Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Increasing Self-Determination: Teaching Students to Plan, Work, Evaluate, and Adjust

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Increasing Self-Determination: Teaching Students to Plan, Work, Evaluate, and Adjust

Article excerpt

Teaching students to be motivated, self-regulated learners has been identified as an immediate goal for instructional practice (Agran, 1997; Jolivette, Wehby, Canale, & Massey, 2001; Landrum & Tankersley, 1999; Miller & Brickman, in press; Mithaug, Martin, & Agran, 1987; Zimmerman, Bonner, & Kovach, 1996). But meeting this goal is proving difficult for teachers because it involves jumpstarting the self-regulation dynamic responsible for self-determined learning (Mithaug & Mithaug, 2003). Solving this problem also requires a new investment from educators, students, and parents (Rothbart & Jones, 1998; Wehmeyer, Palmer, Agran, Mithaug, & Martin, 2000). Where does this investment begin? Mithaug et al., (1987) argued that it begins with students learning the self-regulatory skills needed to adjust to change. They proposed that teachers use the Adaptability Instructional Model to teach students with disabilities the generic adaptability skills needed for school-to-work transitions. Self-management strategies such as self-evaluation and self-instruction were prescribed to develop these behaviors, the same strategies that have been shown to empower students to manage social and academic behavior (Hughes, Korinek, & Gorman, 1991; Nelson, Smith, Young, & Dodd, 1991). The Adaptability Instructional Model included four parts: (a) decision making to identify interests, abilities, and needs and to set goals based on available alternatives; (b) independent performance based on action plans and follow through using self-monitoring strategies; (c) self-evaluation to monitor and compare their performance outcomes against performance expectations; and (d) adjustments to review previous performance outcomes and to set goals and plans accordingly.

Studies conducted since the development of the Model expanded instructional methodologies and added self-determination, which reflected a theoretical shift from adaptability to self-determined learning. The purpose of the change was to accommodate the possibility that adapting to existing Circumstances might not lead to goal attainment and that "success in life involves altering those circumstances to make them more favorable for a self-selected pursuit [italics added]" (Wehmeyer et al., 2000, p. 441). The result was the Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction that included (a) setting a goal, (b) taking action, and (c) adjusting the goal or the plan to attain the goal (Wehmeyer et al.).

In the past decade, this approach and others, especially the focus on teaching, have covered much of the procedural territory the literature associates with self-determination (Eisenman, 2001). Indeed, proponents of student-directedness in learning and performance claim this new direction is an essential best practice for special education because it helps students achieve desirable postschool outcomes (Field, Martin, Miller, Ward, & Wehmeyer, 1998a). There is evidence for this claim, too, in that Gerber, Ginsberg, and Reiff (1992) and Wehmeyer and Schwartz (1997) have found increased levels of self-determination to be associated with postschool success. Martin, Mithaug, Husch, Frazier, and Huber Marshall (2003) also reported benefits for adults with severe disabilities who learned to choose and then adjust to choices when they searched for community jobs. Those who engaged in choice-based adjustments were more likely to keep their jobs. Curricular adaptations that include student-directed methodologies in educational planning have also yielded positive results. Martin and Huber Marshall's (1995) ChoiceMaker Self-Determination Curriculum, for example, teaches self-determination by covering the four basic processes of the Adaptability Model--indecision making, independent performance, self-evaluation, and adjustment--as well as self-awareness, self-advocacy, and self-efficacy, which have also been used to define the concept (Campeau, Wol, man, Dubois, Mithaug, & Stolarski, 1994; Field & Hoffman, 1994; Martin, Huber Marshall, & DePry, 2001; Wehmeyer, 1999; Wehmeyer et al. …

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