Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Psychological and Social Foundations

Major Professor

José Castillo, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Amanda March, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Roger Boothroyd, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kahlila Lawrence, Ph.D.


MTSS, professional learning, RtI, sensemaking, systems change


This qualitative inquiry explored district-based educators’ sensemaking of an ongoing, statewide professional learning series focused on special education eligibility for students with specific learning disabilities (SLD) using a response-to-intervention (RtI) approach within a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS). Specifically, the professional learning series was designed as a community of practice (CoP; Lave & Wenger, 1991) with both face-to-face and virtual activities. The professional learning series was in its second year of implementation and educators in the first two cohorts (Cohort 1 and Cohort 2) of the series were the participants in this study. The theoretical framework of sensemaking (Weick, 1995) was explored in this context. This study used individual exploratory interviews with participants to understand their experiences making sense of the design, delivery, and content of the learning, as well as how they made sense of MTSS implementation and eligibility decision making in their schools and districts. Field notes and document analysis were used to contextualize the findings and themes derived from the interviews. Seven themes illustrate how the characteristics of sensemaking and organizational facilitators (Maitlis & Sonenshein, 2010; Weick, 1988; 1995) operated in educators’ professional learning for RtI eligibility and systems change efforts within their districts. Findings from this inquiry contribute to the literature on educators’ sensemaking processes within professional learning opportunities focused on multi-tiered systems and decision-making. The findings also revealed how sensemaking and professional learning were enacted in their educational systems through changes to local policy, procedures, and practices.

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