Investigating the role of family and consumer sciences teachers in nutrition education in Texas secondary schools
This research was designed to explore the role of family and consumer sciences (FCS) educators in teaching nutrition content to students as one intervention to combat the rising obesity rates in the United States. The purpose of this research was to determine secondary level FCS educators' attitudes and self-efficacy concerning school-based nutrition education and their perceived comfort levels regarding teaching nutrition topics. A questionnaire was developed to assess teacher attitudes regarding school-based nutrition education, perceptions regarding teaching self-efficacy and comfort in teaching nutrition topics.
Demographic information on gender, age, ethnicity, educational background, teaching experience, and certifications was also collected. Survey participants (819) were secondary FCS teachers who were members of the Family and Consumer Sciences Teachers Association of Texas and/or teachers of Lifetime Wellness and Nutrition and/or Food Science as provided by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). The questionnaire was administered both as a paper version and on-line which was available through PsychData©.
A majority of the 197 survey respondents were white/non-Hispanic females with a mean age of 48 years and 13 years of experience teaching courses with nutrition content. Over half had a Bachelor's degree with additional coursework or higher degree. A positive correlation was found between self-efficacy and age (r = 0.145, p = .050) and between self-efficacy and years of teaching experience (r = 0.185, p = .012). Comfort in teaching 30 nutrition topics classified into five categories was measured using a 5-point Likert type scale. Pairwise comparisons showed that FCS teachers had significantly higher comfort levels (p < .001) for teaching nutrition education (4.53 ± 0.73); nutrient functions (4.49 ± 0.79 and general nutrition (4.49 ± 0.74) compared to comfort levels for teaching disease prevention (4.19 ± 0.84) and nutrient metabolism (4.09 ± 0.90).
Survey results support the development of training materials that improve FCS teacher knowledge on topics related to nutrient metabolism and disease prevention. School administrators and legislators at the local, state, and national levels need to become aware of the role that FCS teachers can play in expanding nutrition education in U.S. schools.