Date of Award:

2014

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Special Education and Rehabilitation

Advisor/Chair:

Jared C. Schultz

Abstract

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, calls for participants to become “active and full partners in the vocational rehabilitation process.” Although it is probable that the participant’s active engagement is a major factor in a successful vocational rehabilitation outcome, little is known about the actual meaning of engagement in the vocational rehabilitation process. This construct is often entangled with other concepts such as motivation and readiness. A clear operational definition of engagement in the vocational rehabilitation process would allow professionals to better support participants in their role. The purpose of this research was to (a) operationally define the construct of participant engagement in the vocational rehabilitation process, and (b) develop and validate an instrument to measure engagement based on this definition. After creating measurement items to reflect three proposed subdimensions of engagement (Attendance, Expected Contribution, and Homework), the items were evaluated for content validity and clarity by an expert panel and then piloted with a small group of vocational rehabilitation counselors. The refined items were then administered to a sample of public vocational rehabilitation counselors through an online survey platform. The data from the usable responses (n = 88) were summarized and then tested for an optimal factor solution using exploratory factor analysis. Next, a confirmatory factor analysis was used to confirm the adequacy of the measurement model. Finally, structural equation modeling analyses were used to identify a structural model that explained the relationships among the subdimensions and overall engagement.

The results of the analyses suggest that engagement is a multidimensional construct consisting of three factors: (a) Attendance; (b) Expected Contribution; and (c) Homework. The Expected Contribution factor acts as the strongest predictor of overall engagement and also mediates the effects of Attendance and Homework on engagement. Implications of the study are provided, focusing on the need to teach participants their expected role as full partners in vocational rehabilitation. Counselors should be encouraged to facilitate high levels of engagement through competent counseling skills and appropriate counseling approaches. Finally, limitations of the research are addressed and suggestions for future research are provided.

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