Date of Award

Spring 5-16-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Barbara Hill

Second Advisor

Darrell Groves

Third Advisor

Trevor Turner


The purpose of this qualitative case study was to investigate the factors that affect the learning needs and outcomes of students with special needs in an inclusive setting, such as: leadership style, student discipline, parental involvement, professional development, teacher collaboration, administrative support, influence of peers, student ability grouping, class size and attendance. A principal, assistant principal, special education coordinator, teachers and other individuals that have leadership roles within the school community were interviewed, documents were analyzed and observations were made in order to acquire information concerning the learning needs and outcomes of the special needs students within their school. This type of research involves emerging questions and procedures, data analysis inductively building from particulars to general themes, and the researcher interpreting the data (Creswell, 2008). The results of this study will hopefully influence and assist school leaders and teachers’ efforts to promote students’ academic success within inclusive classrooms. This research focuses on an elementary school that has inclusion in every classroom. The findings from this research will provide teachers, students and educational leaders with an opportunity for understanding how students placed in special education can achieve.

One elementary school in the eastern region of the United States was used in this study. This school is a pre-kindergarten through fifth grade school that has been implementing inclusion for many years. Every classroom has a regular education teacher, special education teacher and a paraprofessional. There are 22 regular education teachers, 24 special education teachers, and 15 paraprofessionals. The school is located in an urban area. The students come from diverse backgrounds. This school has a large percentage of students with special needs. The school was restructured 10 years earlier and currently has a partnership with a special education center so that students with special needs can be educated in an inclusive setting. The time frame for this research project was two months.

The findings of this study add supporting evidence to the influence of the independent variables. The results of this study show that the researcher identified four dominant themes that appeared during the interviews, the data review and the observations. Professional development, teacher collaboration, influence of peers, and parental involvement were the common themes that support the importance of the independent variables on factors that have an impact on the learning needs and outcomes of students with special needs in an inclusive setting.