Date of Award

5-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

College/School

College of Education and Human Services

Department/Program

Teacher Education and Teacher Development

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Tamara Lucas

Committee Member

Kathryn Herr

Committee Member

Jeremy Price

Subject(s)

General education--Study and teaching (Middle school), Inclusive education, Students with disabilities

Abstract

This qualitative study examined the beliefs, instructional practices, and classroom climate of two general education inclusion teachers working in a single-teacher context. For purposes of this study, a single-teacher context was defined as a classroom in which a general education teacher instructed general education students and students with identified needs without the collaboration of a special education teacher. Two general education middle school teachers, nominated by their colleagues as successful at working with included students, completed a belief survey, participated in three one-on-one interviews, and were observed on eight separate occasions. A Disability Studies in Education lens was used as the framework for understanding the inclusion practices of these teachers. The following research question guided this study: How do successful middle school general education inclusion teachers create classrooms that enable their students classified as having a Specific Learning Disability to succeed?

Data were continuously analyzed to identify emerging themes, and the findings suggest that the convergence of the teachers’ beliefs and practices, which were informed by a social justice view of inclusion, was responsible for their success in their inclusion classrooms. Both teachers held affirming beliefs about the practice of inclusion and the capabilities of students with identified needs. They expressed a desire to teach these students and emphasized the importance of the relationships they developed with them— relationships that were built on respect, authenticity, and genuineness. They designed instruction that was relevant to their students’ lives, and they implemented strategies such as differentiation and multi-sensory techniques to address the needs of their included students. Both teachers also approached their work as inclusion teachers from a social justice perspective. They viewed disability as a human rights issue and created classroom environments that provided all students with equal access to the educational program. While the teachers did identify challenges to inclusion, such as inconsistent personnel and lack of collaboration time, the findings highlight the teachers’ willingness to do whatever necessary to promote the success of students with identified needs in their inclusion classrooms. The study findings have implications for practice, research, and policy, which are discussed in the concluding chapter.

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