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Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Pamela Scott

Committee Members

William Flora, Virginia Foley


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore educator understanding of concepts in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), utilizing qualitative research methods to comprehensively examine educators’ understanding of IDEA using the six facets of understanding in the Understanding by Design framework. Educators must adhere to laws governing educating students with disabilities; therefore, it is essential to capture educators’ level of understanding related to IDEA. The twelve participants interviewed were educators currently licensed and qualified in Tennessee to serve in the roles of: special education supervisor, principal, general education teacher or special education teacher.

Data collection strategies included individual interviews via phone. Responses were first organized by research questions and corresponding responses. Responses were then examined for key words and phrases that aligned with the six principles of IDEA. Then, emergent themes were identified and analyzed within the six facets of understanding framework. The credibility of the analysis was protected by use of the constant-comparative method, as well as coding and member checking.

Analysis of the data revealed that participants understood the spirit of IDEA, but the level of understanding necessary to be able to apply IDEA concepts was dependent on participants’ specific job responsibilities. Furthermore, research indicated that educators’ personal college preparation experience failed to consistently provide an adequate foundation related to defining and applying IDEA concepts in learning environments for students with disabilities. Participants who possessed the most comprehensive understanding of IDEA were those who had familial ties to students with disabilities. Educators’ understanding of the proper application of IDEA came from on-the-job experiences, which would help to explain why understanding of IDEA was largely dependent upon educators’ specific job functions.

Document Type

Dissertation - restricted


Copyright by the authors.