Individualized Learning Plans How-to Guide – Section I, Self-Exploration


Section I provides hyperlinks to open source ILP activities.  It is organized according to the three phases:  (a) self-exploration; (b) career exploration; and, (c) career planning and management.  Materials and resources are assigned to the single category that appears to best fit the use with students.  The governmental agency or organization that is the source for these materials and resources, however, may appear in several or all of these three phases.  While the Guide currently includes samples from a select number of states, other states may have useful materials available on their Department of Education and Labor websites.

This section covers the following:


“Know Thyself” – This admonition attributed to the Greek philosopher Socrates remains an excellent touchstone from which a student can start to explore who they are, what they might become, and how they can get there. 

One of the fundamental elements of an ILP is that students align their course taking plans to help them pursue their career and life goals.  In order to identify career goals, students need to develop self-exploration skills. These skills emerge when students are offered access to quality self-exploration activities. Quality self-exploration activities are ones that help them become aware of their interests, skills, and values that can then guide subsequent career exploration efforts.    

By identifying future career goals that are consistent with their interests, skills, and values, students develop greater awareness of the courses needed to prepare for pursuing those careers, which increases the likelihood that they will perceive the importance of taking those courses. Access to quality self-exploration activities serves, therefore, as the first critical step in helping students become aware of the relevance of their courses to achieving their future career and life goals.xii

Helping all students – especially those who enter high school with a history of low academic performance – become aware of how school is relevant and meaningful to future career and life goals is especially important. Research clearly indicates that course interest and grades increase among low performing students when they receive interventions that help them become aware of the relevance of their courses to achieving future goalsxiii

Sample ILP Activities

Below are sample lesson plans and other self-exploration activities that are ready to be used or adapted:

State-Based Self-Exploration Related ILP Resources to Consider

A number of states have generated free-use ILP activities. A sample of these follow:

Assessment Tools for Helping Students Engage in Self-Exploration 

A number of validated, open-access assessment tools are available free on the O*NET Resource Center website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration. These tools can be used to begin the self-exploration phase, including:

  • O*NET Resource Center. The gateway portal for a number of specific O*NET career exploration tools, including:
  • My Next Move is a 2011 O*NET career exploration tool designed for easy use by students, youth, and others interested in finding out about different occupations, careers, and industries.  It also features a section “I’m not really sure.” that is designed to help users develop and match a profile of their individual interests with different kinds of careers.  

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xii Solberg, V. S. H., Gresham, S., Phelps, L. A., Durham, J., & Haakenson, K.  (August, 2010).  Impact of exposure to quality learning experiences on career development.  In V. S. H.  Solberg (Symposium Chair) Study of context in career development research with youth populations.  Paper presented at the 118th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, San Diego, CA.

xiii Hulleman, C., & Harackiewicz, J. (2009).  Promoting interest and performance in high school science classes.  Science, 326(5958), 1410-1412.  doi:10.1126/science.1177067.

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