S2.02 - Self-Instruction

Self-instruction involves a person telling him or herself to do something and then doing it (Hughes, 1997). It has some advantages to traditional instruction. It focuses upon giving the consumer responsibility for instruction rather than relying upon a teacher or facilitator. By using “self-talk” or stating the instruction out loud, responsibility for the instruction moves from the facilitator to the consumer (Wehmeyer, Agran, & Hughes, 1998). It is an easy procedure to develop, learn, and use. Further, self-instruction can be practiced inside and outside of a classroom or training room. Finally, it allows a consumer to self-direct his or her life in settings where instructional support is not available, such as on the bus, at work, or with friends (Hughes, 1997).

Self-instruction is a self-management strategy that contributes to an individual’s self-determination skills (Wehmeyer, Agran, & Hughes, 1998). It can help a consumer to self-manage existing skills as well as learn new skills. The goal of self-instruction is to support a person to independently complete a task. It is an un-obtrusive self-management tool.

Since actions are not always under the control of verbal behavior, self-instruction may require some initial training. The following steps outline the components of a self-instructional procedure. The self-instructional procedure is followed by suggestions on learning or using the procedure. These steps were adapted from Wehmeyer, Agran, & Hughes (1998).

Step 1: Identify the problem

This step involves identifying and stating the problem that needs to be solved. For example, if a person is hungry and wants something to eat, the problem might be, “I’m hungry.” A fast food employee might have multiple responsibilities making it difficult to remember some components of the job. For example, the problem might be, “The napkin holder is empty.”

Step 2: Identify a possible response to the problem

This step requires determining and stating a solution to the problem. The solution might vary depending upon the situation. For example, hunger might be addressed differently depending upon time of day and location. The self-instructional procedure may also be developed to address a specific time of day or circumstance. In this case, the self-instructional procedure may be relevant to lunch time. A possible response to the problem of being hungry at lunch time might be, “I’ll fix a sandwich.” The appropriate response for a fast food employee with the empty napkin holder might be, “Fill the napkin holder.”

Step 3: Evaluate the response

The consumer would state, “I fixed myself a sandwich” or “I refilled the napkin holder.” The consumer will need to determine if he or she actually did what he or she said they would do. “I fixed the sandwich because I was hungry.”

Step 4: Self-reinforce

The consumer should verbally acknowledge that they got the job done. Something like, “Great, I’m no longer hungry” or “Good, I took care of it.”

Step 5: Train behavior to match verbal statements

Once the sequence is identified, the facilitator may want to work with the consumer to learn the sequence. Sometimes the sequence needs to be practiced in order for behavior to match verbal statements. The following provides and outline of learning the process:

Another model of self-instruction includes the Did-Next-Now strategy. It is particularly useful for teaching a series of tasks in sequence. The consumer would state the response just completed (Did), what they were doing next (Next), and an instruction to do it now (Now). An example of this strategy might include a sequence like, “I wiped the table. I need to fill the napkin holders. I will fill the napkin holders now!” A description of the Did-Next-Now strategy and other self-instructional strategies can be found in Hughes (1997).


Page updated 10/13/06

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Web Resources

Reid, B. (n.d.). Self-instruction. Cognitive Strategy Instruction:) Retrieved June 14, 2005, from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Department
of Special Education & Communication Disorders Web site: http://www.unl.edu/csi/training.html

Employment Potential Improvement Corporation. (2000). Self-instruction workshops. Baldwin, MO. Retrieved December 16, 2003, from

Workshops, Inc. (1998). Self-Instruction Training. In Life skills for vocational success: Teaching strategies. Birmingham, AL. Retrieved December 17, 2003, from http://www.workshopsinc.com/manual/Teach.html


Agran, M., & Moore, S. C. (1994). How to teach self-instruction of job skills. Washington, D.C.: American Association on Mental Retardation.

Hughes, C. (1997). Self-Instruction. In M. Agran (Ed.), Student directed learning: Teaching self-determination skills (pp. 144-170). Detroit, MI: Brooks/Cole.

Hughes, C., & Carter. (2000). Teaching students to use self-instruction; Self-instruction statements. Self-management and self-determination strategies: Promoting independence in the transition to adult life. Retrieved, June 14, 2005, from Virginia Commonwealth University, RTTC http://www.vcu.edu/rrtcweb/techlink/GEB/hughes/tc7d3.html

Wehmeyer, M. L., Agran, M., & Hughes, C. (1999). Teaching self-instruction skills. In Teaching self-determination to students with disabilities: Basic skills for successful transition (pp. 157-183). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Wehmeyer, M., Palmer, S., Agran, M., Mithaug, D. E., & Martin, J. E. (1998). The self-determined learning model of instruction. Arlington, Texas: The Arc of the United States.

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