Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Educational Leadership

Major Professor

William R. Black, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

David Hoppey, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ann Cranston-Gingras, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Judith Ponticell, Ph.D.


Disability, Inclusion, Poststructuralism, Discourse, Special Education


This poststructural study utilizes Foucault’s theories of power/knowledge nexus and disciplinary power to explore the discursive formation of inclusion of a district level Exceptional Student Education leadership team in order to understand how the discourses are constructed, practices are normalized, and power relations are legitimized. This type of analysis interrogated the assumptive groundings of special education in the district, and how these have been taken-for-granted and normalized in the professional knowledge, policies, and practices of the field. Data from multiple sources: semi-structured interviews, observations, multimodal forms of communication, observation journal, and researcher reflexive journal produced findings within four dominant discourses---the philosophical understanding of inclusion discourse, the contextual discourse, the politics of leading discourse, and the logistics of inclusive schooling discourse. The normative understanding of inclusion within this district is anchored in a structure of difference, emphasized through ability. The areas of commonalities among and within these discourses, where tensions and contradictions lie, include the continuum of segregating spaces, the utility of the academic achievement frame, and the necessity of specialists and professionalized knowledge. Future research may entail exploring a radical restructuring of inclusive education, and conducting non-traditional qualitative studies that focus on the relational power dynamics and decision-making processes among district administrators. Implications for practice are also discussed.