Key Takeaway: Students often set goals based on teacher expectations. In this study, the implementation of the Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction (SDLMI) led to students setting a lack of academic or social goals and an abundance of home living goals; this may suggest lower adult expectations for students with significant support needs. Therefore, it is crucial for students to consider their own interests when setting goals and for teachers to set high expectations during the process. Teachers need to be aware that the SDLMI is designed to promote student agency as the students are the ones who set and go after goals for their future. —Michael Ho

Burke, Shogren, and Carlson (2021) examined and analyzed the types of goals transition-age students with intellectual disabilities set as part of a statewide implementation of the SDLMI. The purpose of this study was to analyze the goals set by students using the SDLMI in a specific context to inform future research and practice. Goal content was emphasized, as opposed to goal attainment. Additionally, the skills associated with self-determination during the entire period of the study were identified. 

The authors investigated the following four research questions: 

  1. What types of goals did transition-age students with intellectual disability set when supported by their teachers to use the SDLMI to enhance postschool outcomes?
  2. How many students had goals across areas and/ or multiple goals in the same area (e.g., academics, vocational education and employment, postsecondary education, home living, social and relationships)?
  3. Within goal areas, what subtopics were represented (e.g., academic goal subtopics may include content mastery, class participation and engagement, study skills, etc.)?
  4. How many goals that incorporated skills associated with self-determination were taught using the SDLMI (e.g., choice making, decision-making, problem-solving, etc.)?

Here are the major takeaways from the article:

  • Apart from being an evidence-based practice for transition-age students with disabilities, “the SDLMI is a model of instruction in which trained facilitators (e.g., teachers) teach students self-regulated problem-solving skills that can be applied to setting and going after goals. The SDLMI comprises three distinct phases—Phase 1: Set a goal, Phase 2: Take action, Phase 3: Adjust goal or plan.”1,2
  • The current literature mentions that SDLMI provides evidence that the model impacts goal attainment. However, there is limited research on how SDLMI supports the content of the goals students set and how goal content may affect goal attainment during transition planning.
  • The current study analyzed 1,546 goals set by 667 transition-age students with intellectual disabilities in Rhode Island. The sample was collected over a period of three years
  • In response to the first research question, primary goal categories, from most identified to least identified, were as follows: home living, vocational education and employment, academics, leisure and recreation, communication, transportation, social and relationships, finances, community access, and postsecondary education. 
  • In response to the second research question, “almost half of the students (n = 315; 47.2%) had goals across multiple categories within a given school year, and 164 total students (24.6%) had repeated goals (i.e., the same goal more than once) within a school year.” This suggests that teachers need to be aware that there is a significant amount of students that may have a diverse range of goals to pursue beyond their secondary education.
  • In response to the third research question, the top subcategories that students identified with were ‘Expressing wants and needs and making requests,’ ‘General speech and language skills,’ ‘Email,’ ‘Driving,’ ‘Taking the bus,’ ‘General transportation knowledge,’ ‘Activities with others,’ ‘Meeting new people,’ ‘Engaging in conversation with others,’ ‘Identifying and counting currency,’ ‘Writing checks or balancing a checkbook,’ and ‘Making purchases.’ Although the subcategories were diverse, there is a lack of identified focus on academic and social goals.
  • In response to the fourth research question, skills associated with self-determination, that were set from either the student’s perspective or the teacher’s perspective, were choice making (5.5%), self-advocacy (4.4%), planning (3.8%), and decision-making (3.4%) were the most common.
  • “Teachers shift toward the role of a supporter rather than a director of goal setting, and the wording of goals is a reflection of buy-in to this process.” The SDLMI needs to fulfill its purpose of emphasizing student agency and student-driven goals.
  • There is a higher number of identified student goals pertaining to home living skills instead of academic or social skills. This suggests that the teachers’ low expectations of students in the area of academic and social skills may be impacting what and how students set goals. Hence, the need for high expectations from educators supporting students in the goal-setting process for academic and social skills cannot be stressed enough.
  • The study has a few limitations, such that student data cannot be linked across three years of the study; therefore, the data cannot be analyzed for growth and change. Furthermore, student goals used in this study may be a reflection of the teacher’s interpretation or adjustments. The teachers may have contributed to student goals from the teachers’ perspectives among students who needed intensive support to communicate their goals.

Summarized Article:

Burke, K. M., Shogren, K. A., & Carlson, S. (2021). Examining Types of Goals Set by Transition-Age Students With Intellectual Disability. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 44(3), 135–147. 

Summary by: Michael Ho—Michael supports the MARIO Framework because it empowers learners to take full control of their personalized learning journey, ensuring an impactful and meaningful experience.

Additional References:

  1. Shogren, K. A., Raley, S. K., Burke, K. M., & Wehmeyer, M. L. (2018). The Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction: Teacher’s guide. Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities.
  1. Wehmeyer, M. L., Palmer, S. B., Agran, M., Mithaug, D. E., & Martin, J. E. (2000). Promoting causal agency: The Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction. Exceptional Children, 66(4), 439–453. https://doi.org/10.1177/001440290006600401

Key Takeaway: Teachers sometimes treat their students differently from one another, focusing more on the low-performing students. As a result, feedback is given to these students in a manner that directs and controls their learning, rather than encouraging higher-level thinking. —Shekufeh Monadjem

Eddie Denessen (University of Leiden), Annelies Keller (University of Leiden), Linda Van Den Bergh (Fontys University), and Paul Van Den Broek (University of Leiden) formed a hypothesis stating that there is a difference in how teachers treat their students and that teachers offer more frequent and challenging interactions to those students who have high academic achievements and a higher socioeconomic status. 

Educational policies are calling for more individualized and differentiated ways of teaching in order “to promote the learning opportunities of each individual student. To reach this goal, teaching should be tailored to individual students’ needs.”1 But to what extent are the student-teacher interactions free from bias? According to the authors, “with differential treatment of students, teachers may exacerbate or reduce achievement differences in their classroom.” This behavior may result in teachers “treating their high-expectation students more favorably.”

A study conducted in eight fourth-grade classrooms in the Netherlands indicated that there was indeed a difference in teacher-student interaction, but contrary to expectation, teachers “interact more frequently with their low-performing and low-expectation students.”

The study also examined the feedback that was given to the students in the class. “Feedback can be the most powerful tool to support students’ learning, but effects depend on the quality of the feedback interactions.” Effective feedback needs to be related to a goal and directly applicable to the learning habits and thought processes of the student. Feedback can be given either in a directive or facilitative way. When giving directive feedback, “teachers tell students how to process information . . . carry out a task . . . or they ask questions for which they expect a certain answer.” This method can be successfully used when a new concept is taught. However, with the use of facilitative feedback, “teachers prompt students to think by asking them open-ended questions or by giving them hints that facilitate learning,”2 and therefore help students to construct their knowledge. This type of feedback is used to foster higher-level thinking and learning. 

Ultimately, it was observed by the authors that “teachers showed a rather directive style of teaching, more targeted at weaker students in their classrooms.” The low-performing “students were given more turns and more feedback.” It was also noted that the teachers provided these students with directive feedback, indicating that teachers took more control over these students’ learning.

Summarized Article:

Denessen, E., Keller, A., Van Den Bergh, L., and Van Den Broek, P. (2020), Do Teachers Treat Their Students Differently? An Observational Study on Teacher-Student Interactions as a Function of Teacher Expectations and Student Achievement. Hindawi Education Research International, Vol 2020.

Summary by: Shekufeh – Shekufeh believes that the MARIO Framework builds relationships that enable students to view the world in a positive light as well as empowering them to create plans that ultimately lead to their success.

Additional References:

  1. S. A. Parsons, M. Vaughn, R. Q. Scales et al., (2017). “Teachers’ instructional adaptations: a research synthesis,” Review of Educational Research, vol. 88, no. 2, pp. 205–242.
  2. J. M. Faber, C. A. W. Glas, and A. J. Visscher, (2018). “Differentiated instruction in a data-based decision-making context,” School Effectiveness and School Improvement, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 43–63. 

Key Takeaway: High expectations play a vital role in developing future success in students. For learners, frequent educational and vocational discussions with friends, family, and teachers during adolescence can be incredibly important in fostering their aspirations and transforming them into reality. —Emmy Thamakaison

Lynette Vernon (Edith Cowan University) and Catherine Drane (Curtin University) share their retrospective, cross-sectional study examining the association between student characteristics (ie. socio-economic status (SES), gender) alongside discussions with influential figures (ie. family members, friends, teachers) and expectations to attend university, receive vocational/technical education, or go into full-time employment after secondary school.

SES’s contributions to the development of future aspirations have long been debated, in particular, the suggested relationship between lower SES and lower educational and vocational aspirations. Vernon and Drane present their arguments against this as their results revealed that “career and educational aspirations for students, predominantly from low SES background were high” but found that often “the missing element is the knowledge of how to make these aspirations concrete and obtainable.”1 

  • Compared to students with higher SES, those with lower SES tend to engage more frequently in Technical and Further Education (TAFE) and Vocational Education and Training (VET) discussions and less frequently in university discussions. 
  • Students discuss their aspirations with their parents and peers more than their teachers and counsellors. Therefore, it is vital for these high-impact influencers to “have the necessary up-to-date knowledge and skills to provide the relevant information around educational opportunities.” However, parents of students of lower SES may lack the prerequisite knowledge as they may not have experience with university and/or TAFE/VET pathways. Thus, informative parental support and discussions with multiple influencers may be beneficial to maintaining high aspirations. 

Apart from SES, other factors such as gender, academic year level, and first-in-family (to attend university) status are considered “important predictors” for students’ vocational and higher education expectations. 

  • University discussions affected female students more significantly in terms of their expectations to receive higher education.
  • Those with first-in-family statuses engaged in discussions about university more frequently than those whose family members have attended university, indicating “their capabilities of resilience, motivation, and tenacity to explore university pathways.” However, first-in-family status was not associated with TAFE/VET expectations.
  • Vernon and Drane found that year level (grade level) indirectly contributed to the pathways between discussions on university, TAFE-VET, or full-time employment expectations.

Regardless of individual characteristics, frequent discussions about students’ futures allows the maintenance of their aspirations and sets them on the path to reaching their potential. 

  • As one of the main confidantes for a student, parents are encouraged to “provide the reality context for their children around their educational desires” in the discussions. 
  • Teachers remain largely untapped for valuable aspirational discussions. Prioritizing career education in a school setting and promoting teachers as a “positive, knowledgeable, and accessible resource” can therefore go a long way in “empowering [students] to pursue their desired education and career pathways”. 

Ultimately, this research encourages policy-makers, teachers, and influencers to recognize the importance of discussions around educational and vocational pathways. Adolescence is a critical transitional period as students decide what they will pursue beyond secondary school. While individual factors influence future expectations differently, increasing the frequency of quality discussions with influential figures can “provide the opportunity for all students to practice and develop their capacity to aspire and meet their career [and educational] expectations.”

Summarized Article:

Vernon, L., & Drane, C. F. (2021). Influencers: the importance of discussions with parents, teachers and friends to support vocational and university pathways. International Journal of Training Research, 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1080/14480220.2020.1864442

Summary by: Emmy Thamakaison — Emmy is a recent high school graduate attending Stanford University and is an enthusiastic advocate of MARIO Framework.

Research author Lynette Vernon, Ph.D., was involved in the final version of this summary.

Additional References:

  1. St. Clair, R., Kintrea, K., & Houston, M. (2013). Silver bullet or red herring? New evidence on the place of aspirations in education. Oxford Review of Education, 39(6), 719–738. https://doi.org/10.1080/03054985.2013.854201