Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Interdisciplinary Health Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Nickola W. Nelson

Second Advisor

Dr. Brooks Applegate

Third Advisor

Dr. Michele Anderson

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Patrick Bird


Elementary teams, special education, collaboration, reading disabilities, problem-solving teams


This dissertation focuses on interdisciplinary problem-solving teams used to address the academic needs of elementary students struggling with reading. Use of teams has a strong theoretical base and wide endorsement by educational leaders, but limited empirical base. Three studies explore teams that convene students of differing academic status: typical learners (TL), literacy-learning risk (LLR), or language-learning disability (LLD).

The first, a survey study of 183 elementary school personnel in 8 professional categories, examines perceptions of teams convened for students with identified learning disabilities in the area of reading, compared with students struggling but unidentified. Results indicate principals, general education teachers, and reading specialists have higher levels of participation prior to special education identification than after. Conversely, respondents reported greater participation post than pre identification for the roles of special education administrators, special education teachers, and social workers.

The second, a prospective study, examines responses from 26 general education teachers of grades 1 through 5 regarding communication event frequency, type, and attendance for students in three status groups. Results indicate a higher rate of informal communication events than formal for all groups, and more informal events for students in the LLR than the TL group. Special education teachers were present for significantly more events held for students in the LLD group than for students in the TL or LLR, and reading specialists and school psychologists were present for significantly more events for the LLR group than for the LLD.

The third, a study using data collected in study two, investigated differences in recommendations, particularly the addition and modification of an intervention. Results indicated a higher frequency of this recommendation reported for students in the LLD and LLR group than TL. Results also indicated that when this recommendation was made, variations existed in professional attendance for different student status groups.

These studies provide greater understanding of professional engagement in problem-solving teams for elementary students. With evidence in the literature to support professionals working together, results of these studies may inform school leadership of the current practices for school-based problem-solving teams and promote discussion of optimal team composition and frequency.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access