Elementary School Teachers' Attitudes toward Different Subjects

Jan. 10, 2010

Source: The Teacher Educator, Volume 45, Issue 1 (January 2010), pages 23 – 36.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study investigates elementary teachers' self-reported ratings of their favorite subjects to teach and their levels of enjoyment associated with teaching reading, language arts, writing, social studies, mathematics, and science.

Research Questions

This study investigates the following questions:
(a) Do elementary teachers tend to have a favorite subject to teach?
(b) Does this favoritism differ across grade levels?
(c) Do elementary teachers tend to enjoy teaching particular subjects more or less than others? (d) Does this enjoyment differ across grade levels?
(e) Do some grade level teachers tend to be more subject generalists?


Data for this study were drawn from 490 K-5 inservice teachers from two rural school districts in the Southeastern United States. The majority of the participants were female (91.2%). Furthermore, 94% of the participants were Whites (not Hispanic).
The sample included 32% with 0 to 5 years of teaching experience, 32.9% with 6-15 years, and 35.1% with 16 or more years of teaching experience.

Findings and Implications
In general, this study found that reading and language arts were consistently ranked among the favorite and most enjoyed subjects to teach. Mathematics, science, and writing were consistently ranked among the least favorite subjects to teach across all grade levels.

However, the complexity of teachers' attitudes was evidenced by interactions with grade level and attitude measure that existed with mathematics, writing, and social studies. Although mathematics was consistently ranked among teachers' least favorite subjects to teach, results indicated that teachers in the upper elementary grades somewhat enjoy teaching mathematics. This finding suggests that promoting elementary teachers' teaching of mathematics may require different support systems than for science and writing that were consistently ranked among the least favorite and least enjoyed subjects to teach.

Furthermore, primary-level teachers, compared to upper elementary teachers, were found to be more subject generalists in terms of their relative enjoyment for teaching all subjects.

The findings of this study have important implications for elementary teacher education. A key component of elementary teacher education programs and inservice professional development should be a focus on teachers' attitudes and overall disposition related to the subjects that they will teach (Brand & Wilkins, 2007; Wilkins & Brand, 2004). Making attitudes a focus of discussion allows teachers to think about their feelings and views and better understand how these feelings and beliefs can influence their classroom instruction.

Brand, B. R. and Wilkins, J. L. M. (2007) Using self-efficacy as a construct for evaluating elementary science and mathematics methods courses. Journal of Science Teacher Education 18:2 , pp. 297-317.

Wilkins, J. L. M. and Brand, B. R. (2004) Change in preservice teachers' beliefs: An evaluation of a mathematics methods course. School Science and Mathematics 104:5 , pp. 226-232.

Updated: Feb. 21, 2010