The Influence of Preservice Instruction in Health Education Methods on the Health Content Taught by Elementary Teachers in Indiana. (Research Papers)

Article excerpt

While elementary children may not suffer the immediate effects of lifestyle choices on their health, they already are at risk. Research indicates that once health behaviors are established during childhood, the behaviors often prove difficult to modify during adulthood. (1) Children's health choices have the potential for lifelong consequences.

One way to improve children's health involves providing effective school health instruction. National organizations, (2) government agencies, (3) and educators, parents, and students (4) who believe children benefit from receiving school health instruction have expressed that health instruction be taught as a regular part of the elementary school curriculum. Most states (80.4%) require elementary schools to teach some health education. (5) But most major health topics receive approximately three to five hours of instruction in a school year, totaling less than 30 hours of classroom time on health instruction in a year. (5)

Connell et al (6) determined "more than 50 classroom hours" of instruction are needed to create a significant effect on children's health knowledge, attitudes, and practices. Furthermore, the amount of teacher inservice training is positively correlated with the amount of instruction provided and the fidelity with which it is taught. (6) Wiley (7) found that teachers who completed at least one formal health education course were more likely to teach health education as a regular part of their weekly lessons than teachers who had not completed a formal health course, Based on the finding that only 26% of teachers surveyed indicated they had attended a health education workshop, Wiley (7) concluded that, once teachers become certified, they tend not to upgrade their health education skills.

Lack of teacher training creates a substantial barrier to effective implementation of school health instruction. Despite the fact that most states require elementary health instruction, only 26 of 50 states (51%) require elementary teachers to complete coursework in health education to qualify for elementary certification. (8)

While various studies examined the influence of teacher inservice training on health instruction, teachers' perceptions, and teaching practices, limited research has addressed the influence of preservice teacher preparation on the health teaching practices of elementary teachers. (7,9-14) To influence preservice teacher preparation, and to initiate a national recommendation that a course in health education methods be included in elementary teacher preparation programs, advocates first must determine if preservice instruction in elementary health methods influences the health instruction provided by practicing elementary teachers. (15-17)

Since children rely on adults to provide accurate, trustworthy information, the necessity of adequately preparing teachers to provide such information cannot be understated. While evidence suggests inservice training positively influences the practices of teachers, (9,11-14) and that attitudes of preservice teachers favorably change regarding the value of health instruction after completing a health education methods course, (18-20) researchers know little about how preservice training influences actual classroom health instruction. This study examined the influence of receiving preservice instruction in health education methods on the health instruction provided by elementary teachers. Three research questions were investigated: Does a difference exist between elementary teachers who received preservice instruction in health education methods and those who did not when compared by the: 1) scope of health content areas they teach in their classrooms?; 2) extent to which they cover each of 10 health content areas in their classrooms?; and 3) amount of time spent teaching health?

METHODS

Respondents

Elementary teachers in Indiana were selected for this study because while Indiana does not mandate coursework in health education methods en route to elementary teacher certification or licensure requirements, universities in the state require coursework in health education methods for graduation. …