At sex ed colleague Kate McCombs’s urging, I began to brainstorm ways to apply the clear teaching principles articulated here to sex education. I’ve spent way more time in the university classroom, typically teaching folklore and/or gender studies classes, than I have in the sex ed classroom, so some of this will speculative. If nothing else, I hope it’ll be helpful or thought-provoking.
In the aforementioned article, Dan Berrett relates the findings of studies that document a correlation between students’ perception of their professors’ teaching and improvements in student attitudes and performances that follow. The research suggests that these teaching practices can even help ameliorate gaps in skill sets that exist between students at different levels of privilege.
Some examples of these kinds of clear teaching practices include when professors “provided clear explanations, used good examples to illustrate difficult points, were well prepared for and organized in class, and had a good command of the subject.”
So how do we apply these ideas to the sex education classroom? My first thought is that sex educators should have a precise idea of what they want to convey and accomplish in that session/semester/meeting. Here’s a list of questions that could be used to prepare.
- Do educators want students to learn facts (e.g. about STI transmission rates), skills (how to properly use a condom or dental dam), critical thinking skills (how to evaluate studies of vaccine efficacy), communication skills (how to discuss jealous, monogamy, and so on), some of the above, or all of the above?
- What kinds of materials, examples, texts, and evidence will the educator bring to the classroom?
- What kinds of exercises, exams, or assignments will benefit students with these learning goals and topics in mind?
- What can the educator do in order to become more knowledgeable on the topic and thus able to answer students’ questions?
There are many ways to teach, just as there are many ways to learn. Whatever your teaching style, going into the sex ed classroom with a list of specific goals that informed your preparation will likely help your students, even if the effects are not immediately tangible or easily measurable. Doing the extra prep work will also probably help you feel more confident as an instructor (I know this is often true for me!).
I’d love comments from educators or learners in any field on this topic. Because learning about learning is awesome.