Date of Award

January 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education, Health & Behavior Studies

First Advisor

Kari Chiasson

Second Advisor

Patti Mahar


Inclusive education is one of the most complex and demanding reforms in schools today. How school systems are structured may account for the many difficulties schools are having in strengthening, sustaining, and expanding inclusive education. Co-teaching is an instructional delivery method that offers a promising practice towards successful inclusive education. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to examine the perspectives of co-teachers actively engaged in expanding the practice of co-teaching to help leaders strengthen, sustain, and expand effective inclusive education for students with disabilities.

Complexity theory provided the theoretical framework to explore how the co-teachers interacted and self-organized when faced with the complex phenomenon of improving and sustaining inclusive education in a school system. Data were gathered through semi-structured interviews with thirteen participants. The following four textural themes emerged: (a) participants believed in the philosophy of inclusive education, (b) participants experienced personal and professional growth, (c) quality of instruction improved as the result of co-teaching, and (d) participants perceived relationships were key to their success as co-teachers. The following three structural elements needed to strengthen, sustain, and expand inclusive education merged: (a) improved communication, (b) administrative support, and (c) administrative commitment. These themes are discussed and examined for the implication they hold for school personnel who are developing successful, sustainable, inclusive programs.