School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


Angela Smith

Primary Subject Area

Education, Educational Psychology


Adolescent Development, Advisory Programs, Character Education, Social Emotional Learning, Teacher-Student Relationships, Whole Child Instruction


This phenomenological research study, using three tiers of interview and focus group data, described the attitudes and perceptions of middle students towards the Character, Advisory, Remediation, Enrichment, and School Spirit (CARES) program implemented at a rural middle school in north Georgia. The CARES program is a middle school advisement program designed to better meet the needs of the adolescent learner with the intent of creating a caring learning community which supports the social, emotional, and academic needs of middle school students. Results of the study showed that the students perceived the CARES program positively. Specifically, students communicated high levels of listening, advisory, and academic support from their teachers during the CARES program. Furthermore, students felt as if the program allowed them to socialize with their peers as well as assist them in the development of good character. The students expressed a desire for higher levels of autonomy and independence, and also welcomed more opportunities to know their teachers and increase levels of trust within the teacher-student relationship. There were no significant differences in attitudes and perceptions between grade level and academic eligibility (general, special, and gifted education).