Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Dr. Stephen Truscott

Second Advisor

Dr. Jane Brack

Third Advisor

Dr. Catherine Perkins

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Diane Truscott


Students with disabilities (SWDs) continue to struggle with schooling and beyond. While strong instruction and evidence-based practices can substantially improve outcomes for SWDs, many special education teachers (SETs) are not prepared to implement the changes necessary to achieve these results. Professional learning (PL) has been prioritized by legislators, educators, and researchers as an intervention to improve instructional practices of SETs. While Learning Forward (2011) has presented the Standards of Professional Learning, little information is available on how these evidence-based standards align to the needs of special education and account for SETs’ unique preparation and roles. This study employed Q-Methodology, which is a structured study of human subjectivity, to explore SETs’ and special education PL providers’ (PLPs’) perceptions about the important factors of effective SET PL, which was defined as participants learning and then using the PL content in their school setting. This study asked, “What do SETs and special education PLPs believe are the most and least important factors to SETs successfully using the content from their PL experiences in their school setting?” to identify and describe the participants’ perspectives and explicate possible patterns related to their specific roles. Results of the Q methodology indicated three distinct factors emerged for both Consumers (i.e., SET participants) and Providers (i.e., special education PLP participants), providing similarities and differences between audience and provider viewpoints. All participants perceived successful SETs’ PL included being based on SETs’ SWDs’ needs, incorporating active engagement and sustained implementation support, and requiring participation (i.e., no choice). Within the Consumers’ perspectives, there was little concern for the larger district, as they attributed successful PL largely to its applicability to SETs’ SWDs and classroom needs. They were most interested in specific interventions, adequate time for implementation (i.e., not training), and leadership support for collaboration with general education teachers. The Providers’ beliefs emphasized SETs’ PL fitting into the overall educational system (i.e., context; e.g., school, district). Providers were primarily interested in adequate school resources and support, leaderships’ involvement, facilitators’ expertise, and modifying the PL to meet school/district needs. Results are discussed and implications for future directions in research and practice are suggested.