Date of Award





Doctor of Education

Degree Type

Curriculum and Leadership


Teacher Education

First Advisor

Jessica VanValkenburgh, EdD

Second Advisor

Joseph Jones, PhD

Third Advisor

Erinn Bentley, PhD


Social emotional learning (SEL) refers to a set of skills and competencies that allow students to effectively establish, develop and maintain interpersonal relationships with others, as well as to manage their intrapersonal feelings, emotions and responses to social situations. Students who receive SEL instruction have shown higher academic achievement levels and improved behavioral and social competence. Though an increasing demand is being placed on schools and teachers to address the social emotional needs of students, little guidance exists regarding implementation. Research indicates that teacher perceptions of SEL have a direct impact on the implementation of and outcomes associated with SEL. Furthermore, rural communities and schools face significant challenges in addressing the social emotional needs of students, due to limited resources as well as other factors. Middle school is a time that many students face social emotional challenges for a variety of reasons. This study sought to determine the extent of the impact of teacher perceptions on SEL implementation within rural middle schools in Georgia. The results of the study revealed that teacher perceptions significantly influence the successful implementation of SEL programs within rural middle schools in Georgia. Teachers that held positive attitudes towards SEL reported higher levels of implementation fidelity and student engagement with SEL activities. However, teachers reported struggles with implementation due to inadequate resources, time constraints and insufficient professional learning. These findings highlight the importance of prioritizing SEL, especially in rural communities where resources and support for students may be limited.

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