Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Education (Ed.D.)


Administrative and Instructional Leadership

First Advisor

Katherine C Aquino

Second Advisor

Anthony Annunziato

Third Advisor

Richard Bernato


As noted by the National Center for Education Statistics (2020), the enrollment of students with disabilities in the higher education environment continues to grow. As more students with disabilities transition into the postsecondary environment, their diverse learning needs and required supports must be addressed to ensure their postsecondary success. Although research has shown how all instructors need to be better aware of supporting the needs of students with disabilities within the postsecondary classroom (Cory, 2011), there is a particular need to explore the experiences of adjunct faculty supporting students with disabilities within these classrooms, as this area has been researched infrequently. In the postsecondary environment there is a need to abide by the regulatory requirements of four separate legislative acts to properly accommodate the supports of students with disabilities and all students with diverse learning styles and needs, as opposed to the K–12 environment whose entire advocacy structure is regulated by IDEA (2006), a single legislative act. This has created a highly complex set of rules and regulations for higher education faculty to navigate. These facts, coupled with the persistent lack of equitable educational experiences for students with disabilities in higher education raise the importance of this study to a noteworthy level. The phenomenological study explored the experiences of a group of adjunct instructors in order to reduce the individual experiences with a phenomenon to a description of the universal essence. As stated by Peoples (2020), the purpose of phenomenological research is to generate the lifeworld experiences of a certain population. The adjunct instructors who participated had all achieved the educational level of master’s degree or higher. Three of the 12 had training and/or experience teaching at the K–12 level, seven of the 12 had personal experience interacting with a person with a disability, and five of the 12 work in one of the following helping arts: psychology, social work, and human services. They were employed as adjunct instructors at different institutions of higher education, some at multiple institutions. The institutions were both private and public, with a mix of small and large institutions. Professionals in many disciplines are required to maintain their professional skillset and keep it up to date with the latest theoretical developments in their respective fields. In higher education, we hold ourselves to that same standard of other professions; we continually seek out the information needed to keep ourselves at the forefront of our profession, but we can no longer ignore that we may have been neglecting a significant portion of our educational staff: those known as adjunct instructors. As a professional in the field, I take comfort that, among the participants in this study, unanimous professionalism was expressed—they all shared the belief that they were hired to meet the responsibilities of their role, and those responsibilities included teaching every student in front of them and providing every single student with an equitable educational experience in their classroom.