Transition 101 for Faculty

This section of the website is designed for faculty and staff in teacher education/preparation programs in colleges and universities. Work through the tabs below for a foundational understanding of transition concepts, or to refresh your knowledge. The sidebar links to other pages for faculty. 


Audience descriptionThe purpose of special education according to IDEA is to provide all children with disabilities a “free appropriate public education designed to…prepare students for further education, employment, and independent living”.

Transition planning and programming is a P-12 concept that all program faculty need to solidly understand. Most Special Education preservice programs stress the importance of transition planning and programming including the IDEA transition requirements but often this concept is not consistently addressed across a program.

Transition planning focuses on designing activities and strategies for individuals with disabilities that are based on their interests and goals for life after high school.  All too often both special educators and programs get lost in the academic supports and needs without providing the transition context that is so important for student success after high school.

Transition 101 provides you an opportunity to build transition knowledge or review concepts you learned earlier in your career.  Many resources exist about transition, and it’s easy to get information overload.  The resources here have been used by other faculty who have found them useful.

The basics

If you are new to transition, work through the following resources to get a good basic grounding in transition concepts:

1. Complete an online training module

Start button for IRIS moduleHelping Students with Disabilities Plan for Post-High School Settings is a free online training module from the Iris Center at Vanderbilt University. It focuses on the transition process from high school to postsecondary settings and takes about one hour to work through, using a combination of reading, videos and audios. The optional assessment takes another 15-30 minutes. Module outline

2. Watch several short videos about transition IEP requirements

Picture of Ed O'LearyIn 2010 Dr. Ed O’Leary and Dr. Steve Bigaj recorded 17 short interviews on elements of the transition-driven IEP process and Indicator 13 IEP requirements. The interviews provide clear, high-level overviews that capture the essence of good transition planning.

If you’re a video person, you may want to watch all the videos.

If you’re more of a learn-by-reading person, work your way through the Transition IEP Requirements: Training and Reference Tool pages, which also include the videos.

3. Browse introductory articles on transition

Transition Education and Services from Birth to Adult for Individuals with Disabilities, from NTACT, is a one-page summary chart that give a good big picture view.

Life After High School Transition Tool Kit is an 80-page guide for New Hampshire families from the NH Parent Information Center. Skim it for a good overview.

A Transition Guide to Postsecondary Education and Employment for Students and Youth with Disabilities (PDF, 62 pages, 2017) is a comprehensive overview of how state, local school districts and Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) work together with students and families to plan for the future. It links elements of good transition planning back to the related legislation. From the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services U.S. Department of Education.

Many examples of transition services and course of study: Revised Transition Services: Helping Educators, Parents, and other Stakeholders Understand Postschool Outcomes, Course of Study, and Coordinated Set of Activities (MSWord, 28 pages, 2009)

4. Review the Preservice Transition Competencies

Keene State College has developed a set of transition competencies for preservice special educators. They’re also useful for experienced educators and higher education faculty to enhance their own knowledge base. Details of the competencies and their key elements

Do a self-assessment of your mastery of transition competencies

Assess yourself against the 31 key elements that make up the six core transition competencies in:

  • Student-Focused Planning (2)
  • Student Development
  • Collaboration
  • Family Engagement
  • Program Structures

Go to the Drive Change in Your Own Practice section of the website to do the self-assessment and review resources to close your knowlege gaps.