Date of Award


Document type


Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Degree Program

Education (also CAGS)

First Advisor

Mary Lynn Boscardin

Second Advisor

Robert Marx

Third Advisor

Craig Wells

Subject Categories



The purpose of this dissertation is to investigate the perceptions of distributed leadership held by 15 administrators of special education and 15 special education teacher leaders invited to perform a Q-sort, rank ordering 40 statements representing distributed leadership attributes. The research questions that guided this investigation included: 1) Are there any clusters of participants who ranked the leadership statements similarly and differently; 2) Are the clusters related to demographic or personal characteristics associated with the participants; 3) Were there similarities as to how the items were ranked by the participants among the clusters; 4) Are there themes depicting the clusters based on the statement rankings; and 5) To what extent is there a relationship between the cluster composition, demographic and district variables? Results revealed two factors of participants who sorted their cards similarly, the priority given to each statement representing distributed leadership traits, and the preferred attributes associated with each factor. Each factor was further examined to determine how the demographics of the participants contributed to the similar sorts. This study demonstrates the importance of special education leaders developing an understanding of both the organization's purpose as well as the staff members' needs, personalities, strengths, and skill sets. As special education leaders move across the continuum of distributed leadership, their leadership practices transition from distributing leadership tasks from a top-down model to creating a truly collaborative environment embedded into the organization as it becomes action oriented through continuous improvements in programming and instruction with students with special needs. This research will contribute to expanding the understanding of distributed leadership practices in the field of special education. Future research should be devoted to better understanding the relationship between special education and distributed leadership, and the influence special education leadership has on an organization's culture, student programming, and student achievement in relationship to state accountability measures.


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