Source: Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 31(4):307–321, 2010.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between teachers’ educational levels and teacher beliefs about practices in early childhood classrooms.
The authors examined differences between lead teachers and teacher assistants in publicly funded prekindergarten classrooms on their beliefs about developmentally appropriate and inappropriate practices.
The participants in this study were teachers who were part of a larger study examining a comprehensive early literacy program for 4-year-olds in public schools in the U.S. southeast.
The sample consisted of 35 lead teachers and 27 teacher assistants, all of whom were female.
All lead teachers in the study had a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and held current teacher certification in the state while none of the teacher assistants had received formal education in 4-year colleges.
In this study researchers investigated self-reported teachers’ beliefs as demonstrated on a published beliefs measure and 26 individual items. The published measure used was the Teacher Attitude Inventory (French & Blazina, 1992) that has two subscales measuring agreement with developmentally appropriate practice and disagreement with developmentally inappropriate practice.
Primary findings suggest significant differences between lead teachers and teacher assistants in terms of their beliefs about both developmentally appropriate and inappropriate practices.
TeacherBeliefs About Developmentally Appropriate Practice
There was a tendency for both lead teachers and teacher assistants to endorse developmentally appropriate practices. However, lead teachers endorsed developmentally appropriate practices more strongly than did teacher assistants.
Teacher Beliefs About Developmentally Inappropriate Practice
Lead teachers had a tendency to disagree more strongly with developmentally inappropriate practice than did teacher assistants.
The difference between lead teachers and teacher assistants in their beliefs about developmentally inappropriate practice may be due to their different levels of education. Teachers with higher levels of formal education may acquire knowledge and skills required to distinguish developmentally inappropriate practice from appropriate practice, whereas this may not be the case for those with lower education levels.
The authors suggest that there seems to be a link between teachers’ educational levels and teacher beliefs because there were significant differences in teacher beliefs about inappropriate practices based on teacher educational levels. However, teacher educational levels alone may not sufficiently account for what teachers believe and how they perform in the classroom and the impact should be considered together with other factors such as teachers’ majors, teaching experiences, and in-service professional development.
As the roles of teacher assistants continue to change and include an increased focus on direct instruction, establishing relationships with children, and responsibility for child outcomes, understanding the role of the teacher assistant becomes increasingly important.