Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




James LaSpina


In California classrooms, general education teachers have experienced stress due to an increasing number of students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). This study used a hermeneutical phenomenological inquiry approach to explore teachers' perspectives of their pre-service professional development (PD), in-service PD, and classroom experiences with students who have externalizing EBD. The theoretical framework centered on social constructivism. Research questions addressed the teachers' perceptions of their pre-service and in-service PD on students with EBD and their experiences with students' externalizing behaviors. Twenty California general education teachers, each from a different school district, volunteered to participate in face-to-face interviews. Stratified purposeful sampling was used to compare perceptions of teachers whose students ranged from preschool through high school. NVivo was used to organize the data and highlight significant themes. Findings included specific areas of PD needs based on students' grade levels, as well as areas of concern across the grade levels. Teachers of all grade levels need PD on how to address aggressive and unsafe behaviors, issues with families, and disruptions in the classroom. Links between the teachers' PD experiences and classroom experiences were inconclusive due to various influences. Findings and conclusions on pre-service and in-service PD needs were presented as textual descriptions. Results of this inquiry may lead to areas for further research, such as how to foster personal characteristics of teachers who have positive experiences with students who have EBD. Implications for positive social change include addressing the specific areas of PD need. Addressing these target areas may lead to California teachers having increased success with students who have externalizing behaviors.