School of Education


Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction (EdD)


Barbara A. White


inclusion, phenomenology, social acceptance, students with disabilities


Education | Special Education and Teaching


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to describe the lived experience of inclusion for students with disabilities regarding the practice of inclusion at a rural middle school in Southwest Virginia. The theories guiding this study were Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory of cognitive development and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The central research question for the study was: What are the shared lived experiences of students with disabilities in an inclusion classroom? Other questions addressed social and academic experiences of students with disabilities in inclusion classrooms. The study took place in intermediate and middle schools in rural Southwest Virginia. Purposeful sampling was used to select a group of students with disabilities that could provide information. The sample included thirteen, fifth through eighth grade students between the ages of 10 and 14. Data were collected through individual interviews, observations in the inclusion classroom, and a focus group of students with disabilities, which allowed triangulation. The researcher examined the data for themes regarding the lived experience of inclusion for students with disabilities in fourth through eighth grades. Analysis of the data provided three themes including, relationships, equity, and acceptance. The major factor that contributed to the success of inclusion and feelings of social acceptance and academic gains among the participants was the attitude of the teacher. The participants described feeling accepted and achieving success academically due to their teachers’ positive attitudes. In addition, the participants described the learning atmosphere and described the different strategies implemented by the teachers to help them succeed.