Have you ever wondered why you are doing something? Too often we humans do things without having a reason for why we are doing them. Sometimes it’s because we are on autopilot, while other times it’s because we are asked to do something without being given a reason why. Do you remember those days in secondary school when you didn’t understand the purpose of learning a particular skill or piece of information? This issue of doing and learning without knowing why has followed us since childhood.
In grade school, I remember thinking that some of my teachers were crazy. I didn’t understand why we were learning the names of all the states in the U.S. but not the names of all the countries in the world, and why we weren’t learning how to properly put on a condom in health class. I got the impression that some of my teachers had good reasons for their lesson plans, while others whimsically decided the nature of their lessons that morning. In all classes, for all ages, educators should not only know what they are teaching, but also have a reason for why they are teaching it. This is called rationale!
“Part of the process of becoming a professional teacher is the development of the ability to articulate to others the reasons, the ‘why’ of what you do.” – Dr. Bob Kizlik in “A Rationale for Developing Learning Objectives that Meet Demanding Behavioral Criteria”
In teaching such sensitive material, sexual health educators need to have rationale for why they are teaching what they are teaching. If they do not have rationale, they will not be able to answer students’, parents’, and administrators’ questions about their curriculum and lesson plans. Without well thought out rationale, sexual health educators will likely not have an impact on their students and not be able to stand up to those who disagree with their curriculum. An educator needs rationale for everything.
Refer to the picture below before reading on.
If all the tiny pictures in the larger mosaic above were placed randomly throughout, they would not create a unified picture of a car. Instead of being random, there is a reason for the location of each tiny picture. Pretend the picture of the car is the year’s curriculum, and each tiny picture is a lesson plan. Just like how you need rationale for the curriculum, an educator also needs rationale for each, and all parts, of the lesson plans.
Within a lesson plan, educators need to know the rational behind their goals, objectives, activities, and assessment methods. Most importantly, educators also need to have rationale for why those goals, objectives, activities, and assessment methods are appropriate and applicable to their students at that particular time. An educator may have an amazing lesson plan, but it is useless if it is not developmentally and culturally appropriate for their students.
In order to determine the developmental level of students, an educator needs to refer to the work of developmental theorists in order to understand the most effective teaching methods appropriate for their students. Educators should refer to Erikson, Piaget, Freud, Vygotsky, and Levinson (among others) and adapt the theories to take into account students’ actual developmental level, rather than the level their age suggests. There are a number of reasons students’ actual level might be different, such as trauma, emotional or physical abuse, poverty, exposure to environmental toxins, and parents who suffer from substance abuse (Herr, 2012).
Each student is different. A lot of differences come from students’ cultural history. It is important to recognize the different cultures within an educator’s classroom in order to effectively teach each student. In education, particularly sexuality education, it is important to pay attention to cultural beliefs, language, religion, and social habits. An educator should look at their students’ beliefs by using an adapted version of Geert-Hofstede’s five cultural dimensions. These five cultural dimensions are equality/hierarchy, direct/indirect, individual/group, task/relationship, risk/caution (Peterson, 2004).
By taking the students’ developmental stage and cultural history into account, an educator can choose the most effective instructional model(s) to use for each lesson plan. Educators can also rationally explain the what, why, when, where, and how of lesson plans and curriculum.
A few concluding words of wisdom from Brown (1994) as adapted from the National Council of Teachers of English:
“Rationale development should be part of thoughtful planning for classroom instruction. If we have not reflected on the whys of what we teach, we will be unprepared to meet the needs and challenges of our students and to respond to potential complaints, either from parents or from others in the community who seek to influence the curriculum.”
Brown, J. (1994). How to write a rationale. National Council of Teachers of English.
Herr, J. (2012). Child development principles and theories. Working with young children (7th ed.). Tinley Park, Illinois: Goodheart-Willcox.
Kizlik, B. (2014). A rationale for developing learning objectives that meet demanding behavioral criteria. Adprima.
Peterson, B. (2004). Cultural intelligence: A guide to working with people from other cultures. Intercultural Press.