Date of Award


Degree Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.)




A dissertation in the Isabelle Farrington College of Education and Human Development presented to the faculty of Sacred Heart University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Education.

Committee Chair

Suzanne Marmo, Ph.D.

2nd Reader

David G. Title, Ed.D.

3rd Reader

David Ebling, High School Principal, Ret.


The problem of practice investigated is high school student stress and the many detrimental effects. The setting is a public high school in Southwestern Connecticut in a community that places a high value on academic achievement and college acceptance. A root cause analysis identifies two actionable drivers of change in teacher practices and the lack of student self-management skills. A review of scholarly knowledge and local practices leads to an investigation of strategies to mitigate the problem. This review identifies Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Training for Emotional Problem Solving for Adolescents (DBT STEPS-A) as a high leverage strategy to address the problem. Using a practical action research approach with a mixed-methods convergent design, the primary researcher creates an intervention using a modified version of DBT STEPS-A implemented in nine sections of grade 10 health classes over 6 weeks. Quantitative data comes from student surveys taken pre and post-intervention and qualitative data comes from student open-ended question responses and teacher focus group interviews. Surveys measure practical and recent usage of the DBT STEPS-A strategies as well as student perception of usefulness. Results of paired samples t-tests pre- and post-intervention indicate a statistically significant increase of practical use of the major skill areas of DBT STEPS-A. Post-intervention survey results indicate high percentages of students finding the skills useful. Qualitative results reveal themes of why students used the skills, like distraction, a purposeful mindset change, and cultivating positivity, as well as themes of why students found the skills useful, like self-discipline, positive mindset, and personal and social growth. Teachers find the skills useful and identify key ways to alter future lessons to ensure greater student engagement in order to increase class discussion during lessons. Results indicate that a partial implementation of a DBT STEPS-A curriculum may be an effective way of teaching stress reducing strategies to high school students.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.



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