Teaching Sexuality- These Are a Few of My Favorite Things! (Methodology)

When I talk to people about what I want to do for a living, they have A LOT of questions, naturally. Usually after the first twenty odd  questions which usually start with “So I have this problem…” we get to some really interesting discussion about sexuality education and how we were all taught sex ed in schools.

A lot of people remember the kind of sexuality education they had in school for a few different reasons. 1) It was traumatic and hardly forgettable. Think the gym teacher with a basketball under each arm talking about ovaries and flagella. Ha!  2) It was abstinence only based. 3) It was not what they considered practical/informative/fun.

Often times, I hear about what peoples’ sexuality education was NOT. Contrary to these stories, however, sexuality education can be fun, educational, and can leave a positive lasting impression. Our education is only as good as the techniques used to teach and that’s really what is so important when discussing sexuality with various student populations.

When teaching any subject matter, it’s important to consider your audience. Think about your students, what types of learners are they? Are some more tactile? Do some learn more from lecture style? Do some have to write notes out multiple times? Do activities solidify key concepts for them? Ask yourself lots of questions and be prepared to allot time to really think about it. Educational planning takes time and with a subject like sexuality, you have to be willing to devote that time.


Once you’ve really analyzed your student population, start thinking about methodology. How can you reach a variety of learners in one lesson without overwhelming them with activities and videos or boring them with a 2 hour long lecture? You have to be intentional about using a variety of styles without doing too much. It can get tricky and really, it takes trial and error. Some educators don’t really like hearing that, but it’s the truth. There is not a perfect way to teach any subject. Every educator has their own style, their own favorite techniques, and they learn what works best for them and their audience by trial and error.

Today, I will talk about a few of my favorite instructional models that appeal to different types of learners.

For some of my more critical thinking/analytical type students, I enjoy posing a problem, having students form their own hypothesis and gather data to support their hypothesis. This kind of methodology is referred to as an inquiry inductive instructional model. It can be done in a variety of ways on a variety of subject matters.  For example, I could have each student come up with their own hypothesis or work in groups. I could use it when discussing something like STI’s for a basic middle school lesson plan or use this model when teaching college students human sexuality theory and development. Instructional Models can be used across a wide topic area as well as age range/grade level.

An example for use might be to pose a problem to college students such as: I have a woman, Nancy who is in her 40′s, grew up in an urban environment in the South and is overweight. Nancy now lives in the north and is dealing with infertility issues which subsequently has made her question her self worth and has effected her overall self esteem. What health behavior models might we use to help Nancy when considering an educational intervention?

For our middle school STI lesson we could use something like as follows: John is showing no symptoms of an STI, however he is contacted by  former partner, Suzanne. Suzanne thinks she has an STI because she is experiencing discharge and itching. What might Suzanne be experiencing? What advice would you give to John if he came to you to talk about it?

Both of these scenarios deal with a posed problem or question, both have open ended options as “solutions.” And depending on how students or groups view the situation, they might hypothesize different things. This helps students to solidify concepts as well as evaluate and analyze the data given thus helping to strengthen their critical thinking skills around sexuality.

Lastly, we’ll talk about an instructional model called Jigsaw. I really like this model because I enjoy having students take on the role of educator from time to time. I think it allows for them to feel like experts at something and creates a sense of autonomy. Jigsaw requires students to do research on a topic area and present it to the class in some form or another. This also can be done in a variety of ways. It can be through giving students reading assignments to present to the class, presenting in some form, creating a movie or performing a learned skill, the possibilities almost seem endless.  This kind of assignment can allow for creativity, it also builds a feeling of trust or interdependence upon each other in the classroom, in addition to it helping students to feel more comfortable presenting.

Currently, in a class that I am taking, I have been assigned a group and we are to present a lesson plan to our class. This is an example of a jigsaw assignment. We will be teaching the class a concept in sexuality of our choosing and the class will give us feedback as to our presentation style, methodology, speaking skills, etc. The assignment in itself is not so much about the content we teach, but rather how we are teaching and how effective our chosen methodology is.

There is research out there on jigsaw and other cooperative learning techniques and its effectiveness in teaching science. This could really assist in teaching biology as it relates to sexuality as well.

Colosi, J. C., & Zales, C. (1998). Jigsaw cooperative learning improves biology lab courses. Bioscience, 48(2), 118-124.

Slish, D. F. (2005). Assessment of the use of the Jigsaw Method and Active Learning in Non-majors, Introductory Biology. Bioscene, 31(4), 1-10.

There are many other styles of educating students, some I’ve found more useful than others when discussing sexuality. Perhaps a future post will be about sexuality education bloopers: what hasn’t worked so well. As important as it is to know what works, it’s just as important to have a blooper or two, otherwise how would we learn? I hope this has helped some of you out there in the blogosphere! Please feel free to write me with questions or your thoughts on educational methodology in teaching sexuality!

12 responses to “Teaching Sexuality- These Are a Few of My Favorite Things! (Methodology)

  1. I think a discussion of Sex Ed Bloopers would be fantastic! I know that I learn the most from the mistakes I make and these lessons usually stick. While I have yet to find an article with sex ed teachers talking about the mistakes I made, I did find a pretty good website for parents discussing potential sex ed mistakes with children and tips to avoid these: http://www.clarehanbury.com/sex-education-7-big-mistakes-parents-make-.html.

    I have also recently realized just how important this tip is: “Ask yourself lots of questions and be prepared to allot time to really think about it. Educational planning takes time and with a subject like sexuality, you have to be willing to devote that time.” Time and devotion to lesson planning are so important and will greatly influence your effectiveness as an educator!

    • Sex Ed Bloopers – YES. 😀

      And that’s a great website, Steph! Thanks for posting. I know it’s aimed at parents, but definitely good information for educators to read through and consider as well!

  2. That does sound really cool. I’m all about the mistakes! (making them, making them again… learning from them…)

    This may be too content than context-based, but I’ve found, in my experience, that these two topics-as-methods are effective instigators in attempting to transmit sexuality education:
    1) Firstly, creating a frame that normalizes sex: reframing sexuality as a nice, even innocuous ho-hum thing from which it can then go to darker, human places. Currently, we just seem to go straight from ignorance to darkness instead of the intermediary infrastructure of safety. This Swedish sex ed video we watched in 592 is a pretty good example: https://vimeo.com/49152390
    2) Secondly, honestly discussing the idea of sexual scapegoating/displacement/projection: I find it useful to directly talk about why we might blame others for our own sexual desires/non-sexual fears (and other variations on those themes: shame, discomfort, impulses people don’t understand). Sexuality education that only talks about physical bodies or even sociological phenomena (prejudice, stereotypes, etc.) misses an opportunity, I think, to approach the unconscious defenses and internalization that keeps those stereotypes alive and hurts those physical bodies. So much of how people understand sexuality seems based on fear and shame and I want to directly confront that right away. I’m sure a lot of us have seen this great article floating around the web but I think it sums up lots of stuff about how we understand sexuality in terms of blaming/gaslighting an Other: http://thecurrentconscience.com/blog/2011/09/12/a-message-to-women-from-a-man-you-are-not-“crazy”/

  3. Pingback: Sexuality Education Matters | Teaching for diversity·

  4. Pingback: What they really, really want (to know in sex ed) | Teaching Sex Ed·

  5. First and foremost thank you posting the site for sex-ed bloopers! What would be more comical and of interest is if those bloopers were video-taped and we could start a YouTube segment of sex-ed bloopers that were caught on tape!
    After reading Hillary’s post the instructional model that I resonate with the most is the jigsaw approach. I appreciate how each student can be an expert on an area that is apart of a larger puzzle. It may be difficult for a students to grasp the full picture but easier when that concept is broken down.
    Example. If you were teaching contraception to students you could break the class into 2 different groups (hormonal and barrier methods) and assign each student in the barrier group a barrier method of contraception and in the hormonal group assign each student a hormonal method. Then have each student research their method of birth control and then come back together with their group to share what they have learned about their method.

  6. I love your questions you pose when it comes to teaching sex ed. It is good to consider your audience. I remember hearing a story of a guy coming into teach about sex education and he did not do his research at all and ended up doing a whole class on pregnancy prevention to a room of pregnant teens. I also loved the sex ed bloopers site.

  7. That story was from my field observation at Delaware Adolescent Program, Inc (DAPI). The guest speaker was a male whose primary responsibilities are teaching the Wise Guys Curriculum to high school at-risk males. His audience was all parenting and pregnant females and when he posed the question, “How do you feel society views you?” the negative comments started pouring in. The importance of knowing your target audience and developing a lesson that best fits the needs of the students is imperative!

  8. Hillary – this was a great reminder of how differently everyone learns and how we have to try to offer something to everyone. I am also a fan of the inductive inquiry model. I think this model gives a good balance of anxiety and reward to learners, which helps them remember more in the future. Another inductive-type of model I really like is “Cause and Effect”, where you ask students to do a CSI kind of post-mortem on an incident and ask them to figure out how it happened and what the contributing factors were. I used this once on a lesson plan that examined the Sandusky trial, and it seemed effective. Do you (or anyone else blogging) ever use Cause and Effect? What kind of scenarios do you think would work, and what audience would it work best with?

  9. As strange as this may seem, as an educator I have always used ONE (1) model for developing lesson plans. And this model is one into which I can (and do) fit a mix of other models, to create what I feel is an educational experience that gives every learner a chance to personally connect with the content and to enable a way of working with students that considers how the brain works for learning (based on current research).

    A perhaps lesser known model, my choice is called the 4MAT Model developed in 1987 by Bernice McCarthy. 4MAT is an 8-step, sequential instructional model based on two theoretical constructs: Kolb’s model of learning styles and the concept of brain hemisphericity (Scott, 1994). McCarthy’s model is derived by interacting each of Kolb’s four quadrants with both left and right brain. Though not as well known, more than thirty years history of the model has yielded numerous articles and research data on the positive impact of this approach.

    In addition to engaging different types of learners,4MAT stretches or challenges them to function is their less comfortable or non-preferred mode. The model allows one to incorporate the three learning domains or ABCs – Affective, Behavioural and Cognitive aspects – of sexuality education as described by Hedgepeth & Helmich (1996), into each lesson plan. The models also makes it easy for one to work within a Theatre-in-Education or Drama-in-Education context by using games and activities that correspond to each of the key themes in the four quadrants of the model. This last point is particularly important since “role play and other practice methods are perhaps the most important methods for sexuality education. Role play provides opportunity to practice skills and behaviours as well as to explore attitudes and feelings.” (Hedgepeth & Helmich 1996, p. 192)

  10. I enjoyed the blog, great job. Your links were very helpful, I would have them open in a separate window so than readers can go back and fourth between the links and the blog. I agree utilizing different methods can and does help our learners. Another method that is great is the Graffiti Method! http://keystoteachingsuccess.blogspot.com/2009/07/graffiti-writing.html

    I like to use this when teaching about STI and contraception. I think I’m going to couple this with the inductive method and use the example you provided! I will let you know how that goes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.