Erin Spies

Date of Award

January 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Sherryl Houdek


Characteristics of effective transition programs include (a) providing realistic experiences of middle school expectations for incoming students, (b) frequent communication with students, parents, and staff, and (c) extensive and ongoing planning, assessment, and redesign of the transition program. While these effective components of a transition program have been recommended based on research, student reflection on essential elements have not been included. The purpose of this study was to use phenomenology research methods to identify components of middle school transition programs from the perspective of middle school students. The study analyzed current transitional practices and their alignment with Schlossberg’s Transition Theory (Schlossberg, 1981). Students participated in four 30-minute sessions in small focus groups. The students in this study believed through a process of strategic supports, the quality of their transition from elementary to middle school could have been improved. To effectively transition from elementary to middle school, students identified structural elements, which include understanding the academic and behavioral expectations of middle school and identifying necessary personal attributes and academic skills. Implications for practice include the implementation of in-school activities as part of a positive transition program. School staff can implement some of these expectations and experiences for students during their 5th grade year at the elementary school. In developing programs that assist students with the transition to middle school, educators and researchers have failed to consider student perceptions of what constitutes an effective transition program. Understanding student perspectives allows educators and researchers to understand essential components of a successful transition program to effectively meet student needs.