Teacher Perceptions of Multilevel Policies and the Influence on Nutrition Education in North CarolinaHead StartPreschools

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Abstract

Objective:

To develop a theory that explains the process of how teachers' perception of multilevel policies may influence nutrition education (NE) teaching strategies in Head Start preschools.

Design:

Semistructured telephone interviews.

Setting:

North Carolina Head Start preschools.

Participants:

Thirty-two Head Start teachers.

Phenomenon of Interest:

All interviews were transcribed verbatim. Following a grounded theory approach, authors coded interview data for emergent themes.

Analysis:

Two primary themes emerged during analysis, including teachers' policy perceptions and teacher-perceived influence of policy on NE.

Results:

A theoretical model was developed to explain how teachers' perceptions of policies influenced NE (eg, teaching strategies) in the classroom. Teachers discussed multiple policy areas governing their classrooms and limiting their ability to provide meaningful and consistent NE. How teachers perceived the level of regulation in the classroom (ie, high or low) influenced the frequency with which they used specific teaching strategies.

Conclusion and Implications:

Despite federal policies supporting the provision of NE, teachers face competing priorities in the classroom (eg, school readiness vs NE) and policies may conflict with standardized NE curricula. To understand how Head Start centers develop local policies, additional research should investigate how administrators interpret federal and state policies.

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