The purpose of this study was to explore the understanding and implementation of inclusive practices by elementary school principals and special education teachers in school systems in the Southeastern region of the United States. Tied to this purpose was the intent to investigate whether their espoused beliefs were consistent with their practices. These purposes were achieved through the lens of the theoretical framework, Theories-of-Action (Argyris & Schön, 1974).
A multi-site, instrumental, qualitative case study design using three sites provided the opportunity to examine the phenomenon under exploration. The overall intent of this study was instrumental. Elementary schools with full continuums of special education services from systems in the southeastern United States were selected purposely for the study. Nineteen participants included 5 administrators and 14 special education teachers. Semi-structured, one-on-one interviews (audio taped), documents, administrator survey, structured observations, and field notes provided appropriate data sources for information collected between January and May 2008.
Themes that developed based on data analysis suggested that participants expressed philosophical perspectives regarding inclusion that posit that students with disabilities have a human right to opportunities for participation in the general education curriculum. Further, data indicated that implementing inclusive practices within schools vary and is highly influenced by the beliefs and actions of administrators and other stakeholders. Implications for improving district and school implementation practices and for future research are discussed.