CAI and Self-Determination

CAI and Self-Determination

As all teachers realize through experience, one of the components of the Expanded Core Curriculum, self-determination, is crucial in effectuating student achievement and that one of the major tasks of teachers is to motivate students to understand and practice self-determination for their own success. This guiding principle is true for any endeavor, including technology empowerment, another component of the expanded curriculum.  Of course, there is no doubt that technology proficiency for the visually impaired is a great equalizer and is crucial to the BVI person’s achievement and quality of life. With this in mind, I searched for research studies that would provide strategies for teachers to use to empower student motivation.

A literature review was found, a meta study that examined the literature for practices: “Effective Self-Determination Practices for Students with Disabilities: Implications for Students with Visual Impairments” (Cmar, 2019). In this study, 67 articles were found and examined using the key search terms self-determination combined with visual impairment or blind.

Six best practices were evaluated in the articles that describe a model for promoting self-determination, the practice pertinent for technology being Computer-Aided Instruction (CAI). Since the applicable research reviewed was rather sparse concerning specific intervention for BVI students, general principles derived from the general population were used to suggest effective best practices for BVI students. 

One of the most surprising findings was that self-determination interventions did not necessarily enhance achievement, either in school or post-school, but this was  apparently due to the fact that little research has been undertaken in documenting outcomes. However, as any teacher can attest, self-motivation can be inspired but not forced.

CAI is an instructional strategy that involves the use of computers or other interactive multimedia technology to improve students' skills, knowledge, or academic performance. CAI was combined with various self-determination interventions (e.g., SAS, Self-Directed IEP, WFA) to promote the involvement of middle school and high school students with learning and intellectual disabilities in their IEPs. Results of these single-case and group experimental studies indicated that using CAI with self-determination interventions increased students' self-determination, self-regulation, transition knowledge, and involvement in the IEP process. This suggests that that involvement could be extended to academic, technological proficiencies, social engagement, etc. as positive outcomes.

Of course, self-determination interventions designed for other populations applied to students with visual impairments requires that the interventionist practitioners should evaluate whether any pre-teaching, supplementary instruction or accommodations will be required. Also, to support the notion that BVI assistive technology teachers are crucial, the researchers stated that “before participating in interventions that use CAI, students with visual impairments should be comfortable using the instructional technology as well as any assistive technology that is required to access the information.”  (Cmar, 2019)

In short, this study reinforces the idea that motivating students to inspire self-motivation and self-sufficiency, particularly for BVI students, must be the primary mission of BVI educators and CAI and technology education are capable of enabling that mission.  The task of educators is to get BVI students to believe in themselves and the equalizing power that mastering technology can enable. I have seen this happen; several of my students, initially reticent to use technology, are now proficient with technology once they came to understand the whole new world that was opened to them.

Paths to Literacy has some lesson plans included in  the article Assistive Technology and Self-Determination.


Cmar, J. L. (2019). Effective Self-Determination Practices for Students with Disabilities: Implications for Students with Visual Impairments. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 113(2), 114-128.