Date of Award

Summer 8-12-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Timothy McCarty

Second Advisor

Dr. Keith Larick

Third Advisor

Dr. Carlos Guzman


Purpose: The purpose of this mixed-methods case study was to identify and describe the

behaviors that exemplary Special Education administrators use to create personal and organizational meaning for themselves and their followers through character, vision, relationships, wisdom, and inspiration. In addition, it is the purpose of this study to determine the degree of importance to which special education teachers perceive the behaviors related to character, vision, relationships, wisdom, and inspiration help to create personal and organizational meaning.

Methodology: The current mixed-methods study obtained in depth qualitative data through interviews from 3 exemplary special education administrators. Following the qualitative interview process, quantitative online surveys were sent to twelve of their special education followers. The results of the qualitative interviews and the quantitative survey data were compared for triangulation.

Findings: Qualitative data from this study indicate that exemplary special education administrators use behavior from the three domains of character, relationships and vision. Similar to the qualitative data, the survey data yielded results of findings spread across three of the five leadership domains—character, relationships, and wisdom. As such, both qualitative and quantitative data showed findings in character and relationships. However, qualitative data supports vision and quantitative data supports wisdom.

Conclusions: Special education administrators must use an interplay of behaviors from the five meaning-maker domains (character, relationships, vision, and wisdom) in order to create meaning for themselves and their followers. Furthermore, special education administrators create meaning through authenticity, transparency, concern for well-being, shared student-centered vision planning, and use their moral compass to create a culture of “doing what is right”.

Recommendations: It is recommended that this study be further explored through a mixed-methods approach to both leaders and followers in addition to expanding to other populations and geological areas. Additionally, a pure qualitative study with special education administrators to better understand the special education drivers that affect meaning could be powerful information for the field. Furthermore, a case study examining special education teacher who leave the field could contribute information on the high attrition rates in special education.