• Karrie A. ShogrenEmail author
  • Michael L. Wehmeyer
  • Kathryn M. Burke
Part of the Springer Series on Child and Family Studies book series (SSCFS)


This chapter introduces Causal Agency Theory, a theoretical framework for understanding self-determination that emerged in the disability field. An overview of Causal Agency Theory is provided, and its implications for the implementation of autonomy-supportive instructional practices reviewed, with a specific focus on the Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction and the Self-Determined Career Development Model. Research findings and practice strategies are described.


Self-determination Causal Agency Theory Goal-directed action Causal agency Autonomy-supportive instructional practices 


  1. Abery, B. H. (1994). A conceptual framework for enhancing self-determination. In M. F. Hayden & B. H. Abery (Eds.), Challenges for a service system in transition: Ensuring quality community experiences for persons with developmental disabilities (pp. 345–380). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.Google Scholar
  2. Agran, M., Blanchard, C., Hughes, C., & Wehmeyer, M. L. (2002). Increasing the problem-solving skills of students with developmental disabilities participating in general education. Remedial and Special Education, 23, 279–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Agran, M., Wehmeyer, M. L., Cavin, M., & Palmer, S. (2008). Promoting student active classroom participation skills through instruction to promote self-regulated learning and self-determination. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals Special Issue: New horizons for self-determination, 31, 106–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blackorby, J., & Wagner, M. (1996). Longitudinal postschool outcomes of youth with disabilities: Findings from the national longitudinal transition study. Exceptional Children, 62, 399–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carter-Ludi, D., & Martin, L. (1995). The road to personal freedom: Self-determination. Intervention in School and Clinic, 30, 164–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cobb, R. B., Lehmann, J., Newman-Gonchar, R., & Alwell, M. (2009). Self-determination for students with disabilities: A narrative metasynthesis. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 32, 108–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dattilo, J., & Rusch, F. (2012). Teaching problem solving to promote self-determined leisure engagement. Therapeutic Recreation Journal, 46, 91–105.Google Scholar
  8. Deci, E. L., & Chandler, C. L. (1986). The importance of motivation for the future of the LD field. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 19, 587–594.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Devlin, P. (2011). Enhancing job performance. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 49(4), 221–232.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Eisenman, L. T., Pell, M. M., Poudel, B. B., & Pleet-Odle, A. M. (2015). “I think I’m reaching my potential”: Students’ self-determination experiences in an inclusive high school. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 38(2), 101–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Field, S. (1996). Self-determination instructional strategies for youth with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 29, 40–52.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Field, S., & Hoffman, A. (1994). Development of a model for self-determination. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 17, 159–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Field, S., Martin, J. E., Miller, R., Ward, M. J., & Wehmeyer, M. L. (1998). A practical guide to teaching self-determination. Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children.Google Scholar
  14. Joyce, B., & Weil, M. (1980). Models of teaching (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  15. Konrad, M., Fowler, C. H., Walker, A. R., Test, D. W., & Wood, W. M. (2007). Effects of self-determination interventions on the academic skills of students with learning disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 30, 89–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Lachapelle, Y., Wehmeyer, M. L., Haelewyck, M. C., Courbois, Y., Keith, K. D., Schalock, R., et al. (2005). The relationship between quality of life and self-determination: An international study. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 49, 740–744.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Lee, S. H., Wehmeyer, M. L., Palmer, S. B., Soukup, J. H., & Little, T. D. (2008). Self-determination and access to the general education curriculum. The Journal of Special Education, 42, 91–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Little, T. D., Hawley, P. H., Henrich, C. C., & Marsland, K. W. (2002). Three views of the agentic self: A developmental synthesis. In E. L. Deci & R. M. Ryan (Eds.), Handbook of self-determination research (pp. 389–404). Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.Google Scholar
  19. Little, T. D., Snyder, C. R., & Wehmeyer, M. (2006). The agentic self: On the nature and origins of personal agency across the life span. In. D. K. Mroczek & T. D. Little (Eds.), Handbook of personality development (pp. 61–79). Mahwah, NJ: LEA.Google Scholar
  20. Martin, J. E., & Marshall, L. H. (1996). ChoiceMaker: Infusing self-determination instruction into the IEP and transition process. In D. J. Sands & M. L. Wehmeyer (Eds.), Self-determination across the life span: Independence and choice for people with disabilities (pp. 215–236). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.Google Scholar
  21. McGlashing-Johnson, J., Agran, M., Sitlington, P., Cavin, M., & Wehmeyer, M. L. (2003). Enhancing the job performance of youth with moderate to severe cognitive disabilities using the self-determined learning model of instruction. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 28(4), 194–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mithaug, D. E. (1996). The optimal prospects principle: A theoretical basis for rethinking instructional practices for self-determination. In D. J. Sands & M. L. Wehmeyer (Eds.), Self-determination across the lifespan: Independence and choice for people with disabilities (pp. 147–165). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.Google Scholar
  23. Neely-Barnes, S., Marcenko, M., & Weber, L. (2008). Does choice influence quality of life for people with mild intellectual disabilities? Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 46, 12–26.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Nirje, B. (1969). The normalization principle and its human management implications. In R. B. Kugel & W. Wolfensberger (Eds.), Changing residential patterns for the mentally retarded. Washington, DC: President’s Committee on Mental Retardation.Google Scholar
  25. Nirje, B. (1972). The right to self-determination. In W. Wolfensberger (Ed.), Normalization: The principle of normalization in human services (pp. 176–193). Toronto: National Institute on Mental Retardation.Google Scholar
  26. Palmer, S. B., & Wehmeyer, M. L. (2003). Promoting self-determination in early elementary school: Teaching self-regulated problem-solving and goal-setting skills. Remedial and Special Education, 24, 115–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Powers, L. E., Geenen, S., Powers, J., Pommier-Satya, S., Turner, A., Dalton, L., et al. (2012). My life: Effects of a longitudinal, randomized study of self-determination enhancement on the transition outcomes of youth in foster care and special education. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 2179–2187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Powers, L. E., Sowers, J., Turner, A., Nesbitt, M., Knowles, E., & Ellison, R. (1996). TAKE CHARGE! A model for promoting self-determination among adolescents with challenges. In L. E. Powers, G. H. S. Singer, & J. Sowers (Eds.), On the road to autonomy: Promoting self-competence in children and youth with disabilities. Paul H. Brookes: Baltimore, MD.Google Scholar
  29. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68–78.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Sands, D. J., & Wehmeyer, M. L. (Eds.). (1996). Self-determination across the life span: Independence and choice for people with disabilities. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.Google Scholar
  31. Serna, L. A., & Lau-Smith, J. (1995). Learning with a PURPOSE: Self-determination skills for students who are at risk for school and community failure. Intervention in School and Clinic, 30, 142–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Shogren, K. A., Dean, E., Griffin, C., Steveley, J., Sickles, R., Wehmeyer, M. L., & Palmer, S. B. (2016). Promoting personal, organizational, and system change in employment supports: Implementation and outcomes. Manuscript in preparation.Google Scholar
  33. Shogren, K. A., Gotto, G. S., Wehmeyer, M. L., Shaw, L., Seo, H., Palmer, S., … Barton, K. N. (in press). The impact of the self-determined career development model on self-determination outcomes. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation.Google Scholar
  34. Shogren, K. A., Palmer, S. B., Wehmeyer, M. L., Williams-Diehm, K., & Little, T. D. (2012). Effect of intervention with the self-determined learning model of instruction on access and goal attainment. Remedial and Special Education, 33, 320–330.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Shogren, K. A., Plotner, A. J., Palmer, S. B., Wehmeyer, M. L., & Paek, Y. (2014). Impact of the self-determined learning model of instruction on teacher perceptions of student capacity and opportunity for self-determination. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 49, 440–448.Google Scholar
  36. Shogren, K. A., Toste, J., Mahal, S., & Wehmeyer, M. L. (2017). Intrinsic motivation. In K. A. Shogren, J. Toste, S. Mahal, & M. L. Wehmeyer (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology in intellectual and developmental disabilities: Translating research into practice. New York, NY: Springer.Google Scholar
  37. Shogren, K. A., & Wehmeyer, M. L. (2016). Implementing the self-determined career development model. Lawrence, KS: Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities.Google Scholar
  38. Shogren, K. A., Wehmeyer, M. L., Palmer, S. B., Forber-Pratt, A., Little, T. J., & Lopez, S. J. (2015a). Causal agency theory: Reconceptualizing a functional model of self-determination. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 50, 251–263.Google Scholar
  39. Shogren, K. A., Wehmeyer, M. L., Palmer, S. B., Rifenbark, G. G., & Little, T. D. (2015b). Relationships between self-determination and postschool outcomes for youth with disabilities. Journal of Special Education, 53, 30–41.Google Scholar
  40. Stancliffe, R. J. (1997). Community living-unit size, staff presence, and residents’ choice-making. Mental Retardation, 35, 1–9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Stancliffe, R. J. (2001). Living with support in the community: Predictors of choice and self-determination. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews, 7, 91–98.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Stancliffe, R. J., Abery, B. H., & Smith, J. (2000). Personal control and the ecology of community living settings: Beyond living-unit size and type. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 105(6), 431–454.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Stancliffe, R. J., Lakin, K. C., Larson, S., Engler, J., Taub, S., & Fortune, J. (2011). Choice of living arrangements. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 55(8), 746–762.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Stancliffe, R. J., & Wehmeyer, M. L. (1995). Variability in the availability of choice to adults with mental retardation. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 5, 319–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Tichá, R., Lakin, K. C., Larson, S. A., Stancliffe, R. J., Taub, S., Engler, J., et al. (2012). Correlates of everyday choice and support-related choice for 8,892 randomly sampled adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in 19 states. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 50, 486–504.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Van Reusen, A. K., Bos, C. S., Schumaker, J. B., & Deshler, D. D. (1994). The self-advocacy strategy for education and transition planning. Lawrence, KS: Edge Enterprises Inc.Google Scholar
  47. Ward, M. J. (1988). The many facets of self-determination. NICHY Transition Summary, 5, 2–3.Google Scholar
  48. Ward, M. J. (1996). Coming of age in the age of self-determination: A historical and personal perspective. In D. J. Sands & M. L. Wehmeyer (Eds.), Self-determination across the life span: Independence and choice for people with disabilities. Paul H. Brookes: Baltimore.Google Scholar
  49. Wehmeyer, M. L. (1992). Self-determination and the education of students with mental retardation. Education and Training in Mental Retardation, 27(4), 302–314.Google Scholar
  50. Wehmeyer, M. L. (1996). Self-determination as an educational outcome: Why is it important to children, youth and adults with disabilities? In D. J. Sands & M. L. Wehmeyer (Eds.), Self-determination across the life span: Independence and choice for people with disabilities (pp. 15–34). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.Google Scholar
  51. Wehmeyer, M. L., Abery, B., Mithaug, D. E., & Stancliffe, R. (2003a). Theory in self-determination: Foundations for educational practice. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  52. Wehmeyer, M. L., Agran, M., & Hughes, C. (1998). Teaching self-determination to students with disabilities: Basic skills for successful transition. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.Google Scholar
  53. Wehmeyer, M. L., Bersani, H., Jr., & Gagne, R. (2000a). Riding the third wave: Self-determination and self-advocacy in the 21st century. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 15, 106–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Wehmeyer, M. L., & Bolding, N. (1999). Self-determination across living and working environments: A matched-samples study of adults with mental retardation. Mental Retardation, 37, 353–363.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Wehmeyer, M. L., & Bolding, N. (2001). Enhanced self-determination of adults with mental retardation as an outcome of moving to community-based work or living environments. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 45, 371–383.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Wehmeyer, M. L., & Kelchner, K. (1995). The arc’s self-determination scale. Arlington, TX: The Arc National Headquarters.Google Scholar
  57. Wehmeyer, M. L., Kelchner, K., & Richards, S. (1996). Essential characteristics of self-determined behavior of individuals with mental retardation. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 100, 632–642.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Wehmeyer, M. L., Lattimore, J., Jorgensen, J., Palmer, S. B., Thompson, E., & Schumaker, K. M. (2003b). The self-determined career development model: A pilot study. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 19, 79–87.Google Scholar
  59. Wehmeyer, M. L., Palmer, S. B., Agran, M., Mithaug, D. E., & Martin, J. E. (2000b). Promoting causal agency: The self-determined learning model of instruction. Exceptional Children, 66, 439–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wehmeyer, M. L., Parent, W., Lattimore, J., Obremski, S., Poston, D., & Rousso, H. (2009). Promoting self-determination and self-directed employment planning for young women with disabilities. Journal of Social Work in Disability and Rehabilitatio, 8, 117–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wehmeyer, M. L., & Schalock, R. L. (2001). Self-determination and quality of life: Implications for special education services and supports. Focus on Exceptional Children, 33(8), 1–16.Google Scholar
  62. Wehmeyer, M. L., Shogren, K. A., Little, T. D., & Lopez, S. (in press). Handbook of the development of self-determination. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  63. Wehmeyer, M. L., Shogren, K. A., Palmer, S., Garner, N., Lawrence, M., Soukup, J., et al. (2003c). The self-determined learning model of instruction: A teacher’s Guide. Lawrence, KS: Beach Center on Disability, University of Kansas.Google Scholar
  64. Wehmeyer, M. L., Shogren, K. A., Palmer, S. B., Williams-Diehm, K., Little, T. D., & Boulton, A. (2012). Impact of the self-determined learning model of instruction on student self-determination: A randomized-trial placebo control group study. Exceptional Children, 78, 135–153.Google Scholar
  65. Woods, L. L., & Martin, J. E. (2004). Improving supervisor evaluations through the use of self determination contracts. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 27, 207–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karrie A. Shogren
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael L. Wehmeyer
    • 1
  • Kathryn M. Burke
    • 1
  1. 1.University of KansasLawrenceUSA

Personalised recommendations