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Elizabeth B. Kozleski

School of Education and Human Sciences - Special Education
Professor, Retired; Adjunct Researcher
Ed.D., Special Education, University of Northern Colorado
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Professor Elizabeth B. Kozleski engages systems change and research on equity and justice issues in inclusive education and professional learning. Awards include the 2017 Boeing-Allan Visiting Endowed Chair at Seattle University, the University of Kansas 2016 Woman of Distinction award, the Scholar of the Century award from the University of Northern Colorado in 2013, the TED-Merrill award for leadership in special education teacher education in 2011,and the UNESCO Chair in Inclusive International Research She is the recipient of more than $33 million in federal and local research grants. She has published in a number of highly respected journals included the Education Policy Analysis Annuals, Educational Researcher, the Journal of Special Education, Remedial and Special Education, and the Review of Research in Education.

She has published a number of articles on the design and development of teacher education programs that involve extensive clinical practice in general education settings, has led the development of such programs in three universities, and continues to do research and development work in teacher education. She has been involved providing technical assistance as well as research on the impact of technical assistance on individuals, local, state, and national systems in the U.S. and abroad.

Her research interests include the analysis of systems change in education, how teachers learn in practice in complex, diverse school settings, as well how educational practices improve student learning. She has senior leadership roles on four projects: SWIFT, CEEDAR, Emergent Literacy Curriculum for Students with Intellectual Disabilities in General Education Classrooms, and Special Education Leadership in System-wide Equity and Access for Students from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds.

Professor Kozleski serves on the Board of Editors for the book series Inclusive Education and Partnerships, an international book series produced by Deep University. Her recent books include Ability, Equity, and Culture (with co-author Kathleen King Thorius) published by TCP in '14 and Equity on Five Continents (with Alfredo Artiles and Federico Waitoller) published in '11 by Harvard Education Press.



Ed.D., Special Education, University of Northern Colorado


I primarily teach courses in the Special Education doctoral program with emphases in the Policy and Differences Specializations. As well, I coordinate the online/hybrid doctoral program offered in Vancouver, BC. My work as a scholar and teacher has constantly evolved. It is difficult to separate teaching from scholarship since one informs the other. Teaching is most visible and familiar in classrooms. It begins long before a faculty member steps into the classroom. It evolves from a coherent perspective on the interaction between discipline knowledges, pedagogy and the outcomes that a faculty collectively aspire to on the part of current and future students. This means that experiences, the context of discourse and evidences of learning are conceptualized in community, over time, and tailored to the progress of each student. As a result of this collective activity, faculty build activity arenas that help students make connections, expand their own perspectives and build a body of practice around theories of what works and robust inquiry on what remains unknown.

To do this kind of teaching requires collective activity and knowledge building among and between faculty and students. When education is viewed as a collective, faculty engage in inquiry about the nature of their programs and construct a shared vision of their discipline that receives further tempering through classroom discourse, activity and assessment. The role of students in shaping these arenas is critical. Students co-construct meaning, bringing their own socio-cultural histories, individual characteristics and motivations to the learning experience. Faculty, and through them, programs, are shaped and reshaped through this process. In addition to the intended but negotiated curriculum, great teaching occurs through the less formal but more personalized act of advising and working together in complex community settings.

Over my career I have taught 28 different university courses including courses in assessment, applied behavioral analysis and intervention, instructional strategies, introduction to special education, a seminar in special education policy, learning theory, qualitative research, the scholarship of teacher education, complex change and a number of doctoral labs (see CV, pp. 57-58). I have designed and taught hybrid and fully online courses since the spring of 1997. At the University of Kansas Tom Skrtic and I led the design of a four course online micro credentialing program focused on special education policy. The final course in that sequence was designed as a game. However, most of my teaching experience has been and continues to be face to face. Notably, I designed and supervised an assessment clinic for all special education students that I designed and offered at CU’s medical center to the doctoral lab that I led at the CU with three other faculty and six to 10 actively engaged doctoral students. Activities included a qualitative research study completed in four schools employing an empowerment evaluation model to help school communities examine their own practice. Subsequently, the Colorado Partnership for Educational Renewal used this portraiture process to evaluate several university-school partner schools. The lab forged partnerships with a number of state and national agencies and produced a number of graduates who became leaders in the Colorado Department of Education and local school systems, including two superintendents.

I took this process with me to Arizona State University where the lab was reconstituted as an ongoing seminar for doctoral students across campus and faculty focused on race, culture, and ability. I led the lab with Professor Alfredo Artiles. A number of scholars have emerged from that lab who are now being recognized for their own contributions including Dr. Amanda Sullivan at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Federico Waitoller at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Dr. Kathleen Thorius at IUPUI, Dr. Sultan Kilinc at Syracuse University, and Taucia Gonzalez at the University of Arizona. The laboratory model traveled with me to the University of Kansas where I worked together with other faculty to lead a lab focused on Policy, Race, and Disability. Graduates of the University of Kansas program have gone on to senior policy positions in the U.S. Senate, as well as faculty positions at the University of Washington, Portland State University, and the Singapore National Government (see CV, p. 56). Teaching has been and continues to be a great opportunity to learn, engage in research, and develop life-long research partnerships. I continue to write research, personnel preparation and technical assistance grants which offer opportunities to teach in practice communities. At ASU, grants included the Region IX Equity Assistance Center, two leadership grants, a teacher education grant, and grants from Spencer, the Motorola Foundation, and the State of Wisconsin. More of the same ensued at KU including a $2.75 million IES grant. The last few years have coincided with a spate of writing that I hope will make contributions to the design of systems of education that are color, language, and capability conscious, equitable, inclusive, and fully engage teachers, students, and families in learning together.

Teaching Interests

  • Inclusive education
  • Equity in practice
  • Special education
  • Disability studies
  • Qualitative methodologies
  • Systems and organizational change.


While most of my work is qualitative, in 2019 I completed a three-year, experimental study with 80 students with significant educational needs that examines literacy development in inclusive settings. Over four decades of work, I have published work in single case design, a three-year case study, as well as qualitative work in classrooms, schools, and school districts. My 2014 edited book includes chapters co-authored by researchers and practitioners. As an assistant professor of special education, I focused on problems of teaching and learning in classrooms. In ‘85, ’87, and ’89, I published work on the use of metacognitive approaches to solving the learning problems of students with learning disabilities. At that time, I was very interested in the use of language and metalinguistics as a vehicle for supporting the learning needs of children. I was also researching the use of augmentative and alternative communication systems for children with the most significant support needs. While the papers I published between ’85 and ‘97 contributed to understanding how to structure everyday classroom activity to increase student participation and expression, the work to ensure that teachers would learn and use these approaches seemed daunting. It seemed to me that solving individual learning problems would never help schools achieve the deep levels of reform necessary to assure that all children had access to effective and inclusive learning environments. Beliefs about the nature of ability, the expression of need, and the rights of all humans were narrowly conceptualized. Institutions and the professions were hindered by binaries that prevented access, opportunity, and emancipation.

A call from the Colorado Legislature spurred my policy work. The legislature wanted to fund preschool education. They decided to reduce the number of students receiving special education for social and behavioral problems in order to give the cost savings to preschool education. I got the job to study the effects of this decision. I examined the effects of narrowing the criteria for determining eligibility for special education services for students labeled as emotionally and behaviorally disturbed. That study raised two critical and troubling issues. Even though the revised criteria, established through legislative fiat, were supposed to narrow the gate allowing students into special education, there was no change in the numbers of children who became eligible for special education. Only the labels changed. Children, who under the previous definition had become eligible for special education through identification as “emotionally disturbed”, were re-labeled as “learning disabled” in order to retain special education services eligibility. This study, along with several others, served to strengthen the position that labeling children by disability to obtain funding was a political and social act rather than a scientific or intervention driven activity. It became a central criticism of the current special education system and drove many special educators to demand major reforms of the system used to assure the education of students with disabilities. A second finding of the policy study on labeling also challenged the status quo. In spite of recommendations by many researchers and policy analysts who were grounded in the special education research base, legislators made a policy decision that had critical implications for students with disabilities and their families. Knowledge from the academy was not traveling into use.

I wanted to learn more about how systems developed and sustained their practice. 1997 was a particularly productive year that realized the fruition of my work to (a) merge special education and general education reforms, (b) address the intersectional nature of disproportionality in special education, (c) focus on schools as the unit of analysis, and (d) address policy barriers. That was 21 years ago. Much of what was launched since then informed the research strands that I have pursued since as well as my approach to teaching

Research Interests

  • Equity
  • Disproportionality
  • Teacher education
  • Urban education
  • Technical assistance methodologies
  • Systems change

Selected Publications

Kozleski, E. B., & Proffitt, W. (2019). A journey towards equity and diversity in the educator workforce.  [Journal Articles]. Teacher Education and Special Education, 43, 1–22. https://doi.org/10.1177/0888406419882671
Kozleski, E. B., & Choi, J. H. (2018). Leadership for equity and inclusivity in schools:  The cultural work of inclusive schools [Journal Articles]. Inclusion, 6, 33–44.
Kozleski, E. B., & Handy, T. (2017). The cultural work of teacher education [Journal Articles]. Theory into Practice. Published. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00405841.2017.1336033
Kozleski, E. B. (2017). The uses of qualitative research:  Powerful methods to inform evidence-based practice in education [Journal Articles]. Research  & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 1–14.
Waitoller, F., Kozleski, E. B., & Gonzalez, T. (2016). Professional Inquiry for inclusive education:  Learning across and within institutional and professional boundaries. [Journal Articles]. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 27, 62–79. https://doi.org/10.1080/09243453.2014.908929
Skiba, R. J., Artiles, A. J., Kozleski, E. B., Losen, D. J., & Harry, E. G. (2016). Risks and consequences of oversimplifying educational inequities: A response to Morgan et al.(2015). [Journal Articles]. Educational Researcher, 45(3), 221–225.
Kozleski, E. B., Yu, T., Satter, A. L., Francis, G. L., & Haines, S. J. (2015). A never ending journey:  Inclusive education is a principle of Practice, not an end game [Journal Articles]. Research  & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 40(2), 211–226. https://doi.org/10.1177/1540796915600717
Kozleski, E. B., Yu, T., Satter, A. L., Francis, G. L., & Haines, S. J. (2015). A never ending journey:  Inclusive education is a principle of Practice, not an end game [Journal Articles]. Research  & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 40(2), 211–226. https://doi.org/10.1177/1540796915600717
Waitoller, F. W., & Kozleski, E. B. (2015). No stone left unturned:  Exploring the convergence of new capitalism in inclusive education in the U.S. [Journal Articles]. Education Policy Analysis Annuals, 23(18).
Kozleski, E. B., & Graff, C. S. (2014). Calcifying Sorting and Segregating: Brown at 60 [Journal Articles]. Multiple Voices, 14.
Hess, R., Molina, A., & Kozleski, E. B. (2006). Until Somebody Hears Me: Parental Voice and advocacy in special education decision-making [Journal Articles]. British Journal of Special Education, 33(3), 148–157.
Ferguson, D., & Kozleski, E. B. (2003). Inclusive urban schools: The National Institute for Urban School Improvement [Other]. In Impact. Institute on Community Integration.

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Selected Presentations

Kozleski, E. (3/14/2017). Keynote: The Misuses of Special Education: Sorting and classifying immigrant and refugee children. Language Education Policy and Identities Inclusion: Cultivating Distinctiveness. Perceived identities of Immigrant, Displaced, and Refugee Children. Madison, WI

Selected Awards & Honors

Boeing-William M. Allen Endowed Visiting Chair
Seattle University
2017 - 2018
Woman of Distinction
University of Kansas

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One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
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Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times
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