Key Takeaway: 

The pandemic has sparked many questions about the wellbeing of youth in today’s society, shedding light on issues such as stress and time management, social media exposure, obesity, and educational disparity amongst others. With the shift to online learning, the pandemic has not only compromised academic progress for students but has also led to a lack of social-emotional support, especially for those students coming from underprivileged backgrounds. Thus, educators must become critical advocates of hope in order to foster a sense of hope for our most vulnerable learners as we look ahead to the years following the peak of the pandemic. —Taryn McBrayne 

Hope Theory

In this article, author Bruce Barnett (2021) shares insight into how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated feelings of isolation, hopelessness, and despair amongst students. A survey of students by Brooker (2020) reveals that “over 50% report declining mental health; deteriorating family relationships; increasing loneliness and anxiety; and being despondent about losing friends, job opportunities, scholarships and compromising college plans.”1 Without educators and administrators having regular contact with students and their families to work through these challenges due to online learning, “students’ emotional fragility is affecting their motivation and drive to engage and succeed in school activities.” 

The author specifically focuses on the conditions affecting urban communities and schools during this time. “Many urban communities have high rates of poverty, family mobility, homelessness, incarceration, and drug abuse.”2,3 As a result, Barnett (2021) and Duckworth (2016)4 suggest that youth raised in these environments are more likely to have their sense of hopelessness reinforced, particularly during challenging times.

Barnett (2021) challenges educators to consider how they can nurture hope in their own contexts, emphasizing that hope-building programs, such as Making Hope Happen and Kids at Hope, need to become embedded into our schools. However, Barnett (2021) argues that these programs alone may not be enough to help our students, and states that “when educators understand the guiding elements of hope, they are better prepared to design and deliver programs and other instructional activities.” 

The article uses hope theory as a basis for helping educators and schools understand how best to foster hope amongst their students. This theory suggests that hopeful individuals are able to set goals, have the agency to achieve goals, and are able to identify pathways to overcome any obstacles to achieving the goals that they set for themselves.5,6 Below are strategies outlined in the article that may help educators with the implementation of hope theory in their daily practice. 

Setting Goals 

“Establishing and monitoring goals requires individuals to determine an accomplishment to be achieved, identify measurable outcomes, set timelines and milestones, and assess personal and resource costs.”7 Setting clear goals from the start will allow students to accurately assess where they are in their goal progress. 

Possessing Agency 

To promote the development of agency, “teachers are being encouraged to use a variety of SEL strategies, such as reflective journal writing, artistic expression, active listening, buddy systems, role playing, mindfulness, and discussions about growth mindsets and empathy,”8 in addition to allowing individual choice and self-monitoring of goal progress. 

Establishing Pathways

“Solution-focused training includes “solution talk” rather than “problem talk” by encouraging students to counter their negative self-talk by substituting positive self-statements (e.g., “I can do this,” “I’m a capable person”).”9 Educators may also work in partnership with school counselors to assist students in this problem-solving process. 

The article places emphasis on educators fostering “critical hope” for their students as compared to “false hope.” Barnett explains that “critical hope results when educators provide students with high-quality teaching and learning resources to help them gain a sense of control in their lives; examine the realities of injustice, oppression, and marginalization they face; and stand alongside students to share their pain, suffering, and successes.”

In conclusion, although fostering a sense of hope will not necessarily resolve the economic and social disparities caused by the pandemic, Barnett believes that it can help students to display more desired academic, social, and emotional behaviors overall, thus improving 21st-century life and career outcomes in the future. 

Summarized Article:

Barnett, B. G. (2021). How Can Schools Increase Students’ Hopefulness Following the Pandemic? Education and Urban Society. 

Summary by: Taryn McBrayne — Taryn believes in the power of student voice and, through the MARIO Framework, strives to create more opportunities for both educators and students to regularly make use of this power.

Additional References:

  1. Brooker, J. (2020). Schools bring mindfulness to the classroom to help kids in the COVID-19 crisis. The Hechinger Report. 
  2. Duke, D. L. (2008). The little school system that could: Transforming a city school district. State University of New York Press.
  3. Picus, L. O., Marion, S. F., Calvo, N., & Glenn, W. J. (2005). Understanding the relationship between student achievement and the quality of educational facilities: Evidence from Wyoming. Peabody Journal of Education, 80(3), 71–95.
  4. Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. Scribner. 
  5. Helland, M. R., & Winston, B. E. (2005). Towards a deeper understanding of hope and leadership. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 12(2), 42–54.
  6. Luthans, F., & Jensen, S. M. (2002). Hope: A new positive strength for human resource development. Human Resource Development Review, 1, 304–322.
  7. Rouillard, L. E. (2003). Goals and goal setting: Achieving measured objectives (3rd ed.). Crisp Publications.
  8. Singh, N. (2020). 15 strategies to incorporate Social Emotional Learning in classrooms. 
  9. Snyder, C. R., Feldman, D. B., Shorey, H. S., & Rand, K. L. (2002). Hopeful choices: A school counselor’s guide to hope theory. Professional School Counseling, 5, 298–307. 

Key Takeaway: When students determine their own goals and design their own rubrics for measuring outcomes, goal attainment is dependent on whether the student’s rating or the teacher’s rating is utilized as the outcome measure. Further research is needed to determine why student and teacher ratings can diverge and to what degree these can be used to draw conclusions on the efficacy of interventions. —Akane Yoshida

The Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction (SDLMI) is “a teaching model implemented by teachers to enable their students to self-direct and self-regulate their actions in pursuit of goals” (Shogren et al., 2017). In this 2021 article, Shogren et al. analyze their findings from a 3-year trial in which they examined the impact of different educator supports for the implementation of SDLMI in inclusive, secondary core content classes. Students participating in the study were supported in creating their own Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS) rubrics to rate themselves and to allow their teachers to rate them. 

The authors’ analysis sought to determine the following:

  1. How much agreement is there between student and teacher ratings of student goal attainment?
  2. Does the impact of different educator supports for the implementation of SDLMI on goal attainment outcomes vary across student and teacher ratings?
  3. Does the impact of student disability status on goal attainment outcomes vary across student and teacher ratings?

In relation to research question 1, the authors found that there was “only a fair amount” of agreement on student goal attainment outcomes, and those discrepancies were most pronounced where ratings suggested that outcomes were far less or far more than expected. Of this, the authors suggest:

Could it be that students and teachers are providing different perspectives, likely influenced by unique contextual factors, of goal attainment outcomes? Furthermore, how do student and teacher ratings correspond to actual student skills and use of these skills in general education classrooms? Are student or teacher ratings more aligned with actual performance?” 

In relation to research question 2, the authors conclude thus:

[T]he findings suggest a critical need to attend to the role of differing perceptions of outcomes in the analysis of intervention efficacy. When examining the impact of student versus teacher ratings in estimating the effect of teacher implementation supports, student ratings of goal attainment suggested a larger impact as teachers received more intensive supports for implementation.” 

With regards to research question 3, the impact of student disability status on differences in goal attainment ratings between students and teachers, the authors found that student disability status led to teachers giving substantially lower ratings of goal attainment compared to students, prompting them to wonder:

[D]o students overestimate their strengths while teachers identify areas of additional instructional needs and supports? Or are teachers’ expectations of students’ capacities shaped by students having an identified disability…Or are both meaningful yet independent, self-perceptions of outcomes that could predict observed outcomes in distinct ways?” 

The authors state the need for ongoing research to be conducted, to further explore how students with disabilities in inclusive settings can be supported to successfully engage in goal setting, as well as determine to what extent student ratings and teacher ratings are aligned with actual behavior in the classroom.

Summarized Article:

Shogren, K. A., Hicks, T. A., Raley, S. K., Pace, J. R., Rifenbark, G. G., & Lane, K. L. (2021). Student and teacher perceptions of goal attainment during intervention with the Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction. The Journal of Special Education, 55(2), 101-112.

Summary by: Akane Yoshida — Akane believes that developing supportive and nurturing relationships with students is key to helping them to attain their personal benchmarks for success. She loves how the MARIO Framework operationalizes this process and utilizes systematic measurement of student learning and teacher effectiveness to guide interventions.

Additional References:

  1. Shogren, K. A., Wehmeyer, M. L., Burke, K. M., & Palmer, S. B. (2017). The Self-Determination Learning Model of Instruction: Teacher’s Guide. Lawrence, KS: Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities.

Key Takeaway: The pandemic has disrupted teaching and learning in many ways. Students with IEPs likely had these documents changed to adapt to the current mode of learning. In particular, students with social-based interventions may have needed to put these on hold as social distance and virtual learning made these infeasible. As students return to a more normal school routine, IEP teams will have to reassess students’ Present Level of Performance (PLOP) and likely conduct reassessment and revision of IEPs. —Ayla Reau

Students with autism rely on routine and often require individualized instruction. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruption to education worldwide, Sarah Hurwitz, Blaine Garman-McClaine, and Kane Carlock (Indiana University Bloomington) sought to investigate how special educators and specialists adapted practices for such students in response to pandemic schooling conditions. 

“Special education professionals were asked to complete an online survey inquiring about service provision for students with autism during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Participants reported:

  • making changes to Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). 
    • Adding Individualized Continuity of Learning Plans (ICLPs) to describe how service could be provided across learning modalities (i.e. online, hybrid, face-to-face). 
    • Adjusting service minutes to provide more flexibility
  • “having less time to work on behavioural goals, track student progress, or help students interact socially.” Some educators dropped social-based IEP goals and spent much less time implementing social interventions due to distancing requirements and inapplicability to virtual instruction, “with about 80% reporting more difficulty addressing social goals than before the pandemic.” 
  • having to stop using peer helpers and running social groups, which afforded fewer opportunities for social skills practice. 
  • making modifications to every aspect of teaching including materials, personnel, and format. Modifications were also made to who implemented the interventions, including coaching paraprofessionals who would then deliver small group instruction over Zoom and build collaboration with parents.

Overall, special education teachers described feeling less able to meet IEP requirements during online learning “and struggled to deliver the services, support, and attention that their students needed.”

However, the results also indicated the importance of collaboration between teachers and guardians. Getting and keeping caregivers involved in a child’s education is imperative to maintaining progress, especially while the children work from home. Since parents may not have the required training and experience needed to effectively implement their child’s education plan, offering the option to hold virtual parent-teacher meetings and case conferences may facilitate access. 

Educators also found that while some students with more intense needs struggled, others actually preferred virtual instruction. “For some students with autism, staying at home where they feel comfortable and can engage in self-regulating activities without negative social consequences, may reduce their stress and have positive impacts on learning.” This raises concerns for the future when social expectations resume. 

The authors conclude that students with disabilities are likely to have had a diminished learning experience during the pandemic. “As such, compensatory services may be required going forward.” They suggest that as schools return to more normal functioning, “IEP teams should assess what services were, in fact, delivered during school closures and across the changing educational modalities, and then conduct an assessment of each student’s current needs (i.e. reassess their Present Level of Performance (PLOP)).” If regression has occurred or limited progress was made in meaningful skills, the authors suggest IEP teams issue a COVID-19 compensatory services plan. Further, they predict reassessment and revision of IEPs to become common requirements as in-person learning resumes.  

Schools must also continue to address mental health and provide additional layers of support for teachers to address burnout, in order to retain the teachers they have, especially special education teachers. 

It is important to note that participants were all from public schools in Indiana, and the data was collected from a specific moment in the pandemic (middle of the 2020-2021 academic year), so their “perspective is grounded in experiences from a state that endeavored to open schools early, with precautions, allowing many school districts to offer hybrid and full-time in-person learning for considerable portions of the year.”

Summarized Article:

Hurwitz, S., Garman-McClaine, B., & Carlock, K. (2021). Special education for students with autism during the COVID-19 pandemic: “Each day brings new challenges”. Autism : the international journal of research and practice, 13623613211035935. Advance online publication.

Summary by: Ayla Reau—Ayla is excited to help continue to grow the MARIO Framework, seeing the potential for it to impact all students across any educational context.

Key Takeaway: Students often set goals based on teacher expectations. In this study, the implementation of the Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction (SDLMI) led to students setting a lack of academic or social goals and an abundance of home living goals; this may suggest lower adult expectations for students with significant support needs. Therefore, it is crucial for students to consider their own interests when setting goals and for teachers to set high expectations during the process. Teachers need to be aware that the SDLMI is designed to promote student agency as the students are the ones who set and go after goals for their future. —Michael Ho

Burke, Shogren, and Carlson (2021) examined and analyzed the types of goals transition-age students with intellectual disabilities set as part of a statewide implementation of the SDLMI. The purpose of this study was to analyze the goals set by students using the SDLMI in a specific context to inform future research and practice. Goal content was emphasized, as opposed to goal attainment. Additionally, the skills associated with self-determination during the entire period of the study were identified. 

The authors investigated the following four research questions: 

  1. What types of goals did transition-age students with intellectual disability set when supported by their teachers to use the SDLMI to enhance postschool outcomes?
  2. How many students had goals across areas and/ or multiple goals in the same area (e.g., academics, vocational education and employment, postsecondary education, home living, social and relationships)?
  3. Within goal areas, what subtopics were represented (e.g., academic goal subtopics may include content mastery, class participation and engagement, study skills, etc.)?
  4. How many goals that incorporated skills associated with self-determination were taught using the SDLMI (e.g., choice making, decision-making, problem-solving, etc.)?

Here are the major takeaways from the article:

  • Apart from being an evidence-based practice for transition-age students with disabilities, “the SDLMI is a model of instruction in which trained facilitators (e.g., teachers) teach students self-regulated problem-solving skills that can be applied to setting and going after goals. The SDLMI comprises three distinct phases—Phase 1: Set a goal, Phase 2: Take action, Phase 3: Adjust goal or plan.”1,2
  • The current literature mentions that SDLMI provides evidence that the model impacts goal attainment. However, there is limited research on how SDLMI supports the content of the goals students set and how goal content may affect goal attainment during transition planning.
  • The current study analyzed 1,546 goals set by 667 transition-age students with intellectual disabilities in Rhode Island. The sample was collected over a period of three years
  • In response to the first research question, primary goal categories, from most identified to least identified, were as follows: home living, vocational education and employment, academics, leisure and recreation, communication, transportation, social and relationships, finances, community access, and postsecondary education. 
  • In response to the second research question, “almost half of the students (n = 315; 47.2%) had goals across multiple categories within a given school year, and 164 total students (24.6%) had repeated goals (i.e., the same goal more than once) within a school year.” This suggests that teachers need to be aware that there is a significant amount of students that may have a diverse range of goals to pursue beyond their secondary education.
  • In response to the third research question, the top subcategories that students identified with were ‘Expressing wants and needs and making requests,’ ‘General speech and language skills,’ ‘Email,’ ‘Driving,’ ‘Taking the bus,’ ‘General transportation knowledge,’ ‘Activities with others,’ ‘Meeting new people,’ ‘Engaging in conversation with others,’ ‘Identifying and counting currency,’ ‘Writing checks or balancing a checkbook,’ and ‘Making purchases.’ Although the subcategories were diverse, there is a lack of identified focus on academic and social goals.
  • In response to the fourth research question, skills associated with self-determination, that were set from either the student’s perspective or the teacher’s perspective, were choice making (5.5%), self-advocacy (4.4%), planning (3.8%), and decision-making (3.4%) were the most common.
  • “Teachers shift toward the role of a supporter rather than a director of goal setting, and the wording of goals is a reflection of buy-in to this process.” The SDLMI needs to fulfill its purpose of emphasizing student agency and student-driven goals.
  • There is a higher number of identified student goals pertaining to home living skills instead of academic or social skills. This suggests that the teachers’ low expectations of students in the area of academic and social skills may be impacting what and how students set goals. Hence, the need for high expectations from educators supporting students in the goal-setting process for academic and social skills cannot be stressed enough.
  • The study has a few limitations, such that student data cannot be linked across three years of the study; therefore, the data cannot be analyzed for growth and change. Furthermore, student goals used in this study may be a reflection of the teacher’s interpretation or adjustments. The teachers may have contributed to student goals from the teachers’ perspectives among students who needed intensive support to communicate their goals.

Summarized Article:

Burke, K. M., Shogren, K. A., & Carlson, S. (2021). Examining Types of Goals Set by Transition-Age Students With Intellectual Disability. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 44(3), 135–147. 

Summary by: Michael Ho—Michael supports the MARIO Framework because it empowers learners to take full control of their personalized learning journey, ensuring an impactful and meaningful experience.

Additional References:

  1. Shogren, K. A., Raley, S. K., Burke, K. M., & Wehmeyer, M. L. (2018). The Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction: Teacher’s guide. Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities.
  1. Wehmeyer, M. L., Palmer, S. B., Agran, M., Mithaug, D. E., & Martin, J. E. (2000). Promoting causal agency: The Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction. Exceptional Children, 66(4), 439–453.

Key Takeaway: According to two studies,1,2 autism is diagnosed in 1 out of 100 people in England. It is imperative that transitions and plans for learners who are diagnosed with autism and needing additional services are put in place in order for them to experience success and independence in their adult years. —Nika Espinosa

In their article, Crane et al. (2021) gathered data on how educational professionals in the United Kingdom view the transition for young people with autism and additional learning needs in relation to the Children and Families Act (2014) and the associated SEND Code of Practice, as well as their experiences in the field. According to the author’s research, for young adults who have been diagnosed with autism and additional learning needs after age 16, education doesn’t look favorable. The studies done by Anderson et al. (2016)3 and Wehman et al. (2014)4 support this picture. Thus, “there is an urgent need to understand how to promote good outcomes for autistic young people with additional learning needs as they transition into adulthood.”

The authors focused on 3 key areas of the SEND reforms:

  1. Help and support
  2. Having a say
  3. Achieving better outcomes

When providing help and support for the students, educational professionals acknowledged the challenges of limited finances, inadequate support from stakeholders, and the shift to using experiential knowledge to inform pedagogy. The participants expressed that in the current economic climate, funds for training have diminished, and at times, only one educational professional gets the training and is then expected to share their newly acquired knowledge with other colleagues. Another issue educational professionals face is that they rarely have time to implement the training they have undergone and are sometimes relying on experiential knowledge to guide their practice. They also mentioned that even receiving support for these students in the local community has been difficult to obtain. For example, the waiting list for the mental health services is often quite long. “While this finding is not specific to post-16 education, an emphasis on implementation with this vulnerable group, at this crucial phase of education, is arguably more important here than at any other time.”

When it comes to giving their students a voice, the themes that emerged in the study were uncertainties around doing the right thing and flexibility in the school environment. “Despite using various tools and techniques to support students in having a say in their education, participants doubted whether they were using the ‘right’ strategies to elicit the voices of their vulnerable students.” One participant said part of their uncertainty was whether the students were providing honest answers, echolalic (repetition of spoken words), or giving answers that they believe their educational professional is expecting to hear. Sometimes, school systems can diminish student voices when up against accreditation requirements and curriculum demands. “Even if education professionals are able to elicit and document the voices of their pupils genuinely and meaningfully, this becomes tokenistic if their views cannot be acted on.” It’s therefore important that student voice is acted upon by the supporting community.

In the area of achieving better outcomes, the themes that emerged from the participants were the need for an individualized approach to identify successful outcomes for these young learners with additional needs and the concern about the opportunities available for them. The participants partly attributed their concerns to the follow-through of transition opportunities and the lack of awareness that a person with autism can contribute to the workplace and society. It is important that the individualized approach is complemented with opportunities. As the authors recommend, establishing school-work partnerships and providing support for these young adults in the workplace is imperative to their continuous growth as individuals and enables them to be successful in their adult years.

Summarized Article: Crane, L., Davies, J., Fritz, A., O’Brien, S., Worsley, A., Ashworth, M., & Remington, A. (2021). The transition to adulthood for autistic young people with additional learning needs: the views and experiences of education professionals in special schools. British Journal of Special Education.

Summary by: Nika Espinosa—Nika believes that personalized learning is at the heart of special education and strives to collaborate with educators in providing a holistic, personalized approach to supporting all learners through the MARIO Framework.

Additional References:

1. Baird, G., Simonoff, E., Pickles, A., Chandler, S., Loucas, T., Meldrum, D. & Charman, T. (2006) ‘Prevalence of disorders of the autism spectrum in a population cohort of children in South Thames: the Special Needs and Autism Project (SNAP)’, Lancet, 368 (9531), 210–215.

2. Brugha, T. S., McManus, S., Bankart, J., Scott, F., Purdon, S., Smith, J., Bebbington, P., Jenkins, R. & Meltzer, H. (2011) ‘Epidemiology of autism spectrum disorders in adults in the community in England’, Archives of General Psychiatry, 68 (5), 459–465.

3. Anderson, K. A., McDonald, T. A., Edsall, D., Smith, L. E. & Taylor, J. L. (2016) ‘Postsecondary expectations of high-school students with au- tism spectrum disorders’, Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 31 (1), 16–26.

4. Wehman, P. H., Schall, C. M., McDonough, J., Kregel, J., Brooke, V., Molinelli, A., Ham, W., Graham, C. W., Riehle, J. E., Collins, H. T. & Thiss, W. (2014) ‘Competitive employment for youth with autism spec- trum disorders: early results from a randomized clinical trial’, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44, 487–500.

Article Abstract

Problem solving and goal setting are important components of self-determination that young people learn over time. This study describes and validates a model of teaching in early elementary grades that teachers can use to infuse these activities into existing curricula and programs. Can young children set goals for learning using the Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction, and can teachers implement this model in a variety of subjects and settings with students having diverse learning needs? Our results show that even the youngest students (ages 5 – 6) were able to set goals and use the model to achieve. Teachers used the model effectively to support the investigation of student interests, the facilitation of choices, and the goal setting and attainment of young children.

MARIO Connections

Palmer and Wehmeyer’s work motivates MARIO’s commitment to setting personalized learning goals at all stages of development. This study has implications for MARIO Educators at all levels, but particularly those who are supporting younger learners.