The Missing Element? Early Years Teachers' Attitudes to Subject Knowledge
In this chapter Ichart the changing attitudes of five early years teachers towards 'subject knowledge'. As part of a research project based at the University of Wales Swansea, these teachers were asked to mentor an aspect of subject knowledge to the student teachers on placement in their schools. Initially the mentors objected to focusing on subject knowledge and their comments reflected a commitment to the child-centred ideology. Over time mentors' attitudes towards subject knowledge were challenged and gradually the role and importance of this knowledge in their teaching and in pupilleaming became 'visible' to them. Ultimately, mentors maintained that subject knowledge had been the 'missing element' in their practice. But mentors found that acknowledging the importance of 'subjects' did not negate the importance of their child-centred beliefs; they found ways in which to reconcile the subject-centred and child-centred approaches. It is concluded that if there is a belief that standards in primary schools would be raised through a more subject-centred approach to teaching, then it is teachers' attitudes towards subject knowledge that need to be addressed first and foremost. Even so, there is no guarantee that changing teachers' attitudes will change their classroom practice. As Cox and Sanders (1994) point out, although attitudes may predispose us to behave in certain ways, our behaviour in reallife situations will be subject to other influences.