Date of Completion


Thesis Advisor(s)

Del Siegle, Ph.D.

Honors Major

Special Education


Special Education and Teaching | Teacher Education and Professional Development


The purpose of this study was to understand which students teachers nominate for special education services, and what student qualities influence the nomination. Specifically, in this study, we investigated whether a student’s ethnicity and classroom behavior influence his or her nomination for special education. We created six profiles in which we varied ethnic names and classroom behaviors, and asked juniors and seniors in a selected teacher preparation program to evaluate the profile they were given. They were then asked to indicate whether or not they would refer their given hypothetical student for special education services, and to provide justification for their choice. The major quantitative findings of this study were that, in the selected teacher preparation program, there was not a statistically significant influence of (a) student race, (b) student behavior, or (c) the interaction of the two on preservice teachers’ referral decisions. The participants’ qualitative responses agreed with the quantitative results with regards that student race did not have an impact on referral. However, many preservice teachers cited student behavior in their open-ended justification statements as a significant influencer of their referral choices. The information from this study will help better prepare teachers to serve students with diverse learning needs.