1.02 - The Self-Determined Career Development Model

The following material provides instruction for a self-directed process called The Self-Determined Career Development Model. The Self-Determined Career Development Model is a modification of the Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction (Mithaug, Wehmeyer, Agran, Martin, & Palmer, 1998; Wehmeyer, Palmer, Agran, Mithaug, & Martin, 2000). This model has been developed to enhance the capacity of state and community vocational rehabilitation service providers to enable persons with disabilities to obtain the careers and jobs they want (Wehmeyer, Lattimore, Jorgensen, Palmer, Thompson, & Schumaker, 2003). The materials on this web site have been written for a facilitator, or instructor, to assist a person with a disability in using the model to self-direct job and career development.

The Facilitator

A facilitator, or model instructor, is someone who will enable the person with the disability to succeed by: 1) providing support for working through the model to promote model understanding, 2) supporting a nonjudgmental atmosphere where efforts are valued, and 3) acting as an advocate for consumer success. A facilitator may be a rehabilitation counselor, community agency staff member, parent, natural support person, a peer mentor, or the person with the disability. The level of support that the facilitator provides will vary depending upon the person with the disability but all people with and without disabilities will benefit from increased opportunities to take more control and responsibility for job and career goals.

Self-Directed Learning

Self-directed learning is the foundation of this model. Self-directed learning means that the person with the disability: 1) sets his or her own career and job related goals, 2) participates in decisions related to developing a plan of action to meet goals, 3) implements the action plan, 4) evaluates his or her actions, and 5) modifies actions or goals to achieve the desired outcome. In other words, the person with the disability takes a meaningful and active role in each and all parts of the learning process.

Self-determination emerges as people with the disabilities become active participants, learn to adjust their behaviors and actions to fit the circumstances, become active advocates for their own needs and interests, and take action when necessary to effectively deal with obstacles. People who are self-determined go beyond reacting or adapting to circumstances by moving toward a specific, desired outcome. They are causal agents in their lives.

Causal Agency

Causal agency is more than being in charge of choices and decisions; it emphasizes change toward a specific end and it also clarifies how self-directed learning is promoted for people with severe disabilities. People with severe disabilities may not be able to independently perform each and every step in the model. The intent is that they direct the process and they are actively involved. The interests and preferences of people with disabilities are used to drive decisions about their goals and interventions, and to provide support to engage in all activities to the greatest extent possible.

Problem Solving Strategies

The Self-Determined Career Development Model offers people with disabilities a way to develop skills and supports that will enhance their ability to achieve goals, satisfy their personal needs, and focus on individual preferences through a self-regulated problem solving process. Self-direction is supported by moving through a means-ends chain, or a problem solving strategy. People with disabilities address their needs and interests by moving from where they are now, to where they want to be. Problem solving strategies are used to eliminate the discrepancy between wanting and having a certain job and career.

Using the Self-Determined Career Development Model involves more than solving just one problem to accomplish complex outcomes. It means solving many, frequently interconnected problems. Problem solving activities can be regulated by the facilitator to ensure that actions and results address the wants and needs of the person with the disability. The basic strategy for achieving goal-directed problem solving involves answering the following questions:

  1. What do I need and want?
  2. What goal will satisfy my needs and wants?
  3. What plan will allow me to reach that goal?
  4. What actions will complete my plan?
  5. What results did I get?
  6. What do I need to do next time?

In order to answer these questions, the person with the disability must regulate his or her own problem solving to 1) construct goals to meet needs, 2) construct plans to attain goals, and 3) adjust actions to complete plans. This goal-plan-action problem solving sequence must be repeated until needs are satisfied and interests are addressed. The Self-Determined Career Development Model provides a model for facilitators to use in supporting people to self-direct their job and career goals and to become causal agents in their efforts.


Page updated 10/12/06

End of basic content. Credits, navigation links and, where relevant, reference citations follow.

All instructional content © Copyright 2006 by Michael L. Wehmeyer, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.
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