Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Tamara J. Williams


Teachers are the single most important factor in student learning, including the learning of students who receive special education services. Most students with disabilities are included in the general education classroom but general education teachers often express feeling underprepared to meet their diverse needs. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore the experiences of general education teachers in a traditional high school environment who are highly effective in serving students with special education needs in hopes of finding commonalities that could be replicated for other teachers. In this study, six positive deviant general education teachers participated in interviews and observations which were transcribed and coded. Thematic analysis indicated highly effective general education teachers care about and build relationships with all students, collaborate, and learn from their robust experiences serving students with disabilities. These findings indicate that school leaders should invest in developing general education teachers’ abilities to collaborate, communicate, demonstrate kindness and build relationships. Additionally, all six of the teachers in this study credited their effectiveness to their past experiences serving students with challenging needs, teaching classes with a large number of students with special education needs enrolled, and attending IEP meetings. In fact, 40.9% of all final interview data and 24.2% of all final observation data proved this to be a major theme in the research. Therefore, all general education teachers need hands-on experience serving students with special education needs and attending IEP meetings in order to build their capacity to better serve all learners.


A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate College at the University of Nebraska in Partial Fulfillment of Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Education. Copyright 2020 Paige Gill.

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