Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


Learning and Instruction


Learning & Instruction EdD

First Advisor

Emily Nusbaum

Second Advisor

Nicola McClung

Third Advisor

Noah Borrero


By participating within the educational setting in making decisions about their lives that reach beyond choice-making, students with disabilities who acquire the skills of self-determination may express interests and goals through their own authentic voice. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to describe the experiences and participation of two high-school students labeled with intellectual disability or autism at their Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings following participation in the Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction (SDLMI). Student participation in the IEP process provides an avenue through which self-determined qualities emerge, and verbal and nonverbal participation can occur in a meaningful way. Connections, patterns, and insights were examined to create an overall picture of the essential characteristics and component elements of self-determination displayed by the participating students, and through self-determination reports as expressed by the participating educators and parents.

Previous research has shown that direct instruction informing students about the IEP process and incorporating skills such as decision-making, problem-solving, goal-setting, self-advocacy, and self-awareness is predictive of self-determination. Findings from this study demonstrated that incorporating the essential characteristics and component elements of self-determination into classroom instruction through the SDLMI were reflected in student participation in their IEP meeting, and reinforced the role that adult members of the team can have in the co-construction of information. Both classroom instruction and co-construction of information are important steps in ensuring that students are participating in, and not simply attending, their IEP meeting. Implications for future research and educational practice were explored.