Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Donald Jones


Federal and local school system reports demonstrate an academic achievement gap in inclusive classrooms between students with and without disabilities, prompting attention to alternative instructional practices that support motivation and performance of included students. The purpose of this concurrent nested mixed method study was to fill a void in the literature and explore the impact of interdisciplinary thematic instruction on the motivation levels and performance outcomes of 6 included 5th-grade elementary students with special needs. A multiple case study design guided observations and interviews of 3 participants receiving interdisciplinary, theme-based instruction and 3 participants who continued to receive the traditional, single subject, textbook-driven instruction used prior to the study. Field notes and interview transcripts were analyzed using a coding system of pre-existing typologies derived from a constructivist theoretical framework. An academic content assessment was administered and analyzed with SPSS software using descriptive statistics to explore mean performance variation as an outcome of motivation. Individual and cross-case analysis revealed that participants receiving interdisciplinary thematic instruction had greater motivation for participation and better academic performance than participants receiving traditional instruction. Emergent themes of social integration, self-relevance, and cross-curricular connections identified collective factors that influence motivation and participation of included students, and provided implications for social change among school systems in instructional practices employed in inclusive classrooms. The researcher recommends training for administrators, educators, and parents to facilitate and support instructional delivery reformation among inclusive learning communities.