Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ed. D.


Educational Leadership, Evaluation and Organizational Development

Degree Program

Educational Leadership and Organizational Development, EDD

Committee Chair

Powers, Deborah

Committee Member

Stark, Geneva

Committee Member

Yarbrough, Rachel

Committee Member

Baker, Rachel

Author's Keywords

Teacher Identity; special education student achievement


I have had the opportunity of many years of experience in public education as a teacher who provides services for students who in Special Education. I have classes where there is a small group setting for content instruction, as well as the role of a “co-teacher” alongside general educators. From my work, I find that there are differences of expectations of success and rigor in the inclusive setting from the general education teacher, often resulting in deficits in their academic achievement when compared to their peers who do not receive services. As I developed my topic for this study, it evolved from the exploration of the relationship between the general educator and special education student, to a focus surrounding the teacher themselves and their belief of how they can instruct that demographic. The purpose of the study to reveal that teacher identity is crucial to how special education students are influenced to achieve academically. After searching for information surrounding this topic, there was little research available that supported the relatedness of this topic and student scores. I am to reveal that what a general educator feels about their personal ability to provide quality instruction for the students who receive services influences how they perform on formative and summative assessments. As the teacher is given the opportunities to participate in self-reflection and professional development, they will be equipped to confidently instruct their inclusive classes, not relying on the co-teacher as heavily and properly utilizing differentiation with fidelity. The method of data collection for this study was an online GLA group interview via the Zoom platform. I created three prompts, each with a question for participants to respond to that was related to my research questions, but worded in a manner that would not be overwhelming to the educators. The prompts evaluated three topics: the challenges of the inclusive setting, their thoughts on how their instruction was provided after analyzing class scores, and whether they feel as if they have received enough training to provide instruction in the inclusive class as the general educator. There were also three phases of each prompt: to respond in their individual space on the document with their answers, also having the ability to agree with their peers by highlighting comments that they have also experienced, to split into groups and evaluate the emerging themes of answers that were most common in the prompt, and list top three emerging themes from greatest to least in order of importance. The results of the GLA revealed that all the participants felt as if they had not received enough training to properly instruct students who receive services independent of their co-teachers. They reported feelings of failure and the desire to have more professional development opportunities as they compare scores between higher achieving classes and the inclusive setting. Participants also shared that challenges that they experienced included lack of planning time with their co-teachers, not enough resources to support them in gaining knowledge on how to instruct students on how to allow technology to support their learning individually, and teaching a content that did not allow for a co-teacher and them having to balance behaviors and academic achievement without the proper strategies to do so. Regarding their feelings after analyzing student data after instruction, participants shared that they feel like they honestly do not always expect students who receive services to out-perform their general education class, so they do not require as much success on assessments. They also feel as though they do not always have time to utilize differentiation strategies with fidelity, so that typically teach to the majority, when affects overall class scores. What the findings of this study revealed was that teacher identity does influence student achievement in the inclusive setting. The data from the GLA affirmed that participants had a negative reaction when reflecting on their pedagogy and they were not fully confident that they could provide the instruction needed with fidelity as a whole group. Educators have the desire to provide high-quality, rigorous learning opportunities, but that can best be reflected in the inclusive setting when they have strategies on how to self-reflect and are afforded regular professional development that supports them as they build their efficacy providing instruction in the inclusive setting. As these skills improve, content teachers will see greater student achievement and that will be the evidence of their identity positively influencing their classrooms.