A case study of the supports that foster teachers’ awareness of students with disabilities experiencing homelessness

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Melissa Sullivan Walker (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Marcia Rock

Abstract: Students with disabilities experiencing homelessness are a growing and vulnerable population in the United States (Bassuk et al., 2014). They have a myriad of unique and complex needs, many of which teachers are ill prepared to meet. In this study, the researcher conducted a case study (Yin, 2014), set within the context of Ecological Systems Theory (EST; Bronfenbrenner, 1979), to investigate existing school and district level supports for teachers of students with disabilities experiencing homelessness, and teachers’ and other school personnel’s perceptions of those supports. The researcher interviewed six school and district level personnel, and analyzed several school and district level documents and web resources regarding homeless education to triangulate the data. Data were coded at three levels, the first two employing deductive logic and a priori codes based on the EST theoretical framework (Level I) and extant literature (Level II; Fereday & Muir-Cochrane, 2006). The third level of analysis was conducted using an inductive process, during which codes emerged from the data (Leech & Onwuegbuzie, 2007). Results from Level I coding indicated microsystem supports (to students and families) were provided most frequently, followed by exosystem supports (to teachers and other school professionals). Level II coding revealed teachers and other school professionals have drastically different perceptions of the absence or presence of teacher supports. Furthermore, the roles of teachers and other school professionals are concentrated on providing supports to students and families far more frequently than providing them to teachers. Level III analysis resulted in four overarching themes: homeless education norms, perceptions of the experience of homelessness, assumptions about teacher awareness and supports, and culture of support. While other school professionals often worked together formally and informally, they rarely involved teachers in their teams, but reported they provide adequate teacher support. The special educator’s perceptions indicated a lack of knowledge and support as well as a desire to improve both. Although the majority of participants held a deficit perspective of students with and without disabilities experiencing homelessness, overall they conveyed the importance of establishing a culture of support for those students and their families. Implications for future research include an investigation of the descriptive (the way things are done) and injunctive (the way things ought to be done) norms (Cialdini et al., 1990) within schools and districts. Specifically, the siloed nature of homeless education appears to be an emerging descriptive norm, when existing research supports homeless education ought to be carried out in a coordinated, team-based manner (i.e., injunctive). Professionals from other systems must be included in future research, as the norms from various systems can result in further contradictions. Similarly, additional investigations of rural homeless education are warranted to further unveil norms that impact the education of rural students with disabilities experiencing homelessness. Finally, considerations for practice include overhauling professional development to include teacher leadership and coaching as valid and sustainable options for improving the supports for teachers of students with and without disabilities experiencing homelessness.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
Homelessness, Teacher supports
Teachers of children with disabilities $x Services for
Teachers of homeless children $x Services for
Students with disabilities $x Services for
Homeless students $x Services for
Teacher-student relationships

Email this document to