Department

Leadership

Date of Paper/Work

2021

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Leadership (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work

Dissertation

Advisors

Chien-Tzu Candace Chou, Aura Wharton-Beck, Laroye Lynn Stansberry Brusnahan

Abstract

ABSTRACT

School closures in March 2020 due to COVID-19 affected over one billion students worldwide (UNESCO, 2020). Stay-home orders issued across multiple regions required schools to shift to a distance learning model for the remainder of the school year. As the health pandemic advanced into the following school year, special educators continued to navigate multiple changes in programming and their professional duties. This mixed methods study aimed to examine how special education teachers in one mid-western state described the impact of the Coronavirus Disease -19 (COVID-19) pandemic on their work and the provision of special education services to their students.

This longitudinal study began at the onset of the health pandemic (spring 2020) by analyzing statewide survey results and follow up interviews. The survey revealed multiple practices for specialized programming, including new uses of technology and teachers' positive coping approaches to deal with the rapid shift to distance learning. Interviews expose a deeper understanding of the multiple changes in the work of special educators, including online technologies, various methods for interaction, a dependency on others to provide specialized services using a distance learning model, and difficulties with work-life balance.

The study continued into the 2020 – 2021 school year by examining the experiences of four special educators during the ongoing health pandemic. Participants reported significant incidents using a structured monthly logging tool. They also engaged in three open-ended interviews throughout the school year (fall, winter, and spring) to narrate their experiences, frustrations, and insights. Findings feature four case studies and expose themes of the extra-ordinary workload and the value of collegial support during pandemic programming.

A comprehensive analysis of the phenomenon reveals indicators of cumulative organizational trauma due to the COVID-19 restrictions and required changes in special education programming. This in-depth study exposes the susceptible position of special educators as they faced the work necessary during pandemic programming and the negative patterns resulting within the work culture. Recommendations include an organizational stance for reimagining and restructuring systems to enhance special education teacher retention and student learning outcomes.

KEYWORDS: health pandemic, special education programming, online learning, special education paperwork, special education workload, collegial support, organizational trauma

Keywords

health pandemic, special education programming, online learning, special education paperwork, special education workload, collegial support, organizational trauma

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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