Joseph Leggio

Date of Award

January 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning

First Advisor

Katherine Terras


This study explored the perceptions of six teachers of students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) in one school district. In individual interviews, the teachers shared their perceptions of the qualities, knowledge, and skills necessary for EBD teachers to be effective. Five of the teachers gathered for a focus group to discuss the findings from the analysis of the interview data.

An analysis of the data yielded three themes. First, effective EBD teachers develop unconditional teacher-student relationships. No matter how many setbacks a student with EBD may experience, the effective EBD teacher relentlessly affirms his or her belief in the student’s ability to succeed. When it seems like others have dismissed a student, the student can always count on the effective EBD teacher for support.

Second, effective EBD teachers create positive classroom environments. When students with EBD are removed from the general education setting or experience a crisis at school, the effective EBD teacher provides a safe, consistent, and nonjudgmental haven.

Finally, effective EBD teachers individualize instruction. Having knowledge of behavior disorders and effective strategies is insufficient. The effective EBD teacher identifies the particular needs of each student and designs instruction that meets those individual academic and behavioral needs.