Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Tom J Ward

Committee Member

Megan Tschannen-Moran

Committee Member

Margaret Constantino


This study investigated how teachers’ perceptions of students demonstrating challenging behaviors are influenced by the cause of the behavior. This study measured teacher perceptions of how successful a student would be in general education, the impact a student would have on the class, and the teachers’ self-efficacy to support a student across five different attributions for challenging behavior: (a) an intellectual disability, (b) a negative attitude toward school, (c) an emotional and behavioral disability, (d) a history of trauma, and (e) autism. In Virginia, students with disabilities are disproportionately suspended, and additional inequities exist in access to an inclusive education between disability categories. For this study, kindergarten through 12th grade teachers (n = 205) from across Virginia participated in a survey with a randomized comparative experimental design using short vignettes to hold the type and intensity of the challenging behavior constant while varying the attribution. Following the survey, seven individual teacher interviews were conducted to investigate further the constructs identified. Findings showed teacher perceptions and self-efficacy may be influenced by the attribution for the student’s behavior, and teachers may have a negative implicit bias toward students with emotional and behavioral disorders, which may influence inequitable access to general education. Discussion around possible mediating factors and recommendations for future research are included, along with implications for educational leaders and policy makers who are seeking to support schools and teachers as they improve inclusive education for all students.



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