Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Teaching and Learning (Education)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Beth Harry - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member


Third Committee Member

ORA PRILLELTENSKY - Committee Member

Fourth Committee Member

WALTER G. SECADA - Committee Member

Fifth Committee Member

EUGENE PROVENZO - Committee Member


This qualitative study addressed an intersection in which the application of the medical model to educational disabilities and its implications for educational labeling of students interacted with the professional enculturation of clinical social workers. Employed as clinicians in programs administered in a large south eastern school district in the United States, five social workers served elementary students labeled Emotionally/Behaviorally Disabled (EBD) through federally authorized provisions for special education related services. This study used grounded theory methods to discover and analyze the social workers' underlying assumptions, values, and patterns of practice with regard to ethical and guild issues, roles and responsibilities, and bases of knowledge. The study found that participants interpreted and applied a knowledge base grounded in the normative aspects of social work. Their preparation made it possible to compete for licensure (LCSW) and assume roles as professional helpers but did not provide all the tools they needed to carry out their work as clinicians with students in EBD programs. Secondly, it found that ambiguities regarding ethics, guild issues, and roles emerged with regard to acting as helping professionals in an integrated professional setting. Each practitioner exercised certain latitude to respond as needed to challenges which varied from site to site. Finally, the findings reflected how the clinicians have situated themselves in the face of the demands of documentation procedures and of participation in meetings endemic to special education.


Critical Social Work; Social Relations Approach; Ecological Approach; Multidisciplinary Teaming; Over Identification And Disproportionality; Educational Decision Making