Date of Award

Fall 12-15-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education & Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Catherine O'Callaghan, PhD

Second Advisor

Jan Harting-McChesney, EdD

Third Advisor

Melissa Jenkins, EdD


The purpose of this study was to understand special education teachers’ perceptions of their preparedness to teach students with learning disabilities in urban schools, particularly in relation to their expectations based on their teacher preparation programs. This study also examined special educators’ perceptions of self-efficacy to teach students with learning disabilities, and experiences they identified as rewarding and challenging in their urban settings. This multiple case study took place in a large urban school district in the northeast United States in February to May 2019. Participants consisted of 34 special education teachers who completed a demographic survey and the Teaching Students with Disabilities Efficacy Scale. Six of these special education teachers participated in semi-structured interviews and open-ended reflective prompts. Five themes emerged from the analysis about special education teachers with a strong sense of self-efficacy: (a) They participated in teacher preparation programs that varied in requirements, support, and perceived value; (b) They recalled having varying perceptions of their preparedness for teaching upon the completion of their teacher preparation programs; (c) They readily identified specific challenges and rewards in their teaching positions; (d) The majority of special education teachers did not feel exceptional learner ready on day one for student behaviors; and (e) They received support from various sources in their teaching career. The significance of each theme and its implications for education and research were discussed.