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The relationship between perceived body size and confidence in ability to teach among preservice teachers.

Introduction

Visit a bookstore, turn on the television, read the newspaper, surf the web, or glance at magazine covers in a grocery check-out line, and one can quickly become inundated with images that reflect the nation's obsession with body size. Perceived body size is one component of body image. Health Canada (1994) defined body image as, "the picture an individual has of his or her body, what it looks like in the mirror, and what he or she thinks it looks like to others" (p. 29).

Body image can affect one's feelings and self-esteem; in fact, a relationship has been found between having a negative body image and low self-esteem (Stark, 2004; The National Women's Health Information Center, 2004). Body image can also influence self-concept, which encompasses a person's perceptions of characteristics and abilities, as well as self-evaluation (Health Canada, 1994). Simply stated, people who are self-confident tend to hold positive, although realistic views of self, generally accept themselves, and believe in their ability to accomplish their goals. On the other hand, people who lack self-confidence generally expect failure and excessively depend on what others think for their own feelings of self worth (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Counseling Center, 1996).

Personal beliefs can affect behavior (Eggen & Kauchak, 2004). According to Bandura (1994), "Perceived self-efficacy is defined as people's beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance that exercise influence over events that affect their lives. Self-efficacy beliefs determine how people feel, think, motivate themselves and behave" (p. 1). In a discussion about self-efficacy beliefs, Pajares (2002) noted that the beliefs a person holds about his or her capabilities can be a better predictor of that individual's behavior than the person's actual knowledge since perceived self-efficacy affects what individuals actually do with their skills. Further demonstrating the importance of self-efficacy, it has been shown that more confident preservice teachers are less likely to drop out of the teaching profession and think about the teaching profession in distinctly different ways than those preservice teachers with low self-confidence (Marso & Pigge, 1998b; Kalian & Freeman, 1987). This is of paramount importance since the nation is experiencing a crisis with regard to teacher retention (Heller, 2004).

Bandura (1977) presented the following areas as sources for efficacy information: 1) actual experiences, 2) vicarious experiences, 3) verbal persuasion, and 4) emotional arousal. It is reasonable to conclude that preservice teachers develop a sense of teaching efficacy in a variety of ways that might include observing other teachers (vicarious experiences), peer teaching (actual experiences), and encountering feedback from supervisors and their students (verbal persuasion), which could result in emotional arousal. Whether this emotional arousal is positive or negative depends upon feedback received. Marso and Pigge (1998a) found that high levels of anxiety, or low efficacy, about teaching negatively impacts preservice teachers as they transition into the profession.

This low self-efficacy is likely developed over time as a result of feedback received and beliefs about self, starting as early as childhood. Strauss and Pollack (2003) found that overweight adolescents were more likely to be socially isolated and to be peripheral to social networks than were normal weight adolescents. In their study of 10,039 young people aged 16 to 24 years, Gortmaker, Must, Perrin, Sobol, and Dietz (1993) concluded that overweight in adolescents may have deleterious effects on their subsequent self esteem, social and economic characteristics, and physical health, and that discrimination against overweight persons may be responsible for these negative findings.

Considering the national obsession with body size, it is likely that preservice teachers may feel anxious and experience low efficacy if their body size elicits negative feedback. In an era where the profession is experiencing a shortage of qualified teachers in many disciplines and a sharp rise in the rate of obesity, it is important to address concerns that could negatively impact preservice teachers as they transition into the profession. This study was designed to examine the relationship between preservice teachers' perceived body sizes and confidence in their ability to teach.

Method

Participants

This study included 102 prospective teacher candidates enrolled in undergraduate preservice education methods classes during the fall 2004 semester. The sample included 72 (69%) females and 32 (31%) males aged 20 to 47 years, with the average age just under 22 years. Ali participants were education majors at a four-year public university located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, completing required undergraduate education methods courses as a prerequisite for their admission to the Professional Teacher Education Internship experience. A total of 62 participants identified elementary education as their major, 40 participants identified health and physical education as their major, and two participants did not identify a major. In these courses, teacher candidates are introduced to and reflect on teaching practices, apply appropriate methodology, and discuss their concerns about effectively managing a classroom.

Data Collection

Each teacher candidate enrolled in undergraduate preservice education methods classes (including Classroom Management, School Health Methods, and Secondary Physical Education Methods) was provided an opportunity to participate in this study by completing a confidential questionnaire about perceived body size and confidence in ability to teach as a part of regular instruction during the first day of class. Prior to completing the questionnaire, candidates completed an informed consent form, approved by the University's Human Subjects Committee, which described the basic purpose of the study. Participants were assured that the results would remain confidential.

Participants were asked to report their age, height, weight, gender, and race. Following this demographic information, participants completed The Teaching Anxiety Scale (Parsons, 1973). In the next section of the questionnaire, participants were presented a series of body images arranged from very underweight to very overweight. They were asked to select the body image that best represented their perceived, current body size and the one that best represented their desired body size. The difference between the body image identified as best representing current body size and most preferred, was calculated as the body image discrepancy score. In the final section of the questionnaire, participants rated their confidence in ability to teach and confidence in students' positive perceptions of themselves as teachers, on a scale of 1 (low)--10 (high).

Using self reported heights and weights, body mass index (BMI) was calculated for each participant as weight in kilograms, divided by height in meters squared (kg/[m.sup.2]). Participants were then placed into one of three BMI Groups: Normal Weight (NW) with scores between 18.5-24.9, Overweight (OW) with scores between 25.0-29.9, and Obese (OB) with scores of 30.0 and above, as identified by the Centers for Disease Control (2004). These groups represent Quetelet's Index, a convenient and reliable indicator of obesity (Garrow & Webster, 1985) often used to classify an individual's body fatness. For further analyses, participants also were grouped according to their academic discipline; i.e., those majoring in elementary education (EDUC) and those majoring in health and physical education (HPE).

According to Parsons (1973), The Teaching Anxiety Scale (TCHAS) provides a tool for measuring anxiety that is specifically related to teaching and contains a variety of self report statements about participants' reactions to teaching. These statements address a variety of teaching situations, as well as attitudes toward the teaching profession. Statements are scored on a Likert scale of 1--5, with 1 representing the lowest occurrence (never) and 5 representing the highest occurrence (always). Approximately one half of the TCHAS items are phrased positively, while the remaining items are phrased negatively. A high agreement with the positive items indicates low anxiety, while high agreement with the negative items indicates high anxiety. Parsons has shown that 1) TCHAS is a reliable measure of anxiety among preservice teachers; 2) preservice teachers' responses to TCHAS are significantly related to their behaviors as observed and interpreted by their supervisors; 3) and anxiety, as measured by TCHAS, consistently decreases as experience in teaching increases. The TCHAS has high stability (.95) and internal consistency (.87-.94), and has successfully discriminated between groups of preservice teachers rated most and least anxious about teaching. It is important to note that Parsons recommended TCHAS to be used as a research tool rather than as a basis for selecting or evaluating teachers.

Statistical Analysis

Data analyses were performed using a computerized statistical package, SPSS version 12.0 (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL). First, an independent t-test was used to examine differences of questionnaire responses between the two groups of participants as identified by academic discipline, EDUC and HPE. Additionally, a two way MANOVA with Post Hoc Comparisons (Tukey HSD) was used to detect differences among Body Mass Index (BMI--three groups) and gender on the Questionnaire for Preservice Teachers. All data are presented with the mean and standard deviation (see Tables 1 and 2). P values at or below the 0.05 level were accepted as significant.

Results

With regard to the academic discipline of the participants, analyses of the data showed no significant differences between the EDUC and HPE majors for the following measures on the questionnaire: anxiety about teaching, importance of body size, confidence in ability to teach, and confidence in students' positive perceptions of themselves. A significant difference was found, however, for body image discrepancy scores (the difference between the body image that best represented perceived, current body size and the one that best represented desired body size) between HPE and EDUC majors. Specifically, HPE majors placed greater importance on body size and had smaller body image discrepancy scores than their EDUC counterparts (see Table 1).

Further analyses of the data showed no significant differences between the three BMI groups for the following measures on the questionnaire: anxiety about teaching, importance of body size, and confidence in students' positive perception of themselves. Significant differences were found, however, between BMI groups for body image discrepancy scores and confidence in ability to teach. Specifically, those participants in the OW Group reported the highest confidence in their ability to teach. Furthermore, body image discrepancy scores were highest for the OB Group participants (see Table 2).

No significant differences were found for gender with the exception of body image discrepancy scores, p = 0.036 (see Table 3). No interaction effects were found between BMI and gender except for body image discrepancy scores, p = 0.04.

Discussion

This study was designed to examine the relationship between perceived body size and confidence in ability to teach. The results indicate that while perceived body size was equally important to all three BMI Groups, body image discrepancy scores were largest for participants in the OB Group. These discrepancy scores represent the difference between perceived, current body size and desired body size. This finding is not surprising given that society places such high importance on one's general physical appearance (Wong & Wong, 1998) and self-evaluation of one's body (Stark, 2004). Also, as expected, body image discrepancy scores were highest among those participants in the OB Group. This finding supports the authors' hypothesis that those in the OB Group would be the least satisfied with their body sizes.

When compared by academic discipline, the HPE majors placed higher importance on body size than did EDUC majors. This finding might be expected because HPE majors focus on fitness and health within their academic discipline, which may elevate the importance of body size. HPE majors also reported desired body sizes that were closer to their perceived current body sizes than did EDUC majors. One explanation for this finding is that HPE majors typically workout and participate in sport-related activities more frequently due to the nature of their discipline. This extra physical activity may bring many HPE majors closer to their desired body size.

Based upon the findings that having a negative body image may 1) contribute to low self-esteem (Stark, 2004; The National Women's Health Information Center, 2004), 2) influence perceptions of characteristics and abilities (Health Canada, 1994), and 3) ultimately influence satisfaction, self-respect, and self-confidence (Davis, 1999), it was hypothesized that 1) participants in the NW Group would report the highest confidence in ability to teach, 2) participants in the OB Group would report the lowest confidence in ability to teach, and 3) participants in the OW Group would score between the other two groups. While the results of this study indicate that body size may influence preservice teachers' confidence in their ability to teach, this did not occur in the hypothesized order. Unexpectedly, those subjects in the OW Group reported the highest level of confidence in their ability to teach. The difference between the NW and OW Groups with regard to confidence in ability to teach may be explained by the number of males in the HPE discipline that were categorized as being a member of the OW Group (16/32 males) and the number of males versus females in this group (16/31). It is probable that these individuals perceive their body size as an asset, not a liability, and that this bolsters confidence. This may also explain the low body image discrepancy scores of this group.

It was also hypothesized that differences in confidence in ability to teach might be found between participants majoring in HPE and EDUC. Analyses of data by academic major, however, revealed no significant differences between these two groups. This result supports the findings of Marso and Pigge (1998a) who reported that anxiety in teachers did not relate to gender, major, student teaching evaluations, or grade point average.

While no single factor determines a preservice teacher's perception of his or her ability to teach, various factors have been identified as contributing to the development of confidence, or self efficacy, including 1) formal teacher preparation (Pigge & Marso, 1990), 2) overweight (Gortmaker et al., 1993), and 3) external validation (Palmer, 2001). As noted by Gortmaker et al., negative feedback encountered by obese people may lower self esteem. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that being overweight or negatively perceiving one's body size could erode confidence in ability to teach. Despite finding that perceived body size and confidence in teaching ability may be related, it appears as though perceived body size alone may not accurately predict the direction of this relationship.

Limitations

A limitation of this study is the small sample size. While the sample size is relatively small, each preservice teacher enrolled in the identified undergraduate preservice education methods courses during the semester the study was conducted, was invited to participate in this study.

A second limitation of this study might be the sole reliance on reported height and weight for each participant. With perceived body size being the variable of interest in this study, actual heights and weights were not measured.

Recommendations

Future research should differentiate between lean and fat body weight when categorizing individuals by body size. It would also be of interest to determine whether the relationship between perceived body size and confidence in ability to teach persists during the non-tenured teaching years, potentially affecting teacher retention rates.

To impact attrition rates in a positive way, teacher preparation programs must address issues that influence their preservice teachers' self-confidence. Recognizing that body image perceptions play a role in self-confidence may assist teacher preparation programs in accomplishing this task. These programs might include wellness sessions on healthy diet and exercise in addition to the training in content and pedagogy that preservice teachers traditionally receive.

References

Bandura, A. (1977). Self efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84, 191 215.

Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. Retrieved December 1, 2004 from http://www.emory.edu/EDUCATION/mfp/BanEncy.html

Centers for Disease Control. (2004). BMI--Body mass index: BMI for adults. Retrieved February 25, 2005 from http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/bmi/bmi-adult.htm

Davis, B. (1999). What's real, what's ideal: Overcoming a negative body image. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, Inc.

Eggen, P., & Kauchak, D. (2004). Educational psychology: Windows on classrooms. (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Garrow, J. S., & Webster, J. (1985). Quetelet's index (W/H2) as a measure of fatness. International Journal of Obesity, 9, 147-153.

Gortmaker, S., Must, A., Perrin, J., Sobol, A., & Dietz, W. (1993). Social and economic consequences of overweight in adolescence and young adulthood. New England Journal of Medicine, 329(14), 1008 1012.

Health Canada. (1994). Positive self image and body image: A crucial link. Canadian Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Journal, 60(3), 29-33.

Heller, D. A. (2004). Teachers wanted: Attracting and retaining good teachers. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Marso, R. N., & Pigge, E L. (1998a). A seven year multivariate longitudinal study of the changes in anxiety about teaching through preparation and early years of teaching. Retrieved January 27, 2005 from http://SearchERIC.org/ericdc/ED425144.htm

Marso, R. N., & Pigge, E L. (1998b). A longitudinal study of relationships between attitude toward teaching, anxiety about teaching, self-perceived effectiveness, and attrition from teaching. Retrieved March 5, 2005 from http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/Home.Portal/Home.portal?_nfpb=true& ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED417171&ERICExtSearch_SearchTlype_0=eric_accno& pageLabel=ERIC-SearchResult&newSearch=true&rnd=1110388480940& searchtype=keyboard

Pajares, E (2002). Overview of social cognitive theory and of self-efficacy. Retrieved December 1, 2004 from http://www.emory.edu/EDUCATION/mfp/eff.html

Palmer, D. H. (2001). Factors contributing to attitude exchange amongst preservice elementary teachers. Science Teacher Education. Retrieved March 10, 2005 from http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/abstract/89011061/ABSTRACT

Parsons, Jane S. (1973). Assessment of anxiety about teaching using the teaching anxiety scale: Manual and research report. Austin, TX: Texas University, Research and Development Center for Teacher Education.

Pigge, F. L. & Marso, R. N. (1990). The influence of personality type, locus of control, and personal attributes upon changes in anxiety, attitude, and confidence of prospective teachers during training. Retrieved July 31, 2004 from http://SearchERIC.org/ericdb/ED326517.htm

Stark, C. (n.d.). Do you have body angst: Start improving your self-image and confidence today, iDiet & Fitness. Retrieved November 21, 2004 from http://www.ivillage.co.uk /dietandfitness/wtmngment/eatdisorder/articles/0,,242_165790,00.html

Strauss, R., Pollack, H. (2003). Social marginalization of overweight children. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 157, 746 752.

The National Women's Health Information Center (2004, August). Body image and your health. Retrieved November 29, 2004 from http://www.4woman.gov/BodyImage/

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TEENA R. GORROW

Education Department

SUSAN M. MULLER

Health, Physical Education, and Human Performance Department

SIDNEY R. SCHNEIDER

Health Sciences Department

Salisbury University

Salisbury, Maryland
Table 1: Academic Discipline by Anxiety, Confidence, and Discrepancy

Academic            Teaching Anxiety       Importance of
Major               Scale                  Body Size

                    Mean     [+ or -] SD   Mean     [+ or -] SD

Group 1: HPE        74.23       3.97       7.46 *      1.91
Group 2: EDUC       74.68       4.10       6.48        2.09

Academic            Confidence in          Confidence in
Major               Teaching               Students' Perceptions

                    Mean     [+ or -] SD   Mean     [+ or -] SD

Group 1: HPE        7.97        1.29       8.31        1.30
Group 2: EDUC       7.66        1.16       8.38        1.19

Academic            Body Image
Major               Discrepancy Scores

                    Mean     [+ or -] SD

Group 1: HPE        0.74        0.97
Group 2: EDUC       1.75 *      1.20

* difference between groups 1 & 2, p < 0.05

Table 2: Body Mass Index by Anxiety, Confidence, and Discrepancy

Body Mass           Teaching               Importance of
Index Groups        Anxiety Scale          Body Size

                    Mean     [+ or -] SD   Mean     [+ or -] SD

Normal Weight:      74.52       3.95       6.89        2.27
BMI 18.5-24.9

Overweight:         74.13       4.49       6.77        1.94
BMI 25.0-29.9

Obese:              75.50       3.57       6.79        1.67
BMI [greater than
  or equal to] 30

Body Mass           Confidence in          Confidence in
Index Groups        Teaching               Students' Perceptions

                    Mean     [+ or -] SD   Mean     [+ or -] SD

Normal Weight:      7.42        1.20       8.34        1.21
BMI 18.5-24.9

Overweight:         8.35 *      1.20       8.55        1.23
BMI 25.0-29.9

Obese:              7.82        0.82       8.29        0.99
BMI [greater than
  or equal to] 30

Body Mass           Body Image
Index Groups        Discrepancy Scores

                    Mean              [+ or -] SD

Normal Weight:      1.09                 1.30
BMI 18.5-24.9

Overweight:         1.39                 0.89
BMI 25.0-29.9

Obese:              2.07 ([dagger])      1.00
BMI [greater than
  or equal to] 30

* difference between NW and OW Groups, p < 0.05

([dagger]) difference between NW and OB Groups, p < 0.05

Table 3. Gender differences by Academic Discipline and Body Mass Index

Group/Major                         Gender      Importance of
                                                  Body Size *

                                             Mean      [+ or -] SD

HPE                                   F       8.00 *   1.80
                                      M       7.16     1.95

EDUC                                  F       6.61 *   2.03
                                      M       5.00     2.34

Body Mass                           Gender        Body Image
Index Groups                                     Discrepancy *

                                             Mean       [+ or -] SD

Normal Weight:                        F       1.37 *    1.13
BMI18.5-24.9                          M      -0.79      0.70

Overweight:                           F       1.90 *    0.80
BMI25.0-29.9                          M       0.91      0.69

Obese:                                F       2.43 *    1.27
BMI [greater than or equal to] 30     M       1.71      0.49

* gender differences for each group p < 0.05
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Author:Gorrow, Teena R.; Muller, Susan M.; Schneider, Sidney R.
Publication:Education
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2005
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