Date of Conferral







Dr.Patricia Anderson


The problem that was the focus of this study is that disruptive classroom behavior has increased. According to a 2019 survey conducted by the consulting firm Education Advisory Board, teachers have reported a spike in disruptive classroom behaviors. Attitudes towards school expressed by students who exhibit behavior that characterizes oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) are influenced by teacher interactions and support, but no recent study had determined levels of empathy used by elementary school teachers. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore how elementary school general education teachers describe the level of empathy they apply in reacting to and supporting boys who exhibit ODD-like behaviors. The theory of mind, as described by Gweon and Saxe, was the conceptual framework that guided this study. Research questions involved teachers’ description of levels of empathy they apply in reacting to and supporting male students who exhibit ODD-like behavior. Data were gathered through semi-structured interviews of 10 K-3 female teachers in one state in the southeastern United States and analyzed using thematic coding. Results from this study suggested teachers apply cognitive and affective empathy in reaction to ODD-like behavior and apply cognitive empathy to a greater extent than affective empathy when supporting students who display ODD-like behavior; teachers also described intentionally applying no empathy. Positive social change may result when teachers increase use of empathy in their reactions to and support for children who display ODD-like behaviors and may consequently contribute to improvements in student attitudes and achievement of school success.