Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Teaching & Learning


Statement of the problem. Variability within learning disability programs is a common problem with implications for all aspects of service delivery. This study was designed to analyze and describe inconsistencies in procedures for the identification of learning disabled students within Buffalo Valley Special Education Unit in central North Dakota.

Methods and procedures. A multiple case study approach was used within the framework of the naturalistic paradigm. A single case was defined as the identification and placement of students within the schools served by one learning disability teacher during the 1988-89 and 1989-90 academic years. Data collection was specific to the three stages of the identification process: pre-referral, diagnostic evaluation, and placement. Information was also gathered regarding student characteristics and caseload comparisons.

Data were presented in ten case studies. Beyond the descriptions of the individual cases, a cross case analysis was used to identify specific points of variance within the learning disability program.

Results. Variability in general philosophy and practice was identified across the ten case studies. Differences in the pre-referral systems were found to vary with the building rather than with the learning disability teacher. This was hypothesized to be related to the administrative style of the building administrator.

Cross case variability in diagnostic evaluation and placement procedures was found to correspond to four theoretical models of assessment: (a) behavioral, (b) educational, (c) psychoeducational, and (d) heuristic. Inter-case consistency was found between individual definitions of learning disabilities and choice of evaluation procedures, utilization of additional resource personnel, and criteria for eligibility.

Implications of the findings for service delivery are discussed. Recommendations are provided for the development of consistent identification procedures within Buffalo Valley Special Education Unit and across the state of North Dakota.