Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2011

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Teaching and Learning

First Advisor

Hendrickson, Jo M

Second Advisor

Woods-Groves, Suzanne

First Committee Member

Bartlett, Larry

Second Committee Member

Depew, David

Third Committee Member

Fielding, Linda


This is an ethnographic case study of the inclusion of a fifteen-year-old male with severe disabilities in general education classes in a four-year high school in a medium-sized Midwestern city. The study took place during the student's freshman and sophomore years. The investigator interviewed 17 of the participants in the student's inclusion; administrators, special education staff, general education teachers, and parents--accumulating over 450 pages of transcribed interviews in the process. She spent five days in field observation of the student's general education classes and other school activities--all recorded in substantial on-site notes--and had access to relevant documents concerning the student in the school's files. The NVivo 8 computer software was used to code the data. A Story of High School Inclusion: An Ethnographic Case Study examines these questions: How did parents and professionals (e.g., school administrators, special education staff, general education teachers, state-level special education consultants) involved in the process of the inclusion of a student with severe disabilities in general education high school classes define inclusion? How did they characterize their attitudes toward it? What role did each of them play in preparing for the student's inclusion? How did each of them describe their part in the process of the student's inclusion? Do the accounts of those individuals involved in the inclusion of the student with severe disabilities align or do they suggest tensions? What was the impact of these alignments or tensions on the inclusion process? All the participants interviewed in the study agreed with and supported the idea of inclusion; however, except for the parents, those expressions of agreement and support were typically followed with a "but" that led on to a variety of reservations and qualifications. Preparation for the student's inclusion in high school was thorough, consisting in a series of comprehensive meetings involving all parties with a role in the student's inclusion--even to the point of seeking the input of those who had worked with the student in junior high school. During the day-to-day implementation of these plans, the student's general education teachers were pleased with his comprehension of, and participation in, the academic material. However, the paraeducator was often observed to be filling an instructional role that properly belonged to the qualified teacher. Moreover, her presence had a compromising effect on the student's social interactions. A two-way matrix was created to discover areas of agreement and disagreement among the parties to the student's inclusion. These rich data reveal that there was broad agreement among all the school participants, academic and administrative, but that strong tensions arose between the student's parents and the school personnel. These results suggest that families and schools may concur at a philosophical level regarding inclusion, but disagree at the implementation level, resulting in tensions and conflicts that might be prevented or ameliorated by more open and direct communication.


high school, inclusion, qualitative methods


vi, 244 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 224-244).


Copyright 2011 Ann Marie McKee

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