Educator Perceptions of Student Social-Emotional Preparation for Middle School Transition: A Qualitative Study
Student transition from one school to another is considered a major life event. Transition to middle school is further complicated by the onset of puberty at this developmental stage. The problem is middle school students are not prepared socially and emotionally for the transition to middle school. A gap exists in identifying the perceptions of educators who are most closely connected with students transitioning to middle school. Schlossberg’s transition theory and democratic leadership theory provided the theoretical framework for the study. The research questions addressed the perceptions of fifth- and sixth-grade educators at a suburban middle school in Georgia on student socio-emotional preparedness and the strategies used to prepare students socio-emotionally for transition to middle school. Through a basic qualitative study 13 fifth-grade teachers, 13 sixth-grade teachers, 9 administrators, and 6 counselors were purposively selected from a population of 138 educators to complete questionnaires. A subsample of 16 of the 41 educators completing questionnaires participated in interviews. Questionnaire and interview responses were analyzed through a thematic analysis using Braun and Clarke’s six phases of data collection. Results indicated educators perceive students who have developed a strong sense of self are more successful at forming and maintaining relationships and better prepared socio-emotionally for middle school. Educators also perceived their ability to support students socio-emotionally during the transition to middle school was influenced by internal and external factors. Recommendations include a need for educational leaders and policymakers to support the integration of SEL best practices and teacher training.