's disability services office for accommodations in a post-secondary education environment.
A positive relationship exists between self-determination and improved postschool outcomes (Wehmeyer & Schwartz, 1998a). Teachers view self-determination as an important skill (Agran, et al., 1999; Wehmeyer, et al, 2000). Unfortunately, many teachers are not including these important skills in student IEPs.
We hope that the suggestions and examples provided in this article will encourage teachers to incorporate self-determination skills into the IEPs of all students. But more importantly, having the skills listed as goals and objectives in their IEP will increase the likelihood that students will receive instruction that will enhance their abilities to be self-determined citizens.
Students should be involwed or taking a leadership role in developing their own IEP and transition goals.
IEPs should specifically target self-defermination and transition plans, in the form of goals and objectives.
What Does the Literature Say About Self-Determination?
Over the past decade, special education has seen a major focus on promoting self-determination skills in students. Special education literature has offered information on self-determination, including the following:
* Definitions and conceptual analyses (Browder, Wood, Test, Algozzine, & Karvonen, 2001; Martin, Huber-Marshall, & Maxton, 1993; Ward, 1988; Wehmeyer, 1992a).
* Approaches for promoting self-determination (Martin & Marshall, 1995; Pocock et al., 2002; Salembier & Furney, 1994).
* Models for instruction (Abery, Rudrud, Arndt, Schwauben, & Eggebeen, 1995; Field & Hoffman, 1994).
* Both quantitative and qualitative intervention studies (Algozzine, et al., 2001; Allen, Smith, Test, Flowers, & Wood, 2001; Cross, Cooke, Wood, & Test, 1999).
Self-determination was first written into law in the Public Housing Act of 1988, and quickly followed in other major pieces of legislation written for people with disabilities, including the Rehabilitation Act of 1992 and 1998 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1990 and 1997.
Defined by Wehmeyer (1992b, 1996), as "acting as the primary causal agent in one's life free from undue externa influence or interference," self-determination was termed the ultimate goal of education by Halloran (1993). Since the late 1980s, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has promoted development and dissemination of programs and materials, and information on self-determination by offering discretionary funding opportunities for research and demonstration projects.
Self-advocates with disabilities have been demanding self-determination as adult citizens and have been a major force behind the federal initiative at both the adult and school levels. In addition, research has demonstrated a positive relationship between self-determination and improved postschool outcomes (Wehmeyer & Schwartz, 1998a), which is also contributing to the tidal wave of support for promoting self-determination in education and adult disability services.
Although researchers have focused on promoting self-determination and publishers have produced more than 60 curricula on self-determination (Field, Martin, Miller, Ward, & Wehmeyer, 1998; Test, Karvonen, Wood, Browder, & Algozzine, 2000), a significant lag remains in the degree to which self-determination content is reflected in the goals and objectives of students' individualized education programs (IEPs) and, consequently, in classroom instruction.
For example, Wehmeyer and Schwartz (1998a) conducted a content analysis of transition related goals written for 1 36 students with mental retardation. Out of 895 IEP transition goals analyzed, none were found to target self-determination skills. Agran, Snow, and Swaner (1999) found that although a majority (75%) of teachers of transition-aged students rated self-determination as a high priority, 55% indicated that self-determination goals were not included in students' IEPs or only in some students' IEPs. And more recently, Wehmeyer, Agran, and Hughes (2000) found only 22% of secondary level teachers who reported writing self-determination goals in IEPs for all of their students, while 47% included one or more self-determination goals for some students, and 31% did not include them at all.
Self-determination includes teachable, measurable skills, such as sheite making, decision making, and problem-solving.
Children ages 9-11 begin to set goals and use those goals to determine their actions.
TEACHING Exceptional Children, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp. 8-16.
Copyright 2004 CEC.
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Wendy M. Wood (CEC Chapter #147), Associate Professor; Meagan Karvonen (CEC Chapter #147), Project Coordinator; David W. Test (CEC Chapter #147), Professor; Diane Browder (CEC Chapter #147) Professor; and Bob Algozzine (CEC Chapter #147), Professor, Department of Counseling, Special Education, & Child Development, University of North Carolina-Charlotte.
Address correspondence to Wendy M. Wood, Counseling, Special Education, & Child Development, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, 9201 University City Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28223 (e-mail: wmwood@ email.uncc.edu).
Funding for this project was provided by Grant No. H324D980069 from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, awarded to the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Department of Education, and no official endorsement should be inferred.…
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Publication information: Article title: Promoting Student Self-Determination Skills in IEP Planning. Contributors: Wood, Wendy M. - Author, Karvonen, Meagan - Author, Test, David W. - Author, Browder, Diane - Author, Algozzine, Bob - Author. Magazine title: Teaching Exceptional Children. Volume: 36. Issue: 3 Publication date: January/February 2004. Page number: 8. © Council for Exceptional Children Jan/Feb 2009. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.