Date of Award

Spring 5-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Dr. Kyna Shelley

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. Lilian Hill

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. Richard Mohn

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Dr. Jerome Kolbo

Committee Member 4 School

Social Work


The state of Mississippi has led the nation in high rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases among adolescents, despite mandating sex education in public schools for over a decade (SIECUS, 2011; SIECUS, 2016; SIECUS, 2017). Although studies conducted among Mississippi sex educators in the K-12 setting have shown that teachers receive very little to no professional development and desire more training, there is little supporting evidence to understand the position of professional development relative to sex education implementation in the state (Kolbo, Werle, Ismail, Arrington, Harbaugh, & Esters, 2015; Arrington, Ismail, Werle, Esters, Frederick, Ellis, & Kolbo, 2018). The purpose of this study was to use a mixed methods design to determine the relationships among professional preparation, professional development, and sex education implementation as well as to explore cultural factors that impact sex education and professional development in Mississippi.

In the quantitative study, secondary data from the 2016 and 2018 CDC School Health Profiles was used to construct a structural equation model hypothesizing that professional development acts as a moderator in the relationship between professional preparation and sex education implementation among Mississippi K-12 lead health educators. Results showed that professional development significantly strengthened the relationship between professional preparation and sex education implementation.

In the qualitative study, this relationship was further explored through a cultural lens using an autoethnographic approach. Using Chang’s (2008) autoethnography methods, writing prompts were used to recollect personal memory data of my experiences of sex education as a student, instructor, and researcher. Furthermore, I supplemented personal memory data with external interviews of other sex education leaders who also identified as native Mississippians, with field notes, and with textual artifacts. Qualitative data was collectively analyzed to determine emerging themes including need for sex education, barriers to professional development, motivation and fight, outcomes of professional development, and vision for change. Collectively, the mixed methods study provides further evidence that supports the importance of professional development in the approach to sex education.