Stephen Isaacson

Date of Award

Winter 3-4-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership: Special and Counselor Education


Special Education

Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 191 pages)


Learning disabled teenagers -- Identification -- Evaluation, Special education teachers -- Attitudes, Special education teachers -- Interviews, Teenagers -- Intelligence testing, Resource programs (Education)




Researchers have described the special education identification process for students with specific learning disabilities (SLD) as "muddled and confused" (Bocian, Beebe, MacMillan, & Gresham, 1999) and "haphazard" and "capricious" (Shinn, 2007, p. 603). Bocian, Beebe, MacMillan, and Gresham (1999) proposed the theory of competing paradigms as a way to explain why researchers and school-based eligibility teams identify different groups of students as SLD. This qualitative study had two research questions: a) To what extent did interviews of secondary resource teachers reveal the concepts of relativity, acceptability, and profitability as they reflect on the SLD process? and b) What other themes regarding SLD eligibility determination emerged from interviews with secondary resource teachers? Utilizing the modified constant comparative method (Lincoln & Guba, 1985), the author revealed that there was moderate support for the paradigms of relativity and acceptability, but less support for the paradigm of profitability. In addition, the author identified other themes, such as difficulties with evaluating English language learners and the benefit of case management, that can be used to expand Bocian’s theory. The author also argued that the paradigms overlap with one another during the special education identification process, rather than proceeding in a sequential order. Finally, the author discussed the implications of her findings in terms of improving school-based and policy practices.

Persistent Identifier