A Narrative Inquiry into Perceptions of the Development of Self-determination by Community College Students with Learning Disabilities

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2006-05-03

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Title of Document: A NARRATIVE INQUIRY INTO PERCEPTIONS OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF SELF-DETERMINATION BY COMMUNITY COLLEGE STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES

Alice B. Faber, Doctor of Education, 2006

Directed By: Associate Professor Hanne B. Mawhinney, Department of Education Policy and Leadership

Individuals with disabilities have not traditionally had the same freedom of choice and control over their own lives as non-disabled individuals have had. This is especially true in the realm of education, but in the past thirty years both educational leaders and advocates for individuals with disabilities have stressed the need for persons with disabilities to develop self-determination. This study describes the factors that effected the development of self-determination by three individuals who formerly received special education services for learning disabilities. The research question was: How do community college students with learning disabilities who received special education services in school describe the influences on their capacity to be self-determining? Narrative methods of inquiry were used to explore the descriptions of three young adults who had been identified as having a learning disability, were currently enrolled in a community college, and had received special education services in school. They described influences they perceived on their capacity to be self-determining. In addition, I followed the theoretical perspective of Bronfenbrenner on the ecology of the developing person, of the environment, and especially of the evolving interaction of the two. I also explored the concept introduced by Wehmeyer that self-determination is an educational outcome. The findings highlighted the importance of the role of families, friends, educational setting, and religion on the development of self-determination. The findings also emphasized the concept of the individual with self-determination as a causal agent of his/her life who displayed the essential elements of decision-making, self-advocacy, self-awareness, goal-setting, goal-attainment, problem-solving, locus of control, and never settling for less. Implications for policy and practice included establishing better communication between the home and educational setting and helping parents with questions regarding their child's disability. School personnel need to develop additional skills in helping students become self-determining and in working with students with learning disabilities. Further research needs to develop a better understanding of families with children who are not self-determining to learn what supports would be effective for them in encouraging their children to grow in this area.

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