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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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E-mail this pageSelf-Determination for Postsecondary Students

Emerging & Promising Practices


Burgstahler, S. (2001). Taking charge: Stories of success and self-determination. Seattle, WA: University of Washington.

This document includes insights on self-determination from hundreds successful young people and adults with disabilities. Categories include: (1) define success for yourself; (2) set personal, academic, and career goals and keep your expectations high; (3) understand your abilities and disabilities and play to your strengths; (4) develop strategies to meet your goals; (5) use technology as an empowering tool; (6) work hard, persevere, and be flexible; and (7) develop a support network of family, friends, and teachers.

Martin, J. E., Mithaug, D. E., Cox, P., Peterson, L. Y., Van Dycke, J. L., & Cash, M. E. (2003). Increasing self-determination: Teaching students to plan, work, evaluate, and adjust. Exceptional Children, 69(4), 431–447.

This study examined the use self-determination contracts to regulate the correspondence between the plans, work, self-evaluations, and adjustments on academic tasks of students with severe emotional or behavioral problems. Students completed daily self-determination contracts to schedule their work on academic tasks, plan for work outcomes, evaluate progress, and adjust for the next day's activities. Significant effects were found with the use of the contracts, and pre- and post-assessment found significant academic improvements.

Halpern, A., Herr, C., Wolf, N., Doren, B., Johnson, M., & Lawson, J. (2000). NEXT S.T.E.P.: Student transition and educational planning. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

This curriculum can help high school students make the transition from school to adult life. With a focus on self-determination, students learn how to take charge of their own transition planning process. By identifying a variety of goals that relate to jobs, education, training, personal life, and independent living, students take responsibility for important life decisions. The curriculum consists of a teacher manual, student workbooks, brochures, and a videotape.

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