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National Center on Secondary Education and Transition: Creating opportunities for youth with disabilities to achieve successful futures.

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Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (Eds.). (2004). Handbook of self-determination research. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.

Over the past 20 years, an increasing number of researchers from various universities have been investigating motivational issues underlying the self-regulation of behavior. Using either Self-Determination Theory or closely related theoretical perspectives, these researchers have performed laboratory experiments and field studies in a variety of real-world settings, including education, work, parenting, health care, sport, and protection of the environment. In April 1999, 30 of these researchers convened at the University of Rochester to present their work, share ideas, and discuss future research directions. The Handbook of Self-Determination Research is an outgrowth of that important and fascinating conference. It summarizes the research programs of these social, personality, clinical, developmental, and applied psychologists who have a shared belief in the importance of self-determination for understanding basic motivational processes and for solving pressing real-world problems. Eighteen chapters, including an overview of self-determination theory, present the current state of the research in this scientifically rigorous yet highly relevant approach to studying motivational problems in various life domains. Researchers from 18 universities in the U.S., Canada, and Germany present concise and up-to-date accounts of their research programs concerned with the self-determination of human behavior. In these chapters, scholars also consider the relevance of the research on self-determination to other areas of inquiry such as coping, self-esteem, and interest.


Grigal, M., Neubert, D. A., Moon, M. S., & Graham, S. (2003). Self-determination for students with disabilities: Views of parents and teachers. Exceptional Children, 70(1), 97–112.

General and special education teachers and parents of high school students with disabilities were surveyed about their views on self-determination for their students, and implications of the results are discussed.


Mason, C. Y., McGahee-Kovac, M., Johnson, L., & Stillerman, S. (2002). Implementing student-led IEPs: Student participation and student and teacher reactions. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 25(2), 171–192.

Interviews with 35 students who participated in student-led IEP meetings and their teachers confirmed that participating students were able to describe the purpose and benefits of an IEP, their disabilities, and their rights.


Solberg, V. S., Howard, K. A., Gresham, S. L., & Carter, E. (2012). Quality learning experiences, self-determination, and academic success: A path analytic study of youth with disabilities. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, (n/a), 1-12.

Although fostering self-determination has emerged as a central element of recommended and evidence-based transition practices for adolescents with disabilities, few studies have examined the paths through which students develop the skills and dispositions that can enhance their self-determination and successful transitions. The authors used path analyses to examine the ways in which exposure to quality secondary learning environments contributed to the development of self-efficacy, motivation, and academic achievement among 135 high school students receiving special education services. Students with disabilities who reported having greater involvement in learning environments reflecting recommended transition practices (i.e., high-quality learning environments) demonstrated increased career-search self-efficacy. Students with greater career-search self-efficacy were more highly engaged in goal setting, which further predicted their motivation to attend school and academic self-efficacy. Finally, students with higher academic self-efficacy were found to have higher grades. The authors offer recommendations for enhancing the self-determination skills and opportunities of youth with disabilities by strengthening the quality and impact of transition education.


Wehmeyer, M. L., & Garner, N. W. (2003, December). The impact of personal characteristics of people with intellectual and developmental disability on self-determination and autonomous functioning. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 16(4), 255–265.

This study examined the self-determination and autonomous functioning of 301 adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities and found that intellectual capacity was not a significant contributor to either self-determination or autonomous functioning for this group. Opportunities to make choices, however, contributed significantly and positively to greater self-determination and autonomy.


Wehmeyer, M. L., & Palmer, S. B. (2003). Adult outcomes for students with cognitive disabilities three years after high school: The impact of self-determination. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 38(2), 131–44.

This study surveyed 94 students with mental retardation or learning disabilities from one to three years after leaving school. Students who were more self-determined fared better across multiple quality-of-life categories, including employment and access to health and other benefits, financial independence, and independent living.


Zhang, D., Katsiyannis, A., & Zhang, J. (2002). Teacher and parent practice on fostering self-determination of high school students with mild disabilities. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 25(2), 157–169.

This study investigated teachers' and parents' engagement in recommended practices for fostering self-determination skills of secondary students with disabilities.

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