Special Education ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 4-27-2020


In this study, I used a case-based narrative inquiry to investigate the literacy narratives and the thinking about instructional practices of four teachers of students with complex support needs (CSN) from a small, rural school district in the Southwestern United States. I conducted initial and follow-up interviews and facilitated two focus groups across an eight-week period using a process designed to look at teacher narratives across time and after interactions with peers. My data were in the form of transcripts of all interviews and focus groups that I analyzed using two analytic processes: thematic and narrative (Polkinghorne, 1995). I described three themes that emerged from the thematic analysis: Writing instruction is inherently different for students with CSN; Relating to literate others; and Learning to teach. I also used an exploratory narrative analysis process to make meaning of the literacy narratives of one of this study’s participants. Results pointed toward the ways that teacher literacy narratives reveal their underlying assumptions about literacy for students with and without CSN and their thinking about instructional practices for students with CSN.

I discussed the limitations of this study, possibilities for future research, and implications including the potential use of a process of sharing literacy narratives in pre- and in-service training to shift practice toward more inclusive and comprehensive literacy instruction for students with CSN.


literacy, literacy instruction, narrative inquiry, teachers, decision-making, students with complex support needs

Document Type




Degree Name

Special Education

Level of Degree


Department Name

Special Education

First Committee Member (Chair)

Susan Copeland, PhD

Second Committee Member

Ruth Luckasson, JD

Third Committee Member

Julia Scherba de Valenzuela, PhD

Fourth Committee Member

Jan Armstrong, PhD