Date of Award



© 2015 Laura Aguada-Hallberg

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Brianna Parsons

Second Advisor

Michelle Collay

Third Advisor

Jonathan Roselin


This study sought to examine the extent that social-emotional learning of teachers and students impacts students’ transition from middle school to high school. Existing research indicates that by implementing specific transition programs for freshmen, the dropout rate is greatly reduced, academic achievement increases, and the ability to transition to life after high school improves. Crucial to any transition program is staffing these programs with teachers who understand their own social-emotional learning and make relationships with students a priority. The study answered four research questions: 1) what elements and characteristics of freshmen transition programs (specifically, summer bridge and freshman orientation) do teachers perceive as helpful to the freshman transition? 2) How do teachers identify and express their self-efficacy in relation to how they perceive their own social-emotional learning? 3) How do teachers relate their social-emotional learning to the creation and implementation of successful transition program for freshman? 4) What recommendations do teachers have to strengthen intervention and support programs for incoming freshmen?

By conducting a qualitative case study using focus groups with nine teachers who taught in a summer bridge program or freshman orientation class at a large comprehensive high school, teachers’ perceptions of the effectiveness of these transition programs were analyzed. Additionally, these teachers were asked to evaluate their own social-emotional learning and how they use it to support their students’ academic achievement and social-emotional learning. From this case study, five major themes related to freshmen transition programs were determined: 1) personal connections between students and teachers, 2) academic expectations in the transition from middle to high school, 3) real-world connections, 4) impact of teacher behavior on student success, and 5) support for students’ social-emotional learning. Based on these themes, several recommendations were determined: treat the freshman year as a transition year, implementing some of the same middle-school structures to support freshmen as they begin high school; focus on students’ social-emotional learning as part of this transition; focus on teachers’ social-emotional competency so that their self-efficacy increases. This study extends existing research indicating that supporting teachers’ and students’ social and emotional well-being will increase academic achievement.


Ed.D. Dissertation