Inside the sex education classroom: the importance of context in engaging pupils

Buston, K., Wight, D. and Hart, G. (2002) Inside the sex education classroom: the importance of context in engaging pupils. Culture, Health and Sexuality, 4(3), pp. 317-335. (doi: 10.1080/13691050110113332)

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While the content of school-based sex education has been recognized as vitally important, less attention has been paid to the classroom context in which it is delivered. This paper explores pupil accounts of the classroom context in which their sex education lessons take place, investigating, in particular, reasons for discomfort and factors that mediate this discomfort and facilitate pupil engagement. Sixty-six in-depth interviews and 16 group discussions were conducted with pupils from six co-educational schools in the east of Scotland. The majority of pupils talked about being uncomfortable in sex education lessons and nearly all mentioned that gender dynamics were problematic. Discomfort manifested itself in reluctance to ask questions and/or to participate actively in lessons, as well as in disruptive behaviour. From the analysis, four inter-related themes have been identified which work to reduce pupils' discomfort: 'the teacher as protector', 'the teacher as friend', 'trust between pupils' and 'sex education as fun'. Sex education is still a very sensitive subject for young people. Pupils should receive sex education in familiar class groupings and the teacher should , ideally, minimize disruption and eliminate hurtful humour while maintaining a light-hearted and approachable manner.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Wight, Professor Danny and Buston, Dr Katie
Authors: Buston, K., Wight, D., and Hart, G.
Subjects:H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Medicine, Dentistry & Nursing > Centre for Population and Health Sciences
Journal Name:Culture, Health and Sexuality

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