Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Special Education

Major Professor

Ann Cranston-Gingras

Co-Major Professor

Jeannie Kleinhammer-Tramill

Keywords

Catholic education, Catholic Social Teaching, secondary education, students with disabilities, teacher perceptions and responses

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine how secondary Catholic school teachers perceived problem behavior exhibited by students with or without disabilities based on their theological philosophy. Using the methods identified in grounded theory, seven secondary Catholic school teachers were interviewed to gain an understanding of the extent to which a theological philosophy was reflected in their perceptions, responses, and policies towards behavior challenges/problems. In order to conceptualize and contextualize the notion of a "theological philosophy," this study utilized three tenets of Catholic Social Teaching (dignity of the human person, common good, and preferential option for the poor and vulnerable) and the notion of hospitality to the stranger.

The majority of teachers perceived behaviors showing a lack of respect towards themselves or peers as what they considered to be a behavior problem with few teachers discussing incidences of behavior that were exhibited by students with disabilities. Many teachers responded to behavior verbally as well as believed they had a role in providing interventions or support for behavior problems, and while this was the case, not all teachers differentiated behavior consequences for students with disabilities. School policies were found to inform more how secondary Catholic school teachers responded to behavior challenges/problems with teachers citing factors that affected how they implemented the school policies. The notion of a theological philosophy was found to be reflected in these teachers' perceptions and responses in relation to the dignity of the human person and common good tenets of Catholic Social Teaching with teachers believing the notion of a theological philosophy was not reflected to a great extent within school policies.

Findings from this study point to the individuality of the teacher. While these seven teachers taught within the context of a secondary Catholic school, each brought to their practice their own beliefs, expectations, and faith. Consequently, this affected not only how they perceived and responded to behavior challenges/problems, but the extent to which a theological philosophy was reflected in their perceptions and responses towards behavior challenges/problems.

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