Health literacy: the classroom as inner space

Year: 2013

Author: Renwick, Kerry

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The focus of health education in schools is positioned at the level of primary health promotion - prevention however what students get to consider in the classroom is usually drawn from teacher concerns, experiences and interests rather than from their own. While teachers and students may share biological constitutions, health is a socially constructed concept (Daniels et al 1999; WHO 1986) and therefore differences between the two are inevitable.
Creating the classroom as a setting for health promotion requires closer consideration of those who make use of such space. If classrooms are to be places where diversity exists then health educators are challenged to consider how students are positioned as the ‘other' and therefore subjected to accommodation and assimilation. In what ways do students as ‘aliens in the classroom' (Green and Bigum 1993) get the opportunity to develop health literacy as a way to speak for, to or from their ‘other' space?
This paper will consider ways in which students are constructed as aliens in health classrooms. Critical health literacy informs health education praxis - combining reflection and action for transformative purposes, for both teachers and students. Praxis is considered for the ways in which it is transformative for how health teachers view and work with the aliens inhabiting the classroom.
Daniels, Norman, Kennedy, Bruce P. and Kawachi, Ichiro "Why Justice Is Good for Our Health: The Social Determinants of Health Inequalities." Daedalus 128, no. 4 (1999): 215-51.
Green ,B. and Bigum, C. 1993 Aliens in the Classroom. Australian Journal of Education, 37(2), pp 119 - 141.
World Health Organisation (WHO) 1986. Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. Paper presented at the First International Conference on Health Promotion, Ottawa, 21 November.