Introduction to Module
Life can present challenges and major changes for all young people. Self-determination allows young people to make choices and decisions to direct their own lives. Self-directed learning encompasses those skills. Tools to assist all students in the process are Student-led IEPs, One Pagers and Student-led conferences. In addition, a recent Brookes publication, authored by Thoma, C. & Wehman, P. (2010).Getting the Most Out of IEPs: An Educators Guide to the Student-Led Approach provides research and numerous examples of how students can be involved in their IEPs.
Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings have often been a source of contention between and families and educators as they work together to determine the best ways to educate individual students. Historically, students did not attend their IEP meeting or if they did they would sit quietly, with little involvement. In recent years, in Virginia and across the nation, students are “leading” their IEPs in many different ways. We are going to share with you some ideas, videos and resources to help to get your student involved in leading his own IEP.
The following is an excerpt from “Why is This Cake on Fire?”
Imagine being a small child and hearing your parents talk about your birthday party. You hear the excitement in their voices as they talk and plan, starting with a theme for the party…And then your birthday comes and goes, but no one ever invites you to your party…Maybe they just forgot to invite me, you think.
Several years later, when you become a teenager, you barely catch a snippet of a conversation about your birthday party. But since you have never been invited before to your parties, you know that your presence there is not important…But this time you receive an invitation…You are surprised, confused, and even scared.
Now read this excerpt again, but this time, insert IEP in place of birthday parties.
The I’m Determined website has resources to help IEP teams as they learn more about how to get students involved in the process. Tools like an introduction to student-led IEPs, a brochure for students to learn how they can be involved, and tools and templates students can use to share information about themselves with their IEP team are all available on the I’m Determined website.
“Student Involvement in the IEP” (Captioned version available on request)
“Elementary: It’s All About You! Get to know your IEP” (Captioned version available on request)
Please visit the Student Involvement section of this website to view and download the "IEP Participation Brochure."
Tools to Assist Students
In the following booklets, students learn about the parts of the IEP and the input they provide in the development of each. Download and print out a booklet for each student or use the digital version to make adaptations to meet the learning and communication style of the individual. One booklet is designed for elementary and the other for secondary students.
One of the ways in which many students lead their IEPs is to introduce the meeting by sharing a presentation that reflects their preference, interests, needs and strengths. Depending upon the age, communication and learning styles of the student, the presentation might be in different formats. These examples include preschool to high school students.
All students regardless of age or disability can be involved in the development of their own IEP. The one-pager was developed by a mother (special education teacher/vocational evaluator) and her middle school son in order to assist the student in participating in his IEP meeting. Since second grade when the student was first diagnosed with a learning disability the mother would write a letter to all of her son’s teachers stressing the son’s preferences, interests, needs and strengths. The letters were long and it was often felt that teachers were unable to really see the purpose in them. Therefore, in hopes of condensing the information, the one-pager was created and it provided a “snapshot” of all the information the son and mother wanted conveyed to the IEP team. Utilizing the one-pager now allowed the student to lead his IEP meeting.
The one-pager was shared at a Self-Determination workshop and the concept became an integral way of giving students a way to participate in their IEP meetings. For students who may be reluctant to speak at their meetings videos were added to the one-pagers by the Self-Determination team. This allowed those students’ voices to be heard. Now entire schools are utilizing the one-pagers as a means for all students to share their preferences, interests, needs and strengths with teachers, guidance counselors, community agencies, and employers. As a result of the one-pagers impact, a next step being considered is a vocational assessment “snapshot.” This would become an additional tool to assist students in becoming more self-determined in reaching their post-secondary goals.
The One-Pager represents information about the individual’s preferences, strengths, interests and needs (PINS). Depending on the age of the student, the methods and the amount of information gathered will be varied. Following are links to a couple of lesson plans that might be helpful:
Transition Assessments that help to identify students’ “PINS”:
The format and the style of the one-pager can vary and include more graphics than text, depending upon how the student would like to share information about him. These samples are based on the original template. The template was recently updated to reflect the IDEA 2004, which asks IEP teams to identify students’ “PINS”, based on post-secondary goals. See Samples of One-Pagers.
"…this practice is the biggest breakthrough in communicating about student achievement in the last century. When students are well prepared over an extended period to tell the story of their own success (or lack thereof), they seem to experience a fundamental shift in their internal sense of responsibility for that success. The pride in accomplishment that students feel when they have positive story to tell and tell it well can be immensely motivational. The sense of personal responsibility that they feel when anticipating what it will be like to face the music of having to tell their story of poor achievement can also drive them to productive work." Rich Stiggins, Phi Delta Kappa, November 1999.
Student-led conferences allow the student to take charge of his/her academic conference with his/her parents. The teacher acts as a discussion facilitator or coach if necessary. The outcome is increased accountability as the student moves from a passive to an active participant in reporting their academic progress.
During the conference, students share their portfolios or data folders which contain academic and behavioral performance and progress as well as other data collected.
Learn more about student-led conferences by viewing the following PowerPoint presentation:
A School’s Experience Reported in Virginia
Spaulding, S. & Hogsett, A. (Sept. 2009). Student-led conferences help students become more self-determined. Retrieved January 17, 2011 from VCU TTAC’s Innovations and Perspectives
Student-led conferences are emerging as a way to actively engage students in their learning process, wrote Donald G. Hackmann, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Iowa State University in an ERIC Digest, "Student-Led Conferences at the Middle Level." Following are some of the benefits of student-led conferences listed in Hackmann's article: