When I talk to people about what I want to do for a living, they have A LOT of questions, naturally. Usually after the first twenty odd questions which usually start with “So I have this problem…” we get to some really interesting discussion about sexuality education and how we were all taught sex ed in schools.
A lot of people remember the kind of sexuality education they had in school for a few different reasons. 1) It was traumatic and hardly forgettable. Think the gym teacher with a basketball under each arm talking about ovaries and flagella. Ha! 2) It was abstinence only based. 3) It was not what they considered practical/informative/fun.
Often times, I hear about what peoples’ sexuality education was NOT. Contrary to these stories, however, sexuality education can be fun, educational, and can leave a positive lasting impression. Our education is only as good as the techniques used to teach and that’s really what is so important when discussing sexuality with various student populations.
When teaching any subject matter, it’s important to consider your audience. Think about your students, what types of learners are they? Are some more tactile? Do some learn more from lecture style? Do some have to write notes out multiple times? Do activities solidify key concepts for them? Ask yourself lots of questions and be prepared to allot time to really think about it. Educational planning takes time and with a subject like sexuality, you have to be willing to devote that time.
Once you’ve really analyzed your student population, start thinking about methodology. How can you reach a variety of learners in one lesson without overwhelming them with activities and videos or boring them with a 2 hour long lecture? You have to be intentional about using a variety of styles without doing too much. It can get tricky and really, it takes trial and error. Some educators don’t really like hearing that, but it’s the truth. There is not a perfect way to teach any subject. Every educator has their own style, their own favorite techniques, and they learn what works best for them and their audience by trial and error.
Today, I will talk about a few of my favorite instructional models that appeal to different types of learners.
For some of my more critical thinking/analytical type students, I enjoy posing a problem, having students form their own hypothesis and gather data to support their hypothesis. This kind of methodology is referred to as an inquiry inductive instructional model. It can be done in a variety of ways on a variety of subject matters. For example, I could have each student come up with their own hypothesis or work in groups. I could use it when discussing something like STI’s for a basic middle school lesson plan or use this model when teaching college students human sexuality theory and development. Instructional Models can be used across a wide topic area as well as age range/grade level.
An example for use might be to pose a problem to college students such as: I have a woman, Nancy who is in her 40′s, grew up in an urban environment in the South and is overweight. Nancy now lives in the north and is dealing with infertility issues which subsequently has made her question her self worth and has effected her overall self esteem. What health behavior models might we use to help Nancy when considering an educational intervention?
For our middle school STI lesson we could use something like as follows: John is showing no symptoms of an STI, however he is contacted by former partner, Suzanne. Suzanne thinks she has an STI because she is experiencing discharge and itching. What might Suzanne be experiencing? What advice would you give to John if he came to you to talk about it?
Both of these scenarios deal with a posed problem or question, both have open ended options as “solutions.” And depending on how students or groups view the situation, they might hypothesize different things. This helps students to solidify concepts as well as evaluate and analyze the data given thus helping to strengthen their critical thinking skills around sexuality.
Lastly, we’ll talk about an instructional model called Jigsaw. I really like this model because I enjoy having students take on the role of educator from time to time. I think it allows for them to feel like experts at something and creates a sense of autonomy. Jigsaw requires students to do research on a topic area and present it to the class in some form or another. This also can be done in a variety of ways. It can be through giving students reading assignments to present to the class, presenting in some form, creating a movie or performing a learned skill, the possibilities almost seem endless. This kind of assignment can allow for creativity, it also builds a feeling of trust or interdependence upon each other in the classroom, in addition to it helping students to feel more comfortable presenting.
Currently, in a class that I am taking, I have been assigned a group and we are to present a lesson plan to our class. This is an example of a jigsaw assignment. We will be teaching the class a concept in sexuality of our choosing and the class will give us feedback as to our presentation style, methodology, speaking skills, etc. The assignment in itself is not so much about the content we teach, but rather how we are teaching and how effective our chosen methodology is.
There is research out there on jigsaw and other cooperative learning techniques and its effectiveness in teaching science. This could really assist in teaching biology as it relates to sexuality as well.
Colosi, J. C., & Zales, C. (1998). Jigsaw cooperative learning improves biology lab courses. Bioscience, 48(2), 118-124.
Slish, D. F. (2005). Assessment of the use of the Jigsaw Method and Active Learning in Non-majors, Introductory Biology. Bioscene, 31(4), 1-10.
There are many other styles of educating students, some I’ve found more useful than others when discussing sexuality. Perhaps a future post will be about sexuality education bloopers: what hasn’t worked so well. As important as it is to know what works, it’s just as important to have a blooper or two, otherwise how would we learn? I hope this has helped some of you out there in the blogosphere! Please feel free to write me with questions or your thoughts on educational methodology in teaching sexuality!