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Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership for Diverse Learning Communities




Students classified with dis/abilities and situated in segregated special classes learn in a system of compulsory able-bodiedness. Peripheralized school high students in special classes experience marginalization and oppression leading to poor academic and postschool outcomes. This critical phenomenological study sought to investigate the lived agentic experiences of high school students classified with dis/abilities and placed in a special class for educational instruction during distance learning and in-person school. To gain deeper insight into students as actors in their learning environment, it was necessary to examine the forms of capital that students harnessed toward their agency. Five high school students in the suburban northeastern United States participated in a series of three virtual interviews. This study’s findings revealed students’ agentic relationships and academics and how they harnessed their capital toward directing their lives and gaining additional capital. The participants also displayed agentic characteristics such as self-determination, self-regulation, self-advocacy, control, compliance, and confidence. One finding revealed that students were not agentic in orientation to their learning spaces. In this instance, the structure of the environment impeded students’ agency. Implications of this study’s findings suggest the need to promote and foster student agency by implementing changes at the societal, school, and individual levels. Additionally, the perspectives of students as stakeholders are required when designing and organizing spaces in the learning environment for optimal comfort, agency, and learning.

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