Date of Award

Fall 10-29-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Special Education - General Curriculum (Ed.D)



Committee Chair

Harriet Bessette, Ph.D

Committee Chair/First Advisor

Melissa Driver, Ph.D

Second Committee Member

Katie Bennett, Ph.D


The purpose of the present study was to understand the influence that transition planning had on the pursuit of postsecondary education based on the perceptions of students with disabilities. The present study was guided by the following research question: What factors related to transition planning support high school students with disabilities in their pursuit of postsecondary education? A qualitative research design involving case study methods was chosen for the six-month investigation. The essential reason for utilizing case study methods was to provide rich data using a smaller sample size of participants. The participants in the present study included three first-year college students with disabilities and one senior high school student with disabilities. Other participants included four (4) parents and two (2) lead high school special education teachers in the school district from which the students graduated. Data collection involved in-depth biographical interviews with student participants, open-ended interviews with students, parents, and lead special education teachers, document review, and student-generated visual representations. These multiple data sources were analyzed using the constant comparative method throughout the study. The constant comparative method of data analysis involves using information from data collection and comparing it to emerging themes. The Choice-Making model of the Social Cognitive Career Theory provided the framework upon which results were analyzed, findings were explicated, and assertions were formulated.

The five major assertions of this study are: (1) students with disabilities must have access to equitable opportunities to examine their postsecondary life options as do their typically developing peers by being provided critical guidance and support from their teachers; (2) this critical guidance and support needs to be offered through a comprehensive transition planning process that begins before the transition planning meeting and extends well into and beyond the transition planning meeting; (3) students with disabilities must be actively involved in the transition planning process in order to chart their own course in life post-high school; (4) parent involvement in the transition planning process is essential, but must be accompanied by coaching, encouragement, advising, and support by external stakeholders as well; and (5) collaboration by internal and external stakeholders in the transition planning process is essential if students with disabilities are to realize their postsecondary goals, particularly if those goals include postsecondary education.