Date of Award

Spring 2004

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Scott Fletcher


This qualitative case study investigated the effectiveness of inclusive physical education for two third grade students with severe disabilities utilizing a social constructionist framework. In the first class, one student was identified as having significant language based challenges. The second class included a child with severe cerebral palsy.

Four levels of relations were identified: systemic relations, group relations, conjoint relations and internal others. Each focused on specific areas within the school and the classroom that contributed to the construction of disability. Data were collected from three primary sources: interviews, participant-observer, and document review. Boyzaitis's (1998) five-step process was utilized in the data analysis through the constant comparative method of coding the multiple data sources in developing the emerging theory (Merriam, 1998; Strauss & Corbin, 1998).

At the systemic level, administrators expressed views of disability and displayed practices grounded in the legal changes of PL94-142 and ensuing processes that occurred as students with disabilities were integrated into the public schools. Teachers and paraprofessionals within the group relations of the classroom expressed social, environmental, and academic constructions of disability. Students' constructions of disability were conditioned by group membership, adaptations and accommodations, and their ability to successfully complete the learning tasks. The physical education teacher's construction of disability was grounded in her sensitivity to difference and an ability to make learning accessible for her students with disabilities.

As a theoretical framework, social construction refocused disability in the inclusive setting as a process of active engagement through forms of teacher and classroom relatedness (Kozub, Sherblom, Perry, 1999). This perspective provided an alternative to the individualistic discourse of difference embedded in special education to accommodate the challenges of the inclusive classroom. In the physical education setting, this emerged as the students in relation to their peers and teachers, the curriculum, and instructional methods.