Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Special Education, Early Childhood & Prevention Science

Degree Program

Curriculum and Instruction, PhD

Committee Chair

Courtade, Ginevra

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Landrum, Timothy

Committee Member

Mims, Pamela

Committee Member

Sheffield, Caroline

Author's Keywords

extensive support needs; special education; social studies; economics


The purpose of social studies instruction in school is to facilitate the growth of competent citizens (National Council for the Social Studies [NCSS], 2013). Despite the recognized benefit of social studies instruction, emphasis on this subject has decreased over time, and has ultimately been termed a “dispensable subject” (Fitchett & Haefner, 2010). Social studies is an even more marginalized subject area for students with disabilities (Zakas et al., 2013). Expanding the research in this area is not only necessary to improving social studies academic content acquisition but is also likely to facilitate greater independence for students post-school – and by extension, improve their quality of life (White et al., 2018). Graphic novels are a popular independent reading choice for both children and adults; however, only recently have graphic novels started appearing as instructional materials in classrooms. Students gravitating to GNs for independent reading prompted the beginning of their use in the mainstream English language arts (ELA) classroom (Barter-Storm & Wik, 2020). The purpose of this study was to investigate any potential differences in student outcomes (i.e., social studies content acquisition and student engagement) when using graphic novels (GN) or traditional adapted informational text (TAIT) to teach economics concepts to high school students with ESN. Another purpose of this study was to understand both classroom teachers’ and students’ perceptions of the use of graphic novels to teach social studies content. While this study did not demonstrate clear and consistent separation of the two conditions, there were points at which GNs appear to be associated with higher engagement and content acquisition. Another finding of this study, although not addressed as a specific research question, was that text preference appeared to predict both engagement and content acquisition.