Engaging young people in disrupting silences about school based sexuality education

Year: 2014

Author: Lyn, Harrison, Debbie, Ollis, Bruce, Johnson

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The research reported here sought the views of students about their sexuality education needs. In previous research, Allen (2005) found that students want more personally relevant and authentic sexual knowledge that enables them to make sense of their embodied feelings and desires as ‘sexual subjects’. Many of the students in Allen’s study though that their perspectives on what should constitute quality school based sexuality education were disregarded by the adults who designed and delivered such programs because of their narrow focus on reducing unplanned teenage pregnancies and the incidence of sexually transmitted infections. These and other issues were explored in a large Australian Research council funded study involving 14 to 15 year olds in Government schools in Victoria and South Australia.   The study addressed the following research questions: 1.     What are students’ views on the sexuality education program they were taught? 2.     What were they taught? 3.     What are the students’ views on what else should be included in the program?      What issues and dilemmas did they face when learning about human sexuality?      What are the students’ ideas about how the program, and how it is taught, could be improved? A substantial web-based questionnaire was constructed using Qualtrics (2012) software drawing on insights from the literature and a previous questionnaire used with sexuality education teachers (Johnson, 2012). Rather than inviting all secondary students to consider responding to the online questionnaire, a targeted strategy was used to limit access to the questionnaire to those young people who had been taught a comprehensive sexuality education program in 20 schools in Victoria and South Australia (n=40). This paper will report on the results of this questionnaire. The study will inform a second stage of the research which will engage young people as co-researchers (Fielding, 2006) in a participatory investigation of the sources of their information and values about human sexuality.