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What is Self-Determination and Why is it Important for Ensuring the Post-Secondary S uccess of At-Risk S tudents and Students with Special Needs. Presented by: Dr. Russell G. Dubberly, N.B.C.T. S tate Director of Education Pace Center for Girls, Inc. . Self-Determination.

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Presented by dr russell g dubberly n b c t s tate director of education pace center for girls inc

What is Self-Determination and Why is it Important for Ensuring the Post-Secondary Success of At-Risk Students and Students with Special Needs

Presented by: Dr. Russell G. Dubberly, N.B.C.T.

State Director of Education

Pace Center for Girls, Inc.

Self determination
Self-Determination Ensuring the Post-Secondary

Self-Determination is:

A foundation of human will, a lifting of the spirit, and a right of all people.

Agran, Snow, and Swaner (1999) listed the following constructs that encompass self-determination:

  • decision making,

  • problem solving,

  • choice making,

  • self-management,

  • self-awareness,

  • self-advocacy

  • goal setting.

Self determination as a construct
Self-Determination as a Construct Ensuring the Post-Secondary

Wehmeyer (2005) reported that self-determination can be described in different constructs that relate to (a) a process or outcome, (b) an independent performance of behavior, (c) self-reliance or self-sufficiency, and (d) a behavior that is successful, as something you do or as just choice.

Positive outcomes
Positive Ensuring the Post-Secondary Outcomes

Wehmeyer and Palmer (2003) found that students with disabilities labeled as having higher levels of self-determination at graduation were more likely to have moved out of the home that they lived in during high school and into their own home by their 3rd year as a post-graduate.

Wehmeyerand Palmer also found that students with disabilities labeled as having higher levels of self-determination were also disproportionately more likely to be competitively employed one year after graduation.

Self determination for students with special needs
Self-Determination for Students with Special Needs Ensuring the Post-Secondary

Self-determination is an integral component for special needs and at-risk students to participate successfully in transition planning, graduation, and achievement of meaningful post-school outcomes.

The educator s role
The Educator’s Role Ensuring the Post-Secondary

If the plan is to truly endure the school year and beyond, teachers need to ensure that at-risk students understand components of (a) decision making, (b) problem solving, (c) choice making, (d) self-management, (e) self-awareness, (f) self-advocacy, and (g) goal setting.

Students need to set positive behavioral goals, learn the consequences of their decisions, (based on learned problem solving strategies), and learn to self-monitor their thoughts and actions throughout the school day.

Is this just one more thing for busy teachers
Is this just one more thing for busy teachers? Ensuring the Post-Secondary

Many teachers become concerned with implementing instructional constructs such as self-determination as one more thing that they are asked to do:

  • Are there curricula for specifically teaching self-determination skills???


  • Are there lesson plans specifically for teaching self-determination???


  • Do you have to teach self-determination like this???


    Self-determination can be a component of lessons, without being the main focus of the lesson.

Self determination for at risk students
Self-Determination for At-Risk Students Ensuring the Post-Secondary

Thoma, Nathanson, Baker, and Tamura (2002) suggested “Educators should learn new strategies that support student self-determination, not only throughout the transition process but also in educational program development in the years proceeding transition planning” (p. 83).

Dropping Out of School

The primary reason nearly half of the young adults gave for dropping out was that classes were uninteresting.

In general, feeling unmotivated or uninspired to work hard was a significant factor in the drop outs’ discontent with school. In focus groups, the young adults said school was boring, they didn’t learn anything, and school was irrelevant.

Does this sound like a group who needs to learn to be more self-aware, set goals, self-advocate, and become empowered to shape their own educational direction???

Bridgeland, DiIulio, and Morison (2006)

Goal setting
Goal Setting Ensuring the Post-Secondary

Teachers need to work collaboratively with students and their families to set meaningful goals.

  • Differentiated Instruction

  • Multiple pathways to success – College is not for everyone.

  • Individualized accommodations

  • Find personal goal-related curricula and materials

  • Build a network and supports for the student’s goal

  • The art of lawnmower repair – Think outside of the box!

A starting place for students at risk
A Starting Place for Students At-Risk Ensuring the Post-Secondary

An understanding of one's strengths, abilities, needs, limitations, interests, and preferences may provide an important foundation for promoting other self-determination elements (Wehmeyer & Field, 2007).

  • This requires honest conversation with emphasis on building a path from where the student currently is in development to attainable short term and long term goals.

    How do you eat an elephant………..One bite at a time!

  • Providing multiple pathways and backup plans.

    “I want to be a doctor in a hospital” (The student is currently struggling with science and does not show interest in subjects like biology).

    • This is where a teacher has an opportunity to learn what is really intriguing about the goal and help find pathways to this goal or a similar more attainable goal.

Self determination as a protective factor
Self-Determination as a Protective Factor Ensuring the Post-Secondary

PACE Center for Girls- We create and help sustain protective factors in girls deemed at-risk. Continuing education and autonomy are two critical factors to our girls’ success! Many of our girls have experienced negative life events that led them to reduced self-determination.

For teenagers and young adults, examples of negative life events include parental separation and divorce, parental or family discord, and impaired or neglectful parenting (Bureau, Genevie, Vallerand, Rousseau, & Otis, 2012), as well as manyotherfactorssuch as drug use, sexual abuse, gang affiliation, bullying, etc.

Acting out of self-determination is a functioning mode where people regulate their behaviors according to their own values and preferences.

Intrinsic versus extrinsic
Intrinsic Versus Extrinsic Ensuring the Post-Secondary

  • Highly self-determined individuals behave mostly out of personal relevance.

  • Their action is proactive and is thoughtfully chosen to be in line with their core values.

  • In contrast, non-self-determined individuals act to gain rewards, avoid punishments, and because they feel they ought to behave in a certain way. These behavioral standards are imposed on them by others and are not self-endorsed (Deci & Ryan, 2002).

  • As a result, non-self-determined individuals are dependent on environmental cues to motivate their action (Deci & Ryan, 2002). Their general perceived locus of causality is thus external, making them more reactive to external cues.

Self determination as a protective factor1
Self-Determination as a Protective Factor Ensuring the Post-Secondary

Consider the profile of many students who are at greatest risk for dropping out (depressed, low self-esteem, feeling of lack of options, negativity, feeling of no control, highly stressed).

  • Self-determination predicts numerous positive outcomes including reduced depression, higher self-worth, greater creativity, more positive emotions, stronger perceptions of control, and less anxiety. (Bureau, et al. 2012).

  • Bureau, et al found when people are highly self-determined, the deleterious effects of negative life events and hopelessness are less systematic.

  • Their results suggested that self-determined people may have developed a proactive way of life that makes them less affected by negative life events.

Strategies to build self determination in children considered at risk for dropout
Strategies to Build Self-Determination in Children Considered At-Risk for Dropout

  • Prerequisite social skills, such as giving positive feedback and giving criticism.

  • Self-evaluation skills, such as evaluating present skills, and evaluating skills needed for future goals.

  • Self-Direction skills, such as action planning and goal setting.

  • Networking skills, both formal and informal networking.

  • Collaboration skills, such as determining team needs and teaming to develop goals.

  • Persistence and risk-taking skills, such as persistence through problem solving and risk-taking through decision making.

  • Dealing with stress, such as recognizing feelings and expressing feelings appropriately.

    (Serna & Lau-Smith, 1995)

Presented by dr russell g dubberly n b c t s tate director of education

P Considered At-Risk for DropoutURPOSE is a mnemonic for the following: Prepare to learn the specific self-determine skill

Understand the skills through a discussion about these components with regard to definition and rationale for use

Rehearse by practicing that skill with a peer after watching the instructors model the behavior

Perform a self-check

Overcome any performance barriers as well as generalize the skill to other situations

Selecthis or her performance in those situations

Evaluate his or her performance in those situations

(Serna & Lau-Smith, 1995)

Presented by dr russell g dubberly n b c t s tate director of education

Find the Fun in Education……… Considered At-Risk for Dropout

The Fun Theory


References Considered At-Risk for Dropout

Agran, M., Snow, K., & Swaner, J. (1999). Teacher perceptions of self-determination: Benefits, characteristics, strategies. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 34, 293-301.

Bridgeland, J. M., DiIulio, J. J., Morison, K. B. (2006). The Silent Epidemic Perspectives of High School Dropouts. Retrieved from

Bureau, J. S., Genevie, A. Vallerand, R. J., Rousseau, R. L., & Otis, J. (2012). Self-Determination: A Buffer Against Suicide Ideation. Retrieved from The American Association of Suicidology/Academic Edition database.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2002). Overview of self-determination theory: An organismic dialectical perspective. In E. L. Deci& R. M. Ryan (Eds.), Handbook of self-determination research (pp. 3–33). Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.

Serna, L. A., & Lau-Smith, J. (1995). Learning with purpose: Self-determination skills for students who are at risk for school and community failure. Interventions in School and Clinic, 30(3), 142-146.

Wehmeyer, M. L. (2005). Self-determination and individuals with severe disabilities: Re-examining meanings and misinterpretations. Research and Practice for Persons With Severe Disabilities, 30, 113-120.