Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Special Education and Literacy Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Whitten

Second Advisor

Dr. Luchara Wallace, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Dr. Brett Geier


Professional development, decision-making, new special education teacher, special education teacher, district administrator, professional learning


New special education teachers face an abundance of challenges from day one that directly correlate to student outcomes (i.e. classroom management, instruction, curriculum, school culture and operations, test preparation and administration, state standards, parent relations, and interactions with other teachers). District administrators, (i.e. superintendents, assistant superintendents, curriculum and instruction directors, directors of student services, special education directors, and special education supervisors) play an important role in determining how to best use their districts' professional development time and resources to support new special education teachers as they work to continually improve student outcomes. Therefore, professional development should be a purposeful endeavor. To better understand this issue, this study explored the decision-making process of district administrators regarding three key aspects of professional development: planning, implementation, and evaluation. To gather data, district administrators who play a role in professional development decision-making, in Michigan’s top 25 traditional public-school districts, were surveyed. Five of the surveyed administrators were interviewed. Furthermore, district and state guiding documents were selected and analyzed. Descriptive survey data, transcribed interviews, and selected documents were analyzed. Through coding, theming, and triangulation, the results were then compared for points of convergence and divergence. Themes discovered in the data include: the impact of policy on decision-making, the impact of accountability on decision-making, effective methods currently used, barriers to or supports for new teacher professional development, and effective evaluation practices regarding professional development. These findings are useful for identifying and understanding current practices and strategies for optimal planning, implementation, and evaluation of professional development for new special education teachers.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access