Teachers' Receptiveness and Comfort Teaching Sexuality Education and Using Non-Traditional Teaching Strategies

By Haignere, Clara S.; Culhane, Jennifer F. et al. | Journal of School Health, April 1996 | Go to article overview

Teachers' Receptiveness and Comfort Teaching Sexuality Education and Using Non-Traditional Teaching Strategies


Haignere, Clara S., Culhane, Jennifer F., Balsley, Catherine M., Legos, Patricia, Journal of School Health


Over the past 10 years, research has shown that traditional knowledge-based curricula increase students understanding, but do little to change actual sexual risk-taking behavior.[1-3] In response, new health education curricula not only attempt to impart knowledge, but emphasize problem-solving, communication, refusal, and negotiating skills, as well as sexual abstinence and abstinence from drug and alcohol use.[4,5] These curricula allow students to practice and internalize skills through interactive teaching strategies such as roleplays, small-group exercises, trips, homework with parents, group discussions, interactive videos and games, and more sparing use of traditional classroom techniques such as lectures, rote memorizing, and textbook reading.[6-8]

Although educators and health professionals widely encourage use of these new curricula,[9,10] in 1992, only five of 34 states' HIV/AIDS education curricula or guidelines had a thoroughly skills-based approach.[11] The problem is compounded by teachers' HIV/AIDS training. A 1995 survey of 251 institutions with teacher training programs found none teaching courses in sexuality education methods and only 2% requiring a course that included HIV/AIDS prevention education methods.[12] If most teachers have not been taught sexuality education methods to begin with, how receptive can they be to the new interactive strategies? How do teachers actually feel about these strategies? If they are reluctant to use them, why? This study attempted to answer these questions.

SURVEY METHODS

The survey was conducted in the Philadelphia Public School District during 1993-1994. The school district has 40 middle schools with an enrollment of more than 34,000 made up primarily of minority students (African-Americans 69%, Latinos 11%, Whites 18%, and Asians 2%). A 35-item survey was mailed to all 160 eighth grade health teachers through the district's interoffice mail system. The survey was created from the responses of junior high school health teachers who participated in focus groups conducted by the Family Planning Council of Southeastern Pennsylvania in 1991.

Survey questions were developed from both the instrument that guided the focus group discussions and a taxonomy of questions constructed from teachers' qualitative responses. The questionnaire items were reviewed by health education and sexuality education researchers and practitioners to assure content and face validity. The surveys were confidential, self-administered, and voluntary, with no job performance repercussions. Questions that required recall did not demand exact numbers, but an approximate frequency of use. A rigorous assessment of reliability was not conducted owing to the well-defined and customary nature of the subject for health education teachers. They were asked: 1) demographic information such as age, gender, level of education, and certification, 2) total number of years teaching, number of years teaching sexuality, HIV/AIDS or STDs prevention, pregnancy prevention, and abstinence education, 3) their beliefs about the effectiveness of sexuality curricula, 4) their level of confidence teaching sexuality curricula, 5) their perceived barriers to teaching sexuality education, 6) their perception of values others place on sexuality education, and 7) their use of five alternative teaching strategies.

All attitudinal questions employed a five-point Likert-type scale. For questions dealing with student impact, student interests, and teachers' confidence, the scale ranged from one (strongly agree) to five (strongly disagree). For questions dealing with barriers to effective implementation and perceived value, the five-point scale was reversed, with one equal to "not at all," and five equal to "a lot."

Eighth grade teachers were asked how often they use the five teaching strategies: 1) roleplays, 2) lecturing, 3) audio/visual materials, 4) small-group discussions, and 5) problem-solving, decision-making exercises. …

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