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Virginia’s self-determination project: Assisting students with disabilities to become college and career ready

by Marianne Moorea and John McNaught

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Moorea, M. & McNaught, J. (2014). Virginia’s self-determination project: Assisting students with disabilities to become college and career ready. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 40, 247-254.

Abstract. The Virginia Department of Education’s I’m Determined project is a statewide initiative designed to engage students with disabilities as early as elementary school to learn and demonstrate self-determined skills. This article will focus on information and suggested strategies to use with middle and high school students to assist in their transitions to become college and career ready.

Introduction. The National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center (NSTTAC) conducted a systematic correlational literature review (Test et al., 2009) and identified self-determination as one of 16 evidence based predictors of post school success for students with disabilities (CEC-DCDT, 2013). Research results indicate that students who are able to demonstrate high levels of self-determination are able to reach better post school outcomes in employment and education (CEC-DCDT, 2013). Self-determination is a critical component of the transition process since students with disabilities’ postschool outcomes in the areas of employment and postsecondary education are significantly lower when compared to their peers without disabilities (Hanley-Maxwell, 2012; Wehman, 2013). ∗Address for correspondence: Marianne Moore, Virginia Department of Education, PO Box 2120, Richmond, VA 23218, USA. Tel.: +1 804 225 2700; E-mail: What is self-determination? It is a broad term referring to behavior that comes from a combination of several sub-skills, including decision-making, problem-solving, goal setting and attainment, selfadvocacy, self-awareness, and self-regulation. We can observe students using the component skills that make up self-determined behavior, and they are teachable (Wood, Karvonen, Test, Browder, & Algozzine, 2004). Self-determined behavior refers to volitional actions that enable one to act as the primary causal agent in one’s life and to maintain or improve one’s quality of life (Wehmeyer, 2006). Field and Hoffman have defined it as “the ability to identify and achieve goals based on a foundation of knowing and valuing oneself” (Field& Hoffman, 1994).

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