Award Date

May 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational & Clinical Studies

First Committee Member

Joseph Morgan

Second Committee Member

Cori More

Third Committee Member

Tracy Spies

Fourth Committee Member

Chyllis Scott

Number of Pages



The demands on schools, teachers, and students continue to increase as greater accountability measures are put into place at all levels. For teachers to meet these increased demands, it is important that they be provided opportunities to improve and enhance their content knowledge and pedagogy. One way to ensure the provision of these opportunities for teachers is through professional development. There is significant evidence that professional development can improve instructional practice and student outcomes (Drago-Severson, 1994; Garet et al., 2001; Guskey, 2000; Sparks & Loucks-Horsley, 1989; Wei et al., 2010; Zhang et al., 2015). However, there continues to be a gap between what is learned during professional development and what gets implemented in the classroom to change instructional practices.

Much of the existing research on teacher professional development has identified the structures and content that predict the effectiveness of professional development activities. However, much of the existing research focuses specifically on general education teachers rather than special education teachers, or does not specify the population of teachers it has targeted. Additionally, much of the existing research has not focused on the impact professional development activities have on classroom environments. Before the field of education can answer urgent questions related to the effectiveness of professional development and why there is a gap between learning and classroom implementation, access to evidence-based models of professional development must be determined. The focus of this study was to identify the differences in access to various models of professional development between general education and special education teachers.

This study was conducted using an online survey that asked general and special education teachers to report their perceived access to evidence-based models of professional development, participation in evidence-based evaluation methods, and their perceived impact of professional development activities on their practice. Analysis of the results indicated that overall, neither

group reported high levels of participation in the models of professional development known to change instructional practice and outcomes for students. In only one category was there a statistically significant difference between groups. It was reported that special education teachers reported significantly more opportunities for professional development in teaching students with disabilities than general education teachers.

This study contributed to a gap in the literature related to the access special education teachers have to professional development as compared to general education teachers. Specifically, it addressed what models of professional development general education and special education teachers report participating in, what evaluation methods they are participating in related to professional development, and their self-reported perceptions about the impact professional development has on their learning and the learning outcomes of their students.


effective; evidence-based; growth; high quality; learning; pedagogy


Special Education and Teaching

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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