Motivations and Barriers Associated With School Food and Nutrition Professionals Choosing to Participate In a National Credentialing Exam

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Nutrition and Food Systems

First Advisor

Jane Boudreaux

Advisor Department

Nutrition and Food Systems


This study applied theoretical underpinnings found in adult education research on participation to determine the motivations and barriers associated with school food and nutrition professionals' decision to take the American School Food Service Association's (ASFSA) School Foodservice and Nutrition Specialist (SFNS) credentialing exam. The study was a descriptive, causal comparative design to investigate group differences. Group 1 represented those who had taken the SFNS credentialing exam ( n = 463) while Group 2 represented a random sample of those maintaining an ASFSA Level 3 certification (n = 750). A three-part survey instrument, Decision to Participate in a Professional Credentialing Exam, was developed, measuring group differences in the motivations, barriers, and selected program and participant characteristics associated with the SFNS credentialing exam. Survey return rate for Group 1 was 71% ( n = 327) and 35% (n = 266) for Group 2. Frequencies, chi squares, and independent t tests were used to explore group differences. Principal components factor analysis with varimax rotation generated the motivation factors explaining 65% variance. Alpha levels ranged from .74 to .95 for six motivation factors. Group 1 and Group 2 identified cognitive interest as the highest factor mean score of 4.35 and 4.10, respectively, using a 5-point Likert-type scale measuring strongly disagree to strongly agree . Barriers were found to be a unitary construct with an alpha level of .90. Multiple Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) was applied to both groups to examine factor differences, while one-way Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was used as the post hoc test comparing variability. Discriminant function analysis at the p < .05 level revealed that participation in the SFNS credentialing exam can be predicted (X2 = 292.281, df = 20, p < .001) and was correctly classified at 83.5%. The top structure coefficients for influencing school food and nutrition professionals' decision to participate in the SFNS credentialing exam were Barriers (-.744), Social Relationship (.398), External Expectations (-.305), and Involvement in continuing education activities (.304).