Date of Award

Summer 7-6-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Teacher Leadership (Ed.D)


Educational Leadership

Committee Chair

Dr. Harriet Bessette

First Committee Member

Dr. Leena Her

Second Committee Member

Dr. Patricia McHatton


The purpose of the study was to explore the intersection of critical thinking, teachers’ thought processes and values, and students with disabilities. More specifically, the researcher sought to reach a stronger understanding of how general and special educators’ decisions to explicitly and/or implicitly embed critical thinking into English course content for students with and without disabilities at the secondary level are influenced by teachers’ conceptualizations of critical thinking. The study utilized case study methods with four participants who teach in co-teaching pairs (i.e., a general and special educator who comprise the co-teaching partnership in 9th Lit, and a general and special educator who comprise the co-teaching partnership in Multicultural Lit), located within one high school in a suburban area of a major metropolitan city.

The overarching research question asks, How general and special educators’ conceptualizations of critical thinking influence their pedagogy for students with disabilities in secondary English inclusive classrooms? The three sub-questions embedded within the overarching research question were:

1) How do teachers define, understand, and view critical thinking? (theory-based)

2) How do teachers frame the aptitude and achievement of students with disabilities in light of their philosophies, ideologies, and attitudes and their conceptualizations of critical thinking? (theory-based)

3) How and when do teachers incorporate critical thinking into the classroom for students with disabilities? (practice-based)

In order to address these research questions, data were collected in the form of in-depth biographical and semi-structured interviews, classroom observations and informal conversations, and visual representations of critical thinking.

Cross-case analysis of the data illuminated four themes, with each theme situated in a unique educational context:

1) New problems exist with the old problems, in terms of the societal and institutional factors that influence student success and critical thinking

2) Teachers and students may practice critical thinking without theorizing it, which explores the conceptual underpinnings of critical thinking in the classroom

3) Within the walls of schools, teachers prepare students for life beyond the walls of schools, linking students from an educational context to a real-world context

4) In the context of academic achievement, not every student can reach the pre-established goal, but every student can reach a student-centered goal,

These assertions illuminated through data analysis reflect seemingly contradictory ideas. Yet, conceptualizing the study’s cross-case findings through the frame of these themes and these contexts speaks to the complexities in teachers’ ideologies and instructional practices for students with disabilities in secondary English inclusive classrooms, particularly regarding how teachers foster critical thinking for students with disabilities.