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Self-Determination Skills Among Special Education Students

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Self determination

  1. 1. Self-Determination 1 Self-Determination as a Motivational Tool ESP 702 University of Nevada, Las Vegas Janet Vanheck
  2. 2. Self-Determination 2 Self-determination is important for successful transition into adult life. In examining self-determination as a tool for children with intellectual disability, the current literature exposes four main consideration. First, what are the characteristics of self- determined behavior? Second, what can recent studies tell us about the relationship between culture and self-determination? How is self-determination a motivator, both intrinsically and extrinsically? And, finally, what teaching strategies may improve a student’s self-determination? Characteristics of Self-Determination Self-determination is defined as “acting as the primary causal agent in one’s life and making choices and decisions regarding one’s quality of life free from undue external influences or interference” (Palmer & Wehmeyer, 1998). Smith further defines it as, “the decision making, choosing of preferences, and self-advocacy needed for independent living” (2007). Self-determined behavior is characterized by four specific criteria: (a) actions are taken independently, (b) the behavior is self-monitored, (c) events are begun and responded to in a way that is psychologically enabling, and (d) self-fulfillment is a key component of the outcome. These basic attributes may be affected by age, opportunity, capacity, and circumstances. The total self-determination becomes contingent upon a combination of different variables, where the experience becomes a unique experience for each individual. However, these characteristics must co-exist simultaneously for self-determination to be taking place (Reeve & Halusic, 2009; Zhang, 2005).
  3. 3. Self-Determination 3 Self-determination is important in the area of special education because recent findings show that individuals with disabilities who develop better self-determination skills during school achieve better post-school outcomes (Zhang, 2005). Therefore, discussion about motivation and what causes us as people to do what we do becomes necessary. Motivation: Intrinsic and Extrinsic For all students, learning begins with motivation. Motivation by definition is seen as the appetite for pursuing accomplishment-related behaviors (Niemic & Ryan, 2009). Motivation and accomplishment are then interconnected; there has been much written about how motivation affects individuals. It is influenced by autonomous diversities, anticipated achievement or unsuccessful outcomes, and by stimuli both intrinsic and extrinsic. If a person’s motivation is at its height, the result will be achievement (Haney & Falvey, 1989). According to Adelman and Taylor (1990), there are three basic psychological needs which motivate all human activity. These are (a) self-determination, (b) competence, and (c) relatedness, and may be viewed as the inherently needed motivators, which cause people to pursue challenging activities. Further, pursuing and reaching challenging goals is seen as necessary in order for a person to develop motivation, that is the inward system that direct successive behaviors. A peron’s intrinsic motivation is impacted by circumstances which apply regulated dominance or result in negative messages or uncontrollable outcomes (Adelman & Taylor, 1990). As such, extrinsic motivators may take the form of a reinforcement that stimulates individuals to pursue activities that provide a reward. This would be a specific reward
  4. 4. Self-Determination 4 depending on the individual performing a particular behavior (Haney & Falvey, 1989). Good examples of intrinsic motivators in the classroom are: (a) student-chosen options, (b) student decision-making, and (c) continuous information on functioning. Therefore, in developing a classroom environment that fosters motivated behavior, the teacher must take into consideration that a sense of autonomy is required for the student (Adelman & Taylor, 1990). Diversity as a Factor in Developing Self-Determination Students with differing cultural backgrounds have different ideas about self- determination. However, there seems to be somewhat conflicting research findings on cultural diversity and self-determination. In general, studies show that there is a lack of student participation, and primary involvement is by the parents rather than the student (Zhang, 2005). One recent study suggests that in order for students to achieve their goals, they require the assistance of school teachers and administrators (Trainor, 2005). They also are greatly helped by finding part-time jobs and networking in the local business community; these efforts assist them in staying on target for personal goals related to transition. However, most opportunities for initiating goals occur at home. In every ethnic group, students feel that their parents are very supportive of their decisions, goals and self- management. The parents displayed caring attitudes and talked with their children about their transition goals. Students indicated that their efforts to display self-determination at school were thwarted by the academic environment, but found that the home environment was the best place to develop their independence (Trainor, 2005).
  5. 5. Self-Determination 5 In another study, the parents of children with disabilities were found far less likely to involve their children in household chores, making their own decisions, and involving them in making choices and decisions. The parents exert more control over their children’s post-school career and living arrangements than their peers with children who did not have a disability. Zhang (2005) notes that the parents of students with disabilities provide fewer opportunities to their children to make choices and decisions, and time to work toward their own goals. Recent literature depicts helping students with disabilities to increase their self- determination during transition from school into adulthood as an important part of the special education spectrum of services (Trainor, 2005). Teaching students to set goals, make positive decisions about their future, and consistently self-monitor their own progress, improves the likelihood that their plans for the future will be successful. Most research on self-determination points toward empowering children to make sound decisions, choose career paths for themselves, and continually meet pre-set goals as important aspects of self-determination. For students who have a disability, this it is likewise important that they act on their decisions and learn from successes and failures (Trainor, 2005). Self-determination skills can be improved with academic instruction, but many researchers believe that there should be an emphasis on student involvement (Trainor, 2005). This may prove difficult, as students are often lacking the opportunity to put to u se their self-determination skills in a real-world setting. Researchers and lawmakers alike emphasize the importance of addressing the needs of students from varying cultures. The significance of the transition phase of the education can vary from one ethnic group to
  6. 6. Self-Determination 6 another so diverse students who are making the transition may consider their own self- determination with varying ideas. It is also important to take into consideration the point of view of the diverse communities which special education services. Research indicates that schools fail to comprehend the needs of diverse students with disabilities, their families, and communities (Trainor, 2005). Therefore, increasing student participation is a priority in the classroom for students with disabilities. Teaching Strategies to Improve Self-Determination Most of the research literature in this area involves creating instructional strategies for students with disabilities who need to improve their self-determination (Agra et al., 2002; Niemic & Ryan, 2009; Smith, 2007; Trainor 2005; Zhang, 2005). Such plans involve the formation and initiation of self-determination curricula and including student in the process of transition to adulthood. It is likewise part of a functional curriculum that focuses on life skills (Smith, 2007). Instructional strategies may include finding new methods to motivate students and reinforce positive behavioral responses, in addition to making effective instructional plans. As such, assuring that there are effective motivators in place for students is an important part of any teaching strategy (Haney & Falvey, 1989). Developing techniques to improve self-determination is crucial to student success. One technique that may improve skills leading to self-determination is problem solving. A recent survey found that teaching problem solving is important for student outcomes (Agra et al., 2002). Their study indicates further that students with disabilities are able to implement a self-regulated problem-solving technique to meet independent goals, and affirmed that problem-solving skills complement inclusive educational
  7. 7. Self-Determination 7 strategies. These affect both social and academic skills. Three plans to change the curriculum are presented: (a) curriculum adaptation, (b) curricular augmentation, and (c) curriculum alteration. Curriculum adaptation involves changing the delivery of instructional materials. Curricular augmentation is presenting to students how to use self- management ideas to improve knowledge. Curricular alteration is adapting instruction to focus on individual student requirements. Problem solving is a significant augmentative skill that promotes success in all areas of academic performance (Agra et al., 2002). Another important aspect of successful student transitional outcomes is involvement in the IEP meeting. Studies show that individuals with disabilities who are involved in initiating, developing, and implementing their own Individual Education Plans have more success in education than their uninvolved peers (Zhang, 2005). This may involve making sure that students know what the IEP is, can define their own criteria for success, and make plans that represent their own personal goals. Students must then understand what their needs are and how to create goals to meet these needs (Zhang, 2005). This may involve: (a) making sure that students know the IEP is, (b) defining their own criteria for success, and (c) making plans that represent their own personal goals. Students must then understand what their needs and how to crate goals to meet these needs (Davis, 1992). Conclusion Self-determination has several characteristics, and is an important part of the decision making process in transitionin to adult life. It is impacted by student and parental cultural points of view. Self-determination is a basic psychological need that motivates all human activity, botsh intrinsically and extrinsically (Adelman & Taylor,
  8. 8. Self-Determination 8 1990; Haney & Falvey, 1989). Specific instructional strategies work toward developing self-motivation, and the act of including students in the IEP process is crucial to individual student development (Davis, 1992; Zhang, 2005). Parental involvement is important, but students must in their own way find motivation to pursue their interests. Teachers can only do so much to ensure the success of each student. For students to feel hindered by teachers, efforts as indicated by one of the studies, can make it difficult for teachers to feel inspired to help them correctly. Teachers have many students, and cannot ensure the success of each one, but with adequate self-motivation, students can contribute toward their eventual outcomes.
  9. 9. Self-Determination 9 References Adelman, H. & Taylor, L. (1990). Intrinsic motivation and school misbehavior: Some intervention implications. Journal of Learning Disabilities. 23(9), 541-550. Agra, M., Blanchard, C., Wehmeyer, M., & Hughes, C. (2002). Increasing the problem solving skills of students with developmental disabilities participaing in general education. Remedial and Special Education. 23 (5), 279-288. Davis, C. & Ferguson, D. (1992). Try something completely different: Report of a collaborative research venture. In Ferguson, P., Ferguson, D., & Taylor, S. (Eds.) Interpreting Disability: A Qualitative Reader. (pp. 124-144). New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University. Haney, M. & Falvey, M. (1989). Instructional Stretegies in M.A. Falvey, Ph.D. (Ed.), Community-based Curriculum: Instructional Strategies for Students with Severe Handicaps (pp. 63-90). Baltimore: Paul H. Brooks Publishing Company. Niemiec, C. & Ryan, R. (2009). Autonomy, competence, and relatedness in the classroom: Applying self-determination theory to educational practice. Theory and Research in Education, 7(2), 133-144. Palmer, S. & Wehmeyer, M. (1998). Students expectations of the future: Hopelessness as a barrier to self-determination. Mental Retardation. 36(2), 128-136. Reeve, John Marshall, & Halusic, Marc. (2009). How K-12 teachers can put self- determination theory principles into practice. Theory and Research in Education, (7), 2: 145-154. Smith, D. (2007). Introduction to Special Education: Making a Difference. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
  10. 10. Self-Determination 10 Trainor, Audrey. (2005). Self-determination among ethnically diverse students with LD during the transition planning process. Journal of Learning Disabilities. 38(3), 233-249. Zhang, D. (2005). Parent practices in facilitating self-determination skills: The influences of culture, socioeconomic status, and children’s special education status. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities. 30(3), 154-162.

Self-Determination Skills Among Special Education Students

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