Date of Conferral

2016

Degree

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

School

Education

Advisor

Barbara J. Bennett

Abstract

Inclusion classrooms were introduced in the United States in 1990 when the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act required that special education students be instructed in a general education setting. Ensuing changes in instructional formats have caused role confusion for special and general education teachers, resulted in mixed attitudes toward teacher responsibilities, and lowered teachers' sense of efficacy about being able to teach their students. Guided by Deci and Ryan's self-determination theory, this bounded case study design in a rural elementary school in a southeastern state was used to understand the perceptions of general and special educators regarding their work in inclusive co teaching environments and how their perceptions influenced teaching methods and student learning in the inclusion classroom. Data collection consisted of interviews and observations with a purposeful sample of 8 general and 3 special education teachers, grades 3-5, who had participated in co-teaching during the past 2 years. Data were coded and 6 themes were found. Themes that emerged included teachers' needs for collaboration, shared responsibilities, common planning time, and professional development. Other themes involved understandings of teacher attitudes toward co teaching, the components of student success, and the basis for administrative decisions. A professional development project based on the findings was designed to address needs, attitudes, and understandings of special and general education teachers in inclusive classroom settings. This project may foster positive social change by providing a vehicle to assist general education and special education teachers so that they can work together with confidence and cooperation to enhance learning for all students, regardless of their abilities.