Graduation Date


Document Type

Master's Thesis


Master of Science



Program Director

Jennifer Lucko, PhD

First Reader

Matthew Davis, PhD

Second Reader

Zoe Bartholomew, EdD


The purpose of this research was to understand how teachers’ knowledge and practice of social-emotional learning (SEL) in the classroom correlates to feelings of empowerment and “participation” in school settings for students with disabilities. Research has shown that SEL interventions for students has correlated with positive school outcomes including social acceptance, problem solving skills, stress management, and academic success (Feuerborn & Tyre, 2009); and that emotional support and instructional management are both very important aspects of creating a positive classroom environment for students (Hughes & Koplan, 2018). This study included interviews with a sample of six participants, composed of four individuals within the field of education and two parents of students with disabilities. Interviews with participants revealed the importance of building intrinsic motivation to do well, that the quality of relationship between teacher and student leads students with disabilities to be more likely to take academic risks, and how the behavioral aptitude available through SEL creates the conditions for students with disabilities to feel like they are “fitting in.” The findings of this research have implications for teachers’ practice in developing meaningful connections with their students to increase self-confidence, student participation, and intrinsic strengths.

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