Date of Conferral


Date of Award

May 2024






JoAnn McAllister


During the COVID-19 pandemic, stay-at-home orders forced millions of students attending schools in the United States to shift to distance learning. As pandemic restrictions lifted and schools reopened, an emerging trend was observed: many parents of children with disabilities chose to continue distance learning. This decision gains significance in the context of students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBDs) who are at a higher risk of disengagement from school. Educators need to understand how to address social, emotional, and behavioral needs within online learning frameworks. However, increasing engagement for students with EBDs in distance learning has not been well-researched. Drawing upon Knowles’ adult learning theory andragogy, this study involved exploring and understanding teachers’ experiences with selecting and implementing interventions to increase academic engagement for students with EBDs in terms of distance learning. A generic qualitative design was used to gain insights into teachers’ experiences. Participants consisted of nine teachers from a suburban school district in Southern California who were interviewed using semi-structured questions. Thematic analysis with coding was used to identify two main themes: relationship building and fostering engagement and leveraging technology to increase engagement. Findings indicated creating positive classroom environments, individualizing instruction, and building teacher-student relationships are crucial to addressing unique learning needs of students with EBDs. Study findings may contribute to positive social change by advancing the knowledge base regarding student engagement for students with EBDs to improve academic outcomes.