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IES Grant

Title: Assessing Self-Determination in the Era of Evidence-Based Practices: The Development and Validation of Student and Adult Measures of Self-Determination
Center: NCSER Year: 2013
Principal Investigator: Wehmeyer, Michael Awardee: University of Kansas
Program: Transition to Postsecondary Education, Career, and/or Independent Living      [Program Details]
Award Period: 7/1/13– 6/30/17 Award Amount: $1,589,610
Type: Measurement Award Number: R324A130065

Co-Principal Investigators: Little, Todd; Skorupski, William; Shogren, Karrie

Purpose: The goal of this project was to develop and validate a self-determination assessment that can be used across students with and without disabilities. Higher levels of self-determination are related to better life outcomes for students with disabilities. Yet the current measures of self-determination available were developed in the 1990s and were developed and tested for a specific disability group. This limitation creates issues with cross-disability group comparisons of self-determination and does not allow comparisons between students with and without disabilities. The development of the Self-Determination Inventory System (SDIS) planned to address this problem by developing a valid self-determination assessment for a range of disability groups and for youth and young adults without disabilities.

Project Activities: The research team planned to develop, refine, calibrate, and validate the computer adaptive test of the SDIS for youth and young adults with and without disabilities. The research team also planned to develop, refine, calibrate, and validate a computer adaptive version to be completed by the teachers or parents of the youth or young adult with or without disabilities.

Structured Abstract


Setting: The research will take place in middle schools, high schools, community colleges, and 4-year institutions of higher education in Kansas and Illinois.

Sample: Approximately 3,600 students ages 13 to22 will participate in this study. The students will be selected from six different disability categories—learning disabilities, intellectual disability, autism, speech/language disability, other disabilities, and no disability. The researchers will also recruit 1,600 teachers and/or parents of the students to participate in the study.

Assessment: The Self-Determination Inventory System (SDIS) will be a computer adaptive measure to evaluate the student's global self-determination skills in four domains—autonomy, self-regulation, psychological empowerment, and self-realization.

Research Design and Methods: The proposed work will take place in five phases. In phases 1 and 2, the research team will generate and refine the item pool for the SDIS. Q-Sorts will be used to assess the extent to which the items reflect the constructs that they are intended to measure. In phase 3, the team will pilot test the items with students with and without disabilities. Phase 4 will consist of calibrating the assessment using item response theory. In phase 5, the team will create the computer adaptive test format for the SDIS. Finally, the SDIS will be validated with several external measures.

Control Condition: Due to the nature of the research design, there is no control condition.

Key Measures: The SDIS validation tasks will include the Nowicki-Strickland Internal-External Scale, Children's Hope Scale, and Autonomous Functioning Checklist. Teachers and parents will complete the adult version of the Nowicki-Strickland Internal-External Scale and Autonomous Functioning Checklist.

Data Analytic Strategy: Item response theory will be used to evaluate measurement equivalence and content validity of items, the convergent and discriminant-related validity among the constructs, and the measurement invariance of the scale across age, disability, and testing sites.

Products and Publications

ERIC Citations:  Find available ERIC citation here.

Select publications:

Shogren, K.A., Wehmeyer, M.L., Little, T.D., Forber-Pratt, A.J., Palmer, S.B., and Seo, H. (2017). Preliminary Validity and Reliability of Scores on the Self-Determination Inventory: Student Report Version. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 40(2), 92–103. doi:10.1177/2165143415594335

Shogren, K.A., Wehmeyer, M.L., Palmer, S.B., Forber-Pratt, A., Little, T.J., and Lopez, S.J. (2015). Causal Agency Theory: Reconceptualizing a Functional Model of Self-Determination. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 50(3), 251–263.