Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Christine E. Ashby


Disability Studies in Education, Teacher Education, Teacher Identity, Teacher Resistance

Subject Categories



This dissertation explored the experiences and perspectives of eleven classroom teachers who self-identify and commit to disability studies in their practices in their current roles as teachers in k-12 schools. The study uncovered the lived experience of what it means to take on a disability studies in education (DSE) identity, including the particular pedagogical methods and strategies that these teachers assigned to and named as DSE. Through phenomenological interviewing, participant’s experiences around practicing their identities were recorded and analyzed. The data collected offers a glimpse into how a DSE identity manifests itself within today’s schools, including the complicated and complex personal experiences working within, along with talking back to and reframing the system (of special education and public education). Overall, the study describes the interplay between the meanings that participants confer to their individual ideological commitments, alongside the heightened demands of normative performance that the standards and accountability-based reform has established within today’s schools. In particular, the study focuses on the small and nuanced ways participants have taken up critical practices in order to maintain a DSE identity within their schools and classrooms. Their experiences converged and diverged at various points and their stories were both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Overall, however, they represent the continued labor that critical educators must engage in to maintain a positive sense of self and enact their pedagogical beliefs as educators. In sharing their stories, I hope to provide a glimpse into how these educators conceptualized and experienced DSE in relation to their professional and personal lives.


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