Pre-Service Sexual Health Education Training of Elementary, Secondary, and Physical Health Education Teachers in Canadian Faculties of Education

By McKay, Alexander; Barrett, Michael | The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

Pre-Service Sexual Health Education Training of Elementary, Secondary, and Physical Health Education Teachers in Canadian Faculties of Education


McKay, Alexander, Barrett, Michael, The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality


ABSTRACT: The effectiveness of school-based sexual health education depends, in part, on the preparation of the teachers who provide it. In the absence of published literature on the extent to which the Bachelor of Education (B. Ed.) programs at Canadian university faculties of education provide pre-service training for this role, the present study surveyed all such programs in elementary, secondary, and physical & health education to determine the extent to which their students received sexual health education training. On average, 15.5% of the B. Ed. programs surveyed provided compulsory training in sexual health education,. 26.2% had related optional courses although respondents estimated that a little over one third of their students took one of these optional courses. Overall, 39.3% provided compulsory and/or optional sexual health training (range = 32.4% for elementary education to 52.4% for physical and health education). The programs that did provide sexual health training generally assigned average or above average emphasis to all three of the key components of sexual health education (knowledge, motivation and skill development, although there was considerable variability between individual programs in time allocated and topic emphasis. Just under half of the 84 respondents (80% response rate) were aware of the Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education; 59.1% of programs with optional courses versus 15.4% of those with a compulsory sexual health component used them in training. The findings reported here do not necessarily reflect on the preparedness of current sexual health education teachers who are likely to be more experienced and to have had in-service training and/or other such professional development. The results do suggest a missed opportunity to provide systematic training in the theory and practice of sexual health education at the earliest point in a potential teacher's training.

Key words:
Sexual health education
Bachelor of Education
Sexuality education
Teacher training
Pre-service training

INTRODUCTION

Over the past two decades, the presence of sexual health education in the formal curriculum of Canadian primary and secondary schools has gradually, but steadily, increased. All the Canadian provinces and territories require some level of sexuality or sexual health education in their schools (Barrett, 1994; McCall et al., 1999). In addition, several provinces (Ontario, Alberta) are currently in the process of revamping their health curricula, including content related to sexual health. In some jurisdictions, nurses from public health departments are called in to deliver or assist in the delivery of school-based sexual health education programs (McCall et al., 1999). However, more often than not, and increasingly, the responsibility for teaching sexual health education in the schools rests with teachers.

The theory and practice of effective sexual health education has advanced considerably in recent years, particularly with respect to the pedagogical techniques necessary to meaningfully impact on students sexual health behaviour. For example, Kirby et al. (1994) describe the emergence of the current generation of sexual health education programs that are rooted in conceptual models of behaviour change that include relevant knowledge acquisition, development of attitudes and behavioural intentions in support of sexual health, and the development of situation specific behavioural skills (see Fisher & Fisher, 1998). With the continuing concern about sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and unintended pregnancy among young people, schools are increasingly being asked to influence behaviour (i.e., postponing sexual involvement, increasing contraceptive and safer sex practices), not just increase knowledge.

To accomplish these goals, educators require considerable knowledge and skills specific to sexual health and it is also important for sexual health educators to feel comfortable teaching this sometimes sensitive and controversial topic (Bruess & Greenberg, 1994; Grigg, 1997; Hedgepeth & Helmich, 1996). …

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