Preactive Planning and Conceptions of Success in Elementary Health Education
ABSTRACT: Prospective classroom teachers' thoughts and understanding about teaching health
were examined in this study. The study described the preactive thought processes of classroom
teachers as they planned a lesson on health and teachers' conceptions of success and failure
during the lesson. Before teaching a 30-minute lesson in health, participants were asked to
"think aloud" during a planning session. Content of the thoughts was audiotaped, transcribed, and
analyzed. After the lesson, participants listed critical events they described as related to
success and lack of success during the lesson. Content of the written accounts was organized into
clusters with common elements. Findings indicated teachers' concerns during planning were related
to identifying and arranging content for maximum involvement and
enjoyment. Most teachers defined success in terms of student affective rather than cognitive
behaviors. (J Sch Health 1989;59(1):13-17)
School health programs strive to increase health knowledge, promote positive health attitudes, and encourage high-level wellness. After publication of Healthy People: The Surgeon General's report on health promotion and disease prevention in 1979 and Promoting Health/Preventing Disease: Objectives for the nation in 1980, expectations for health education as an effective strategy for improving the nation's health were high-lighted.
Because of the importance of quality teacher preparation in school health instructional programs, health educators have devoted substantial time and effort to defining the roles, responsibilities, and functions of entry-level health educators.[3,4] While these notable efforts should improve the performance of health educators, application of the full range of competencies to school health at the bachelor's level has been questioned,[4-6] especially at the elementary level where only 11 states have elementary certification standards in health instruction. Most states do not employ specially trained health educators,[7,8] but certify classroom teachers to teach elementary health. Further, many do not require these teachers to complete even one preservice course in health instruction.
Lack of teacher expertise in health instruction should be addressed by inservice training.[10,11] The School Health Education Evaluation (SHEE) study provided promising evidence that classroom teachers with adequate inservice training can provide effective health instruction. The SHEE findings indicated instruction by teachers who had received 50 hours of inservice preparation was more effective than instruction by teachers with minimal or no training. Teacher priorities also were important factors related to program effectiveness.
Effective inservice training should focus on teacher beliefs, perceptions, judgments, and attitudes as well as health content. One approach to the study of teaching assumes that what teachers do is affected by what they think. The approach emphasizes the processing of cognitive information and the thinking processes of teachers as they plan, organize, interpret, and evaluate information. The study of teacher thinking enhances the understanding of teachers' intentions and accounts for variations in teaching behaviors that result from differences in goals and decisions. Lohrmann et al concluded health instruction research should move away from traditional survey techniques and incorporate findings from recent pedagogical research in future conceptualizations. To date, health education researchers have ignored process product and cognitive processing research in formulating health instruction theory.
This paper examines two aspects of teacher thinking: decision-making processes of teachers as they …