Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Dianne Cooney-Miner

Second Supervisor

Diane Reed


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of2004 permits school districts to use an alternative process to establish eligibility for special education services. Response to Intervention (RTI) procedures represent a significant change in thinking and practice. The purpose of this study was to understand the cognitive changes that accompany the implementation ofRTI. Specifically, the relationship between school psychologists' mental models regarding the assessment ofleaming disabilities and their roles as experts in traditional psychoeducational assessment was studied. The study employed a qualitative methodology. Participants included experienced school psychologists. Interview data was transcribed, coded, and analyzed in accordance with the constant comparative method of a grounded theory inquiry. The phenomenon of interest in this study was the process of changing one's mental model regarding an essential element of professional functioning. The emergent theory, Recreating Identity, is presented as a way to understand the internal and external processes of adaptation associated with the paradigm shift. This shift required internal and external changes that included recognition of flaws in both the discrepancy model and the eclectic attempts to work around those flaws. The dissonance created by this recognition led to a variety of defense mechanisms and dissonance reduction strategies. The introduction of the RTI paradigm created challenges to participants' established patterns of power, status, and influence. In tum, this generated the need for retooling of collaborative relationships, skills sets, and attitudes. Recreating Identity is best considered an emergent theory that reflects the selective accommodation of participants' mental models to the new paradigm.

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