Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Psychology and Research

Major Professor

John M. Peters

Committee Members

Pamela Angelle, Melinda Gibbons, Mary Ziegler


The purpose of this study was to investigate whether education professionals’ theories-in-use were congruent with their espoused theories (Argyris & Schön, 1974) regarding the inclusion of parents as team decision-making partners in the initial special education eligibility meeting of individualized education programming (IEP) teams. Particular attention was given to procedural practices education professionals used to include parents as decision-making partners and their descriptions of this practice.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates the inclusion of parents as members of IEP teams, including their right to participate in the special education eligibility decision. Research supports the inclusion of parents as essential members of IEP teams, and their active participation is reported as pivotal for their children’s positive educational and social outcomes. Local education agency (LEA) representatives, special education teachers, and school psychologists are responsible for including parents in eligibility decision-making; thus they were the focus of this study.

A total of 24 education professionals in eight schools from three Southeastern school districts constituted the research participants. Participants were observed in initial eligibility meetings and responded to a questionnaire and interview questions with descriptions of their procedural practices. Findings showed that education professionals’ described practices were more aligned to federal requirements than were their actual practices. Findings also showed that a subgroup of participants, LEA representatives, had limited knowledge of special education procedures.

Implications of the study include the need for additional training designed to strengthen education professionals’ alignment of actual and espoused theories, particularly in the area of including parents as team decision-making partners.

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