Communities and Schools Promoting Health

A Gateway to information on comprehensive school health (CSH) and health promoting schools (HPS)
Providing links to research, reports, how-to manuals, planning & assessment tools, lesson plans and student webquests

     

Understanding CSH

Applying CSH

Lesson Plans

Student Webquests

School Health Policies

Scans/Inventories/Trends

Home

Franšais

Feedback

Sponsors

About Us


Sexuality Education - Background Information

Background Information on Sexuality Education

Effective sexuality education is based on sound behaviour theory that has been developed over several years. Fisher (1997) has discussed those theories and shown how they can help to frame and develop sexuality education programs.

Education about Sexuality: Different Approaches

There are several  approaches that educators and others have used to educate young people about sexuality (Birdwhistle and Vince-Whitman, 1997):

-“family life-which places emphasis on preparing children for family life and reproduction  
-sexuality education- which places more emphasis on the individual, sexual activity, biology and behaviour
-population education-which emphasizes sociological, environmental and economic consequences of population growth
- science education-which emphasizes biology aspects
-medical/disease education - which emphasizes disease, risk and medical information”

The selection of which approach to use in schools is usually a difficult one because there are inherent values and significant choices to be made in determining a basic approach to instructing young people about sexuality. Sometimes, authorities avoid making a clear decision from among these choices, thereby leaving the classroom teacher in somewhat of a vacuum, having to respond to the direct questions of their students without a clear mandate from policy-makers.

This Internet gateway has attempted to locate lessons that can fit within all of these approaches. However, the research identified in the development of the comprehensive list of possible learning outcomes would support the use of a sexuality education approach.

However, teachers should check their respective provincial/territorial curriculum and other guidelines from the local school board.

The Need for Sexuality Education

The arguments for sexuality education have been well presented by the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada.

Parents and guardians are a primary and important source of sexual health education for young people. Adolescents often look to their families as one of several preferred sources of sexual health information (King et al., 1988; McKay & Holowaty, 1997).

In addition to families, schools are a particularly important source of sexual health education. As the Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education suggest, as the single formal educational institution to have meaningful contact with nearly every young person, schools are a vital resource for providing children, adolescents, and young adults with the knowledge and skills they will need to make and act upon decisions that promote sexual health (Health Canada, 1994, p. 11).

As an important part of its contribution to adolescent development, sexual health education can play a key role in the primary prevention of significant sexual health problems. For example, at present, over 45,000 young women aged 15-19 years become pregnant in Canada each year (Wadhera & Millar, 1997), and rates of common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as Chlamydia, are highest among teenagers and young adults (Health Canada, 1998). The high Chlamydia rate among 15-19 year olds is a significant health concern and when it is not recognized and treated, this STD can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and infertility (Patrick, 1997). According to Canada's Labratory Centre for Disease Control, although the limited data available suggests that prevalence of HIV infection among youth is currently low, adolescents "are a group that could experience an increase in HIV infection" (Health Canada, Laboratory Centre for Disease Control, 1999, P. 1). As documented below, broadly-based sexual health education can play an important role in the prevention of STDs and unintended pregnancies among young people.

Further, as SIECCAN has also pointed out, parents consistently support sexuality education in schools and in other institutions.

Survey research consistently shows that Canadian parents and students want schools to provide sexual health education programs. For example, Lawlor and Purcell (1988) found that 95% of their sample of Montreal area parents of high school students approved of sexuality education in the schools. Verby and Herold's (1992) survey of parents in an urban area of Ontario indicated that 98% were in favour of AIDS education. A more recent series of surveys of Canadian parents found that over 85% of parents agreed with the statement, "Sexual health education should be provided in the schools", and a majority of parents approved of schools' providing students with information on reproduction, birth control, STD/AIDS prevention, healthy relationships, abstinence, sexual orientation, puberty, sexual abuse/rape, and individual, family, and community moral beliefs about sexuality (Langille, Beazley, & Doncaster, 1996; McKay, 1996; McKay, Pietrusiak & Holowaty, 1998).

Principles of Effective Sexuality Education

The Canadian Guidelines for Sexuality Education (Health Canada, 1994) include a thorough presentation of some guiding principles for sexuality education.

Principle 1: Access to Sexual Health Education for All

Principle 2: Comprehensiveness of Sexual Health Education: Integration, Coordination and Breadth

Principle 3: Effectiveness and Sensitivity of Educational Approaches and Methods

Principle 4: Training and Administrative Support

Principle 5: Program Planning, Evaluation, Updating and Social Development

Characteristics of Effective Programs

Kirby (1995) and other sources used in this review (Birdwhistle and Vince-Whitman, 1997: Walsh & Bibace, 1990: Basch, 1989; Allensworth and Symons, 1989: Kerr, 1989; King et al, 1990; ) have listed the following characteristics of effective sexuality education programs. Good programs:
 
bullet

are based on solid theory (Social Influence Theory, Social Learning Theory Cognitive-Behavioural Theory)

bullet

are provided before young person has first intercourse

bullet

are focused on specific aims of delayed intercourse and/or protected intercourse

bullet

are of at least 14 hours in duration

bullet

are organized in sessions of sufficient intensity to achieve stated goals

bullet

use regular, consistent and coordinated interventions rather than single, isolated interventions

bullet

 provide work in small groups, and a range of interactive activities such as role playing, discussion, brainstorming so that participants personalized the risks

bullet

include activities that allow participants to observe in others and to practice themselves, communications and negotiation skills that can lead to delayed initiation of sex or to protected sex

bullet

provide clear, factual information on the outcomes of unprotected sex and how those outcomes can be avoided

bullet

identify the social influences of peers and the media to have sex or unprotected sex and provide strategies to respond and deal with these pressures

bullet

reinforce values that support the goals of the program and develop group norms against unprotected sex that are relevant to the age group and experiences of the participants

bullet

provide training for those teaching or leading the interventions  

bullet

recognize and respond to developmental stages of childhood and their capacity to understand and act upon information about sexuality, health and disease 

bullet

recognize adolescent developmental needs and try to offer positive behavioural alternatives so that young people can (1) experiment safely with different lifestyles, (2) be recognized as part of positive, peer groups, (3) develop appropriate intimate and caring relationships with others and (4) taking healthy risks to test their growing mental and physical capacities

bullet

are linked and coordinated with other school and community-based interventions such as preventive sexual health services for adolescents, parent education and involvement, peer led activities and programs, awareness raising school activities, school-based health and guidance services and others

bullet

are adapted to local needs and address local concerns

bullet

include all children and youth, but are also adapted for young people who may be more at risk and offer harm reduction strategies for those who are already practicing unsafe sex

Fisher (2001) suggests that sexuality education should place a priority on behaviourally relevant, easy to translate into action sexual health information. Such education should acknowledge that most of the problem in sexual health risk taking involves emotional obstacles to practicing prevention and on the corresponding need to focus on attitudinal and normative change as well as the development of behavioural skills.

Elements of Effective Sexuality Education

The following structural elements need to be included in an effective sexual health education program
bullet

mandatory, comprehensive curriculum with appropriate learning knowledge, skills, beliefs/attitudes, social support, preventive health services and behavioural outcomes organized in an well-designed scope and sequence from the early primary years to senior school graduation

bullet

sexuality education program is part of a comprehensive health education program, which in turn, is part of a personal and social development program

bullet

high quality teaching/learning materials, including print, media and technology based alternatives

bullet

active learning and teaching methods

bullet

effective pre-service education for teachers

bullet

good inservice education for teachers

bullet

parent involvement in instruction through good communications with the home and through take home learning activities

bullet

active student involvement in adapting the program to local needs and peer leadership and education in the classroom and the school

bullet

the instructional program is situated within a comprehensive school-community approach to promoting sexual health that includes accessible and convenient adolescent preventive health services, social support from parents and others in the community, a safe healthy physical environment in the school, convenient access to condoms by youth, etc.

As well, the teaching/learning methods selected should reflect the outcome being sought in the classroom. For example:

General Outcome Teaching/Learning Method
Awareness

Lectures, Group Work, Video/Media, Displays, Exhibitions, Brochures

Knowledge

Lectures, One to One teaching, Written Materials, Research Assignments, Group Work, Reading Assignments, Internet Assignments

Self-Awareness, Attitude Change, Decision-making

Group Work, Clarifying/Discussing Values, Journaling, Ranking, Categorizing, Role Playing

Behaviour Change

Group Work, Self monitoring, Identifying benefits/risks, Setting goals, targets, Devising Coping strategies, Accessing social support, Accessing support services, Overcoming physical, economic, practical barriers

Changing the Environment Advocacy, Community service

 Effective Teaching in Health and Sexuality Education

 Research has identified several characteristics of effective teaching in health and sexuality education. They are:

 For Health and Personal/Social Development Education
 
bullet

Using active learning and teaching techniques

bullet

Effective use of small group discussions

bullet

Effective use of media and technologies

bullet

Effective use of the arts, drama, literature

bullet

Effective use of student reflection through journal writing

bullet

Communicating with parents

bullet

Involving parents in take home learning activities

 For sexuality education and other sensitive topics
 
bullet

Setting ground rules

bullet

Depersonalizing and normalizing class discussions

bullet

Dealing with questions in class

bullet

Enabling students to ask questions anonymously

bullet

Knowing how to respond to disclosures of possible abuse or assault

bullet

Referrals to health services or guidance services

bullet

Providing appropriate take away materials

 Support for Effective Sexuality Education

 Support for sexuality education should come from within and outside the school system and should include:
 
bullet

links with preventive services

bullet

local media cooperation

bullet

supportive, comprehensive policy and leadership

bullet

supportive administrative leadership at the school district and school levels

bullet

data to monitor implementation and evaluation

bullet

dedicated staff, with adequate time, training and resources

bullet

regular parent information sessions, resources to use at home and effective communication about the program

 Effective Lesson Planning and Learning Activities

 Lesson plans and learning activities in sexuality and other subjects should follow a well-planned and implemented format (El-Tigi, 2000;) including:

bullet

Goals

bullet

Objectives

bullet

Prerequisites

bullet

Materials

bullet

Lesson Description

bullet

Lesson Procedure

bullet

Closure

bullet

Follow-up/Enrichment

bullet

Assessment/Evaluation Criteria

 The target age/grade(s) and any other relevant information should also be included in the lesson plan description.

LessonProcedures/Learning Process 

The actual lesson procedure/process (ERIC Clearinghouse; 1987) should include these steps

1.      Gain the learners attention.

2.      Review relevant past learning.

3.      Communicate the goal of the lesson.

4.      Model the skills to be learned.

5.      Prompt for correct responses.

6.      Check for skill mastery.

7.      Close the lesson.

See Sources/References for the references used in preparing this background information.

 

Sexuality Education Lesson Plans

 

Last updated: 02/15/2005