Theses Doctoral

Narratives of Teachers Labeled with Learning Disabilities: An Exploration of their Personal and Professional Experiences

Harrington-Knopf, Janice Marie

This narrative inquiry explored the schooling and professional experiences of seven teachers who were labeled with learning disabilities, and how those experiences affected their career decisions, teaching strategies, as well as relationships with their students, families, and friends. Their stories also challenged the associated stigmas and societal beliefs about who can be a teacher. The methodology incorporated semi-structured interviews, classroom observations, field notes, and member checks to explore the teachers’ constructed meanings of their experiences and beliefs.

This research was undergirded by Disability Studies in Education (DSE), along with the theory of complex embodiment. The purpose of incorporating these theoretical perspectives was to challenge normalizing dominant narratives and to advance the problematization and redefinition of disability as simply a matter of human variation.

The findings highlighted three themes. They included: embracing the “Theory of Complex Embodiment”; residual emotions and feelings of (in)competence; and their decisions to disclose their learning disability labels, masquerade as a subjugated identity, or conceal their labels and pass. The participants also described the teaching strategies they utilized with their students and themselves. Following analysis, recommendations were made for both teachers labeled with learning disabilities and students enrolled in special education programs.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Naraian, Srikala
Wong, Jean YiChin
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
October 25, 2023