NCLD Convenes National Experts on Self-Advocacy Skills and Self-Determination

On August 3rd, NCLD gathered national disability rights and personalized learning experts and advocates from across the field to discuss the importance of self-advocacy skills and self-determination in personalized learning environments. When implemented well, personalized learning systems can provide more opportunities for students with disabilities to succeed, as learning is tailored to their strengths. Because of its emphasis on student voice and choice, personalized learning relies on the ability of students to practice and develop self-advocacy skills and self-determination—and also presents greater opportunity gaps for students without these skills.

In 2014, NCLD started its work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to explore the benefits and challenges of personalized learning for students with disabilities. In August, NCLD released new state-specific resources that aim to help state leaders ensure that personalized learning efforts consider the needs of students with disabilities at the outset.

While we have long known the importance of self-advocacy skills and self-determination for the success of students with disabilities in school and life, this work highlighted the particular importance of these capacities— especially for students with disabilities—in personalized learning systems where students are called on to take ownership of their learning.

Led by co-chair of NCLD’s Professional Advisory Board George Batsche, the convening discussion brought together educators, school and district administrators, parents, students, policymakers, and advocates. Attendees discussed how self-advocacy skills and self-determinations are encouraged in students, opportunities to improve upon current practice, additional resources needed, and current challenges in this area. The discussion centered on what multiple stakeholders – students, families, communities, educators, and policymakers – could individually and collectively do to ensure that students with disabilities are equipped with the necessary self-advocacy skills and self-determination to succeed in personalized learning settings and in life after high school.

In late fall, NCLD will release new materials on the importance of self-advocacy skills and self-determination for students with disabilities, utilizing the great work and ideas that came out of this convening of experts and advocates.