Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Steve Wells


Bullying has become a serious concern in many American public middle schools in recent years. Inadequate professional development (PD) in bullying prevention and response strategies has compounded this problem. The overarching purpose of this study was to increase understanding of the growing problem of school bullying. Bronfenbrenner's socioecological theory, which states that environment and relationships influence student behavior, served as the conceptual framework for this qualitative study. Guiding research questions, grounded in socioecological theory, were used to examine middle school teachers' views of PD and their perceived skills in responding to or preventing bullying. Through purposeful sampling, 8 middle school teachers in a community in rural Alabama were interviewed over a 3-week period. Each had at least 1 year of teaching experience in the local rural setting. To authenticate study findings, discipline referrals and state incident reports spanning the 2 previous years were assessed for teacher management of bullying. Data were analyzed using open coding to identify and categorize the patterns and themes that emerged. Results indicated that the teachers perceived that PD would give them the strategies to recognize and manage incidents of school bullying. These results supported and informed the PD project for middle school teachers. This study contributes to social change by providing professional development that will help teachers to either prevent or manage school bullying appropriately, a benefit to children and communities.