Self-Determination Student Scale (SDSS)

The Self-Determination Student Scale (SDSS) focuses on five components to achieve increased well-being and resiliency: (I) Know Yourself and Your Context, (II) Value Yourself, (III) Plan, (IV) Act, and (V) Experience Outcomes and Learn.

What is Self-Determination

People who are self-determined know what they want and work to make what they want a reality. They engage in activities with a full sense of wanting, choosing and personal endorsement. (Deci, 1992). Research has shown that people who are self-determined are more intrinsically motivated to get things done, are happier and have more energy to put toward achieving what they want. People who are more self-determined are more likely to accomplish their goals. It is not surprising that several studies have found that students who are more self-determined have better grades and higher scores on achievement assessments.

To identify the knowledge, skills and beliefs that individuals need to act with increased self-determination, a team of researchers at Wayne State University conducted hundreds of interviews, observed individuals in a variety of settings and sought expert input to develop the Action Model for Self-Determination (Field & Hoffman, 1994; 2016).

If you're interested in an adult scale for focused coaching or training in the workplace, home, and community, we suggest the Self-Determination Adult Scale (SDAS). You can learn more about the SDAS here.

Action Model for Self-Determination by S. Field and A. Hoffman

Field, S. and Hoffman, A. (2015). An Action Model for Self-Determination. Revised from “Development of a Model for Self-Determination,” by S. Field and A. Hoffman, 1994, Career Development for Exceptional Individuals,17(2),. p. 165. (For permission to reprint, please contact

Model Components of the SDSS

According to the Action Model, the degree to which people are self-determined is affected by their knowledge, skills and beliefs and by the supports, resources and barriers that exist in the environments in which they interact. The five individual components within the control of the individual that lead to self-determination are Know Yourself and Your Context, Value Yourself, Plan, Act and Experience Outcomes and Learn. Our knowledge, skills and beliefs in these areas are constantly changing and are within our control to further develop if we choose.

To know yourself and your context is to know your strengths and weaknesses, needs, and preferences. Your dreams about the future reveal what is important to you. The more you know about yourself, the better able you will be to determine, from the available options, the directions you wish to pursue.

Sample Items

  • I dream about what my life will be like after I finish school.

  • I know what is important to me.

To value yourself means that you accept and appreciate yourself. This does not mean that you are necessarily satisfied with everything about yourself but rather, that you can accept and believe in yourself, knowing that, like everyone, you have strengths and weaknesses. Feeling that you have a right to make important decisions about your life is fundamental to valuing yourself. Recognizing that you have limitations and weaknesses, and that this is a human condition, allows you to recognize the way these weaknesses or limitations affect you and what knowledge or skills were developed to compensate for them. Valuing yourself forms the foundation for developing positive relationships with others, a key to self-determination.

Accepting and valuing yourself also includes the ability and motivation to care for, or access care for, yourself emotionally, mentally, and physically. Understanding your rights and responsibilities is fundamental to believing in yourself and helps you develop positive, productive relationships with others. If you have a good idea about what you are responsible for and what your rights are, you are likely to have more control, and better relationships with others, in any situation.

Sample Items

  • I can be successful even though I have weaknesses.

  • I do not participate in school activities because I have nothing to contribute.

If you have a plan, you're much more likely to achieve what you want. Planning includes establishing goals and determining steps to reach those goals. To effectively plan, you need to anticipate the possible consequences that may result from taking planned actions. This anticipation permits you to alter either the goal or the plan if the anticipated result is not what you wanted.

Making alternative plans, especially when encountering barriers, is a dynamic, creative, process. Finally, taking the time to prepare for and rehearse our planned actions—even if it's in your imagination---can improve performance and the likelihood of achieving your goals.

Sample Items

  • Goals give my life direction.

  • I know what grades I am working toward in my classes.

Planning without acting on the plan will, obviously, not result in achieving your goals. To act in a manner to accomplish a goal, you need to take a risk, to put yourself on the line to either succeed or fail, and, if you don't reach your goal, you will still have learned some lessons that will help you the next time you try to achieve a goal. To lessen some of the risks, you need to develop the ability to listen to and understand others, to communicate in ways that invite others to listen non-defensively, to negotiate win-win solutions to problems, to deal in positive or appropriately humorous ways with conflict and criticism, to access resources needed to implement a plan, and to be persistent in continuing your efforts until successful or until a different creative solution is found.

Sample Items

  • If I want something, I keep at it.

  • If I need help with a school project, I can figure out where to get it.

To recognize your success or to find ways to improve your success on the next attempt, you need to evaluate both the outcome (what happened) and your performance (what you did) while working to achieve your goal. If the results were successful, celebrate! It will help you be more successful the next time if you savor and celebrate the good things that happen in your life. If the results were not what you hoped for, then appropriate adjustments need to be made for the next attempt. By reflecting on your efforts to attain goals, you can increase both your awareness about your preferences and the skills that will help you be more self-determined on your next attempt. Practicing the process of self-determination, and reflecting on the process, is one of the most effective ways to further develop your capacity to be self-determined.

Sample Items

  • I think about how I could have done some things better.

  • At the end of the marking period, I compare my grades to those I expected.


  • Per Student: $4.50 each, 100+ $4.00 each

  • 2,000 SDSS's - Annual Site License $4,000 ($2.00 each)

  • 5,000 SDSS's - Annual Site License $7,500 ($1.50 each)

Self-Determined dults working together

The SDSS can be used as:

  • a diagnostic measure to help identify barriers to self-determination;
  • a basis for developing individual plans for both remediation and enrichment;
  • a pre-post achievement measure for students participating in intervention programs or courses;
  • a foundation for improving successful outcomes.

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The SDSS was developed at Wayne State University by Sharon Field, Ed.D. and Alan Hoffman, Ed.D.
Be sure to visit the authors' website and blog at