Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Implementation of Comprehensive School Health Education in Elementary Schools: Focus on Teacher Concerns

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Implementation of Comprehensive School Health Education in Elementary Schools: Focus on Teacher Concerns

Article excerpt

Despite growing interest in comprehensive school health education (CSHE) in grades K-12, the feasibility of implementing classroom health instruction has not been addressed adequately.[1-3] In schools that serve disadvantaged children, whose health and health educational needs are substantial and often unmet, questions about how to provide school health education are particularly important.

Given limited resources in inner city elementary schools, classroom teachers, not specialists, are likely to teach health. An important research issue is how effective teacher development efforts are at increasing teachers' willingness and ability to teach complex, multi-faceted health curricula. Research on diffusion of educational innovations shows that teachers' concerns affect their adoption of curricular innovations.[4,5] This paper reports on the effectiveness of a teacher development project to reduce concerns of elementary school teachers regarding feelings of preparedness and comfort with teaching a comprehensive school health education curriculum.

Between 1990-1993, five K-5 schools and two middle schools, all located in an economically disadvantaged area of Philadelphia, participated in the Partners for Health (PFH) project. Because classroom teachers, not specialists, provide most of the health teaching in elementary schools, these schools received an intensive teacher development intervention. In the middle schools, where specialists are widely used, school staff were involved in the project only in the final year and received less intensive training and support. Evaluation of the efficacy of implementation focused on the elementary schools.

Data were collected at various points throughout the project period from 156 school staff. In this paper, the relationship between teachers' feelings of comfort and preparedness to teach health and their self-reported teaching practices in K-5 classrooms are presented.

PROJECT SCOPE AND COMPONENTS

Funded by a U.S. Office of Education "FIRST Grant," PFH involved a long-term collaboration between the School District of Philadelphia, the fifth largest public school system in the United States, and the Dept. of Health Education at Temple University.

Project Goal

The project sought to implement, evaluate, and disseminate a model comprehensive school health education program in schools serving disadvantaged minority children. Prior to project initiation, health teaching was widely regarded as a low priority in these schools. Interviews with school staff and teacher surveys all confirmed that health teaching often was skipped or poorly done.

The project was organized as a teacher development project, but sought to involve parents and community leaders and integrate CSHE into other aspects of school reform. The project was implemented first in five elementary schools and later into the two middle schools attended by these students. The schools are all located in an inner-city environment in which the health status of the predominately African-American and Hispanic populations are widely viewed as problematic by medical and public health personnel as well as school staff.

Project Components

The key components of the project included staff training in the curriculum, direct assistance with materials and teaching methods from on-site coordinators and university-based specialists, material support, establishment of a resource center, community involvement, and health promotion for school staff.[7] Five major curriculum training periods (ranging from one to five days) oriented teachers and other school. staff to the Michigan Model for Comprehensive School Health Education.[6] All trainings were conducted at the Temple University Training and Resource Center by professional staff from Focus on Education, a national health education material and training clearing house.

The curriculum training provided an overview of the types of support, materials, and other activities to be made available, and prepared teachers to teach the PFFI curriculum in their schools. …

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