Self-determination has been defined as “the ability to make choices, solve problems, set goals, evaluate options, take initiative to reach one’s goals, and accept consequences of one’s actions” (Rowe, Alverson, et al., 2015). Students with disabilities who are self-determined are more likely to experience postschool success (Mazzotti et al., 2021). The positive impact self-determination skills have upon school performance and positive postsecondary outcomes prompted the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division on Career Development and Transition to recommend educators assess and teach critical self-determination skills (Field et al., 1998). Quality self-determination instruction begins with quality self-determination assessment. To ensure students with disabilities are developing self-determination skills, it is important to have effective assessments to measure growth and support needs over time (Shogren et al., 2021).
Self-determination assessments measure a variety of skill areas. These areas may include autonomy, choosing and expressing goals, taking action to achieve goals, self-regulation, self-direction, psychological empowerment, and self-realization. Assessments are completed by the student, family members, and other Individualized Education Program (IEP) team members, and then discussed and utilized to make data-based decisions for a students’ transition to adult life (Carter et al., 2009).
Over time, multiple self-determination assessments have been developed specifically for students with disabilities. Each of these assessments measures slightly different aspects of self-determination, yet all have evidence of validity with one or more population.
When selecting self-determination assessments, it is critical to consider the format (e.g., pencil-paper, online) and accessibility of the assessment (Rowe, Mazzotti, et al., 2015). To engage students in the process, provide them a choice in the assessment they complete as well as the format they use to complete the assessment. When completed, review the results with students, and provide students an opportunity to summarize the results of their assessment at their next IEP meeting.
When conducting self-determination assessments, consider using multiple assessments over time. Repeated assessment, involving input from multiple people (e.g., student, parent/guardian, family, teachers), will help to create a complete picture of the student’s self-determination strengths, preferences, interests, and needs (Rowe, Mazzotti, et al., 2015). Use the results of the assessments to determine instructional priorities, transition services, and community experiences to help students achieve their postschool goals.
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Chou, Y-C., Wehmeyer, M. L., Shogren, K. A., Palmer, S. B., & Lee, J. (2017). Autism and self-determination: Factor analysis of two measures of self-determination. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 32(3), 163-175. https://doi.org/10.1177/1088357615611391
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Rowe, D. A., Mazzotti, V. L., Hirano, K., & Alverson, C. Y. (2015). Assessing transition skills in the 21st century. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 47(6), 301-309. https://doi.org/10.1177/0040059915587670
Shogren, K. A., Little, T. D., Grandfield, E., Raley, S., Wehmeyer, M. L., Lang, K. M., & Shaw, L. A. (2020). The Self-Determination Inventory-Student Report: Confirming the factor structure of a new measure. Assessment for Effective Intervention, 45(2), 110-120. https://doi.org/10.1177/1534508418788168
Wehmeyer, M. L. (1996). Student self-report measure of self-determination for students with cognitive disabilities. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 31(4), 282-293. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23879103
Wehmeyer, M. L., & Palmer, S. B. (2014). The Arc’s Self-Determination Scale-Adolescent Version: Procedural guidelines. The Arc of the United States. https://beachcenter.lsi.ku.edu/sites/default/files/inline-files/Procedural%20Guidelines%20%20to%20Adolescent%20Version%20of%20The%20Arc's%20Self-Determina....pdf
Zarrow Center for Learning Enrichment. (n.d.). ChoiceMaker Self-Determination assessment. Zarrow Center for Learning Enrichment. https://www.ou.edu/education/centers-and-partnerships/zarrow/sooner-works