Ed.D. Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 4-16-2020

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


College of Education



Degree Name

Doctorate of Education, Ed.D.

Faculty Chair

James Therrell, Ph.D.

Content Specialist

Catherine Gniewek, Ed.D.

Content Reader

Ray Francis, Ed.D.


African American girls, barriers, challenges, middle school, school counselor, SELL


This qualitative case study explored the perspective of school counselors and how they support African American middle school girls through their SEL challenges. School counselors play a key role in the development of socio-emotional learning (SEL) for all students. SEL supports academic achievement, behaviors, and positive relationship development. Despite success with SEL, socio-emotional gaps remain in the areas of age, gender, and race. In response to addressing these gaps, this study focused on SEL challenges that impact African American middle school girls and how school counselors support them through these challenges. Data for this study was collected through individual interviews and a focus group discussion with school counselors from traditional middle schools in the state of Virginia. The researcher used purposeful sampling to select 6–8 school counselors that worked directly with African American middle school girls. The findings generated three major themes: (a) develop strong rapport, (b) understand SEL challenges, and (c) effective methods of delivery. These findings support how school counselors help guide African American middle school girls through SEL challenges. This study provided results that could be utilized to further research on SEL.