Date of Award



© 2020 Troy M. Kennett

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Ella Benson

Second Advisor

Jessica Branch

Third Advisor

Cynthia Gallagher


Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are underperforming their peers on state assessments. The purpose of this practical action research study is to explore how professional development, focused on brain-based research, informs educators’ pedagogical design for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). By combining brain-based teaching components, background in the neurology of the brain, and various learning theories, educators were provided filters for making educational decisions. Research was conducted at a rural elementary school in New Hampshire that serves 258 students in grades 3–5, with 51 students served through special education services. The researcher provided teachers and paraprofessionals with preintervention surveys, professional development training, coaching, and post-intervention interviews. The findings of the study concluded there were five themes that influence the use of brain-based teaching: Domain knowledge of staff influences applicability of material and skills; Consideration and strategy-based trainings are preferred; Staff need to process with groups and apply created strategies in the moment; Similar experience aids comfort level toward application; Educators need guidance in classroom management and instructional sequence design. The recommendations of the study show the need for schools to employ action research on the same topic within a larger setting and across grade level groupings; and extend the focus of the action research within the same institution addressing other disability similarities resulting in more common data.


Ed.D. Dissertation