School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)


Katelynn Wheeler


grade-level configuration, transition, social-emotional learning, Schlossberg’s theory




The purpose of this case study aimed to understand how educators perceive the impacts of grade-level configurations regarding academic, social, and emotional effects on students transitioning from elementary school to middle school in the northeast part of the United States. Grade level configuration is defined as the number of grade levels grouped within a school in a district (Malone et al., 2020). The central research question was: What are the differences in student success in schools with transitions between grade levels and schools without transitions? Schlossberg’s theory regarding transition and the 4 S framework guided this study to facilitate the understanding of dealing with anticipated, unanticipated, and non-event transitions and reduce the negative impacts on students' academic and social well-being during years of transition. For this study, the qualitative research design was most appropriate because assertions can be made based on the participants’ perspective on grade-level configuration and the impacts on students academically, socially, and emotionally. Using a case study approach allowed me to study the impacts of the school transition to get a real-life perspective of educators’ perspectives on grade span configurations and perceived effects. A comparative case study approach was used to understand further the grade-level configuration impacts on students academically, socially, and emotionally. Purposeful sampling was utilized to obtain twelve teachers from the Northeast region of the United States. Data was collected through multiple sources; individual interviews, surveys, and focus groups to ensure data validity and triangulation. The data analysis ensured a rigorous systematic approach that defined the setting, identified common significant statements and created measurable meaningful units and themes.

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