Administrative Support for Special Education Teachers: A Phenomenological Study

Administrative Support for Special Education Teachers: A Phenomenological Study

Author: 
Janet B. Hodges
Program of study: 
Ed.D.
Abstract: 
The purpose of the current qualitative phenomenological study was to gain a better understanding of the experiences regarding administrative support perceived by special education teachers and the influence of administrative support, if at all, on their career decisions. There is a lack of understanding regarding administrative support perceived by special education teachers and the role of administrative support on career decisions. Twenty special education teachers were interviewed using a semi-structured open-ended interview protocol, which allowed textual data to be collected and analyzed. The seven step modification of the van Kaam method of analysis for phenomenological data and NVivo 10 software (www.qsrinternational.com) tool were used to identify and code five major themes. The five themes that emerged from the interview data included; 1. open communication and respect, 2. collaborative work environment, 3. commitment to teaching students, 4. job satisfaction, and 5. feeling valued in the job. The themes were valuable to the understanding of the participants’ perceptions of administrative support influencing their career decisions. The findings support and add to the current literature that providing administrative support may increase the retention of special education teachers, however, administrative support continues to involve complex factors. Recommendations are made for principals and other school leaders. Educational leaders should develop principal preparation programs that include extensive professional development to better understand the job role and required supports of a special education teacher.
Dedication: 
I dedicate this dissertation to my husband, Marcus. You always stepped in when I needed you most, kept me from giving up during my Research Statistics course, and checked in on me during those late nights. For that, I am forever grateful and love you even more. Although there were many personal challenges faced during this experience, I truly believe it has made us stronger. Thank you to my children, Justen, Rachel, and Noelle who reminded me to maintain a balance between work, school, and family life. I am honored to have them in my life. I would also like to dedicate this dissertation to my father, John, and my mother, Shirley, who always inspired me to have a love and desire for life-long learning. I want to say a special “thank you” to my siblings, Karen, Janis, Jill and Faisal, for always cheering me on. Finally, I dedicate this study to my extended family and friends for their encouragement and genuine support.
Acknowledgements: 
I would like to thank first and foremost, God, my Creator, for allowing me to remain humble, patient, and resilient throughout my dissertation journey. I want to thank my husband, Marcus, for always encouraging me to “stay the course” and to never give up on this journey. I want to thank my family and friends for all of their prayers and kind words. I would also like to acknowledge my “Grandma Lucy,” who left this life at the age of 92 during my doctoral journey. She reminded me of how important our life choices can be and the impact on “who we choose to become.” I want to thank my Chair, Dr. Wanda Arnaud Simmons and my committee members Dr. Yvonne Hefner and Dr. Louiseann Richter, who devoted a great deal of time to provide guidance and much needed feedback throughout the dissertation process. A special thanks to Dr. Simmons who offered ongoing support and encouragement from my very first doctoral residency in northern Virginia. Your kindness will always be remembered. I will continue to, as you would say, “press on.” I would like to give a special thank you to Dr. Richter for stepping in at the last minute and easing my stress level. Acknowledgments are extended to the 20 Virginia area special education teachers who participated in the study. Special education teachers are truly the “heroes” in our education system. Without your participation, this dissertation would not have been possible. Finally, I want to thank the education leaders who allowed me to conduct the study within the selected school division.