Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Dr. James Schiro


The Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act requires students with disabilities to show progress on the same standards as their nondisabled peers without indicating how teachers should accomplish this goal. Many teachers lack the skills needed to address the unique learning challenges of students who are cognitively functioning below 2 years of age. This study used a qualitative exploratory case study design. The purpose of this study was to explore what was hindering teachers from providing grade level standards-based instruction for their students with multiple disabilities. Piaget's constructivist theory guided this study. Research questions were used to elicit how teachers were providing standard-based instruction and how they were determining strategies for course delivery. Data collection included semi structured interviews with 20 special education teachers who were selected using purposive sampling and who had at least 3 years of experience working with students who had multiple disabilities and had cognitive functioning levels below 2 years of age. Observations of the instructional practices of these teachers were also conducted. Data were analyzed using Hatch's typology; according to study results, teachers based instructional decisions on their individual beliefs about students, personal level of content knowledge, and custodial needs of students due to disabilities. In classroom observations, there was a lack of grade-level content. A professional development-training plan for teachers was created on standards-based content to shift perceptions about students and to develop appropriate instructional strategies. The social change implications of this study will benefit teachers by providing students with disabilities access to standards-based curriculum instruction to meet legislative requirements.

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