Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Lea Hubbard, PhD, Chair; Fred Galloway, EdD, Member; Suzanne Stolz, EdD, Member


disability, attitudes about disability, inclusion, medical model of disability, social model of disability


The U.S. Department of Education defines students with disabilities as those having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more life activities. Previous research has found that students with disabilities placed in inclusive environments perform better academically and socially compared to students with disabilities who are placed in segregated environments. Yet, we know that inclusion in K-12 general education classrooms across the country is not consistently implemented.

The purpose of this study was to better understand the effects, if any, of general education high school teachers’ personal and professional experiences and knowledge on their attitudes toward educating students with disabilities within an inclusive learning environment. This study incorporated an explanatory sequential mixed methods approach. A survey was conducted with 173 teachers to gather quantitative data describing teachers’ attitudes, dispositions, and training, and then, in-depth interviews were conducted with a sub-sample of these teachers to better understand their preservice and inservice experience and knowledge about disability and inclusion.

Findings of the study showed that prior experience with disability, along with training and support in best practices during preservice credential programs and inservice practice shaped teachers’ attitudes toward inclusion and in some cases hindered the implementation of inclusion models. The extent to which teachers had disability well defined in their preservice program, received training on regularly modifying assignments for students with disabilities, were provided a safe space in classes for disability to be discussed, and trained in how to implement positive behavior supports (PBS) in class, were more positively disposed toward inclusion. Conversely, a lack of an accountability system(s) seems to undermine the extent to which the K-12 school system is consistently implementing a model of inclusion and providing the necessary support for students with a disability.

Overall, this study builds on our understanding of the issues that affect the implementation of inclusion and how best to support teachers in their efforts to support all students. This study has implications for those providing preservice to teachers and to school administrators who seek to support general education teachers’ disability inclusion efforts.

Keywords: disability, attitudes about disability, inclusion, medical model of disability, social model of disability

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Learning and Teaching