Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

Teachers' Self-Efficacy and Knowledge of Healthy Nutrition and Physical Activity Practices for Preschoolers: Instrument Development and Validation

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

Teachers' Self-Efficacy and Knowledge of Healthy Nutrition and Physical Activity Practices for Preschoolers: Instrument Development and Validation

Article excerpt

Childhood obesity remains a problem in the United States. Preschool teachers can help to attenuate it but need to have the confidence or self-efficacy to provide healthy practices. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to (a) develop and validate a preschool teacher self-efficacy tool to examine teachers' confidence in addressing the nutrition and physical activity needs of children in their care and (b) examine relationships between teachers' self-efficacy and knowledge of healthy nutrition and physical activity practices. Instrument design included examination of related literature and review by 12 subject matter experts. Two hundred seventy-three early childhood professionals submitted a 58-item questionnaire with 48 self-efficacy items in four domains of healthy practices for the preschool classroom; the remaining 10 items reflected knowledge of healthy practices. Two hundred fourteen professionals completed the questionnaire. A principle components factor analysis supported a five-factor self-efficacy scale (three of the original domains and one domain split into two factors) with 46 items. Knowledge of healthy practices and age of the professionals predicted overall self-efficacy. Results indicated evidence of validity for this new assessment tool to assess early childhood professionals' self-efficacy toward healthy practices in preschool classrooms.

Keywords: preschool teachers' self-efficacy, nutrition and physical activity practices

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Childhood obesity continues as a concern in the United States, especially among younger children. Results from the 2009 Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System (PedNSS) identified one in three low-income children as overweight ([greater than or equal to] 5th to < 95th percentile) or obese ([greater than or equal to] 95th percentile) before their fifth birthday, using the body mass index (BMI) calculation (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2011). A high BMI, the calculated value of weight for height compared with age- and gender-specific standards, in early childhood (EC) has been linked to being overweight or obese in adolescence and adulthood (Freedman et al., 2004; Gidding et al., 2005; Ogden, Carroll, & Flegal, 2008). Several documented health concerns are linked to being overweight or obese (e.g., hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes) (CDC, 2011; Hedley et al., 2004; Young, Dean, Flett, & Wood-Steiman, 2000). Also children who are overweight or obese experience psychological repercussions (e.g., low self-esteem, difficulties finding or keeping friends, and struggles with academic performance in childhood) (Gray, Kahlan, & Janicke, 2009) throughout adolescence (Puhl & Latner, 2007). Thus, childhood obesity prevention is a nation-wide challenge (Levy & Petty, 2008) to which all adults surrounding a child must direct their attention. It is vital that healthy nutrition and physical activity practices begin in the EC years, specifically the preschool years of 3 to 5 years, and especially for young children from low-income families (Winter & Sass, 2011).

Children's risk for overweight status may increase during the years they attend child care centers. Recent research indicates children whose mothers work outside of the home are more likely to be overweight (Morrissey, Dunifon, & Kalil, 2011). With more mothers working outside the home, more preschool-age children are attending center-based care (Capizzano & Main, 2005), and so we must evaluate health practices that concern nutrition and physical activity at child care settings (Kaphingst & Story, 2009). It is vital that preschool teachers have the knowledge and confidence to implement healthy nutrition and physical activity practices and learning activities.

Preschool teachers have varying levels of teacher preparation regarding nutrition or motor development. Recent research has found that preschool teachers often think that they understand health and physical activity guidelines but later express some confusion about them (Derscheid, Umoren, Kim, Henry, & Zittel, 2010). …

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