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A recently published issue of Sex Education contains key papers from AFSEH’s first national conference.
With an open access editorial introduction by Tania Ferfolja and Jacqueline Ullman, and an open access In Conversation between Simon Blake and Peter Aggleton, the issue contains papers details cutting edge research and commentary from across Australia.
Topics addressed include:
- the importance of educating young people about HPV vaccination in schools;
- teacher positivity towards gender diversity;
- parents’ perspectives on sexuality education;
- the politicisation of Australian queer affirming curriculum materials;
- young people’s perspectives on homophobic language use; and
- LGBTIQ experiences in tertiary education.
Contributors include Paul Byron, Cristyn Davies, Karyn Fulcher, Kerry Robinson, Barrie Shannon, Rachel Skinner and Andrea Waling
Full details here:
This report details the findings from a 2013 nationwide survey of sexuality and gender diverse Australian secondary school students.
The project’s core aims were to 1) gain a better understanding of how sexuality and gender diverse students experience their school’s ethos, referred to here as school climate, with regards to sexuality and gender diversity in the broad sense, and to 2) investigate links between students’ reported school climate and various measures of their school wellbeing and associated academic outcomes.
Seven hundred and four young people between the ages of 14-18, representing every state and territory in Australia, participated in the online survey. In terms of sexual identity, the majority of participants identified as lesbian/gay (43%) or bisexual (24%), with a sizeable minority of participants identifying as pansexual (12%).
The majority of participants identified as either a girl/woman (57%) or as a boy/man (34%), with just over 7% of participants identifying as either genderqueer or transgender. The term sexuality and gender diverse is used throughout this report to signify the array of sexuality and gender identities highlighted by the young people.
The young people in this study attended schools from across the sector, with the majority of participants attending government schools (62%). Participants overwhelmingly depicted a secondary schooling environment in which marginalising (e.g. homophobic/transphobic) language was rife and where school staff did not respond with consistency.
A startling 94% of students had heard homophobic language at school, with 58% of these young people reporting hearing this language daily. Of those who reported classmates using this language within earshot of school staff, less than 5% reported that these adults always intervened to put a stop to its use.
Although somewhat less commonly reported, 45% of participants indicated that they had witnessed school-based physical harassment of classmates perceived to be sexuality and/or gender diverse, with 12% of participants witnessing such harassment on a weekly basis. Only 12% of young people who witnessed such physical harassment occurring in front of school staff reported that these adults always intervened.
Participants depicted inconsistencies in adults’ responses to school-based marginalisation ranging from purposive ignoring (and, in the worst cases, active participation in the marginalising behaviours) to addressing the discrimination and attempting to educate around the incident. Most participants who described an educative intervention highlighted specific teachers at their school who would respond in such a manner, in contrast to a majority of others who would not.
Approximately 40% of students reported that they knew where to go to locate information and support regarding sexuality and gender diversity and similar percentages of students could recall their teachers engaging with sexuality and/or gender diversity in a positive or supportive fashion at least “some of the time” or more frequently. However, only one quarter of participants’ could recall classroom learning about topics related to sexuality and/or gender diversity in any kind of formal capacity, with a mere 3% of students reporting that it was “definitely true” that they had learned about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender identities during their Health and Physical Education instruction.
Findings suggest that some school staff work intentionally to support sexuality and gender diverse students in a variety of informal ways, including general positivity with regards to related topics and the provision of inclusive resources, but that formal curricular inclusion is far less common.
Participants attending schools in which their school harassment policies explicitly included sexual orientation as a considered and protected cohort of the student population (16% of participants) were significantly more likely to report their teachers’ intervention in instances of verbal and physical marginalisation of sexuality and gender diverse students, as well as their general positivity and support.
Students attending schools with fewer instances of marginalising behaviours, and more consistent adult intervention when those behaviours did occur, were happier and more connected at school, safer and more likely to feel as if their teachers were invested in their personal academic success.
Likewise, reported teacher positivity and support for both sexuality diversity and gender diversity were significantly correlated with students’ school wellbeing outcomes, with the strongest relationships present between teacher positivity and both student morale and sense of connection to school. Similar relationships were found between school wellbeing outcomes and students’ reported formal inclusions (e.g. within health and physical education and elsewhere within the curriculum).
Participants with elevated school wellbeing outcomes also had higher reported academic outcomes, including higher academic self-concept, greater intentions to attend university and fewer reported incidences of truancy. Students’ truancy behaviours were significantly correlated with their teachers’ reported positivity with regards to sexuality and gender diversity, highlighting the links between school climate, school wellbeing and academic outcomes and behaviours for sexuality and gender diverse students.
Most of the sexuality and gender diverse young people who contributed to this research attended secondary schools in which marginalising practices occurred on a weekly, if not daily, basis and where teacher positivity and formal inclusions of sexuality and gender diversity were the exception rather than the norm. Project findings highlight the relationship between sexuality and gender diverse students’ perceptions of their school climate and their own school wellbeing, including connection to their peers, teachers and investment in the schooling environment more generally, and demonstrate how these key factors are linked to academic outcomes for this cohort.
Project-based recommendations can be found within the body of the report: http://handle.uws.edu.au:8081/1959.7/uws:32727
- Parents, educators and policy makers are overwhelmed by the pace at which digital technologies (such as mobile phone and tablets) and platforms (such as Facebook and Snapchat) are evolving – and the increasing role they play in young people’s lives.
- Practices such as sexting (the digital sharing of naked or semi-naked pictures) create complex legal and socio-cultural challenges for young people, schools and families.
- To date, health promotion and education policy and practice have struggled to develop activities and messages that offer young people better guidance than ‘just say no’.
- Four three-hour workshops were held in New South Wales and Queensland with secondary teachers, health promoters and youth workers (n=77). The workshops covered three relevant theories of media communications as well as practical activities adapted from The Selfie Course developed by Kath Albury, Terri Senft and colleagues. Follow-up surveys assessed the extent to which participants found this approach useful, relevant and applicable to their work.
- There are both individual and institutional barriers to an asset-based approach to young people’s digital media practices. At best, an approach focused solely on risk will result in frustration for professionals and young people alike. At worst, it will actively undermine trust between young people and the services that wish to support them.
- Educators and policy-makers need to move beyond asking ‘what does media do to young people?’ towards asking instead ‘what do young people do with media?’ The frameworks and activities piloted and evaluated in this study can support them to make this change.
- A majority of participants indicated a desire to engage further with critical theory and practice models for working with young people in the area of media and sexuality education.
- This report presents data self-reported by participants. Future research could engage more closely with educators to better understand how the frameworks and activities piloted in this project are applied and translated in their practice.
The Rethinking media and sexuality education project 2015 was led by Kath Albury and Paul Byron, UNSW, with the support of True Relationships & Reproductive Health Queensland, and Family Planning NSW.
The preliminary research report is being launched this morning at AFSEH’s First National Conference, at Western Sydney University.
A full pdf is available for download here.
Follow the AFSEH conference Twitter conversation at #afseh15.
True Relationships and Reproductive Health in partnership with the Australia Forum on Sexuality, Education and Health (AFSEH) are organising a teacher led forum to be held in February 2016.
Date 18 February 2016
Cost This is a non-profit event; however a small fee may be charged to cover the cost of venue hire and light refreshments.
Venue Brisbane (TBA)
Note: Registrations will open in November 2015
Earlier this year, a national forum discussed relationships and sexuality education in schools as an important form of violence prevention.
Discussion centered on:
- Schools as platforms for violence prevention work
- How schools can reduce children’s vulnerability to bullying, emotional violence, violence, sexual abuse and assault
- Whole of school and community-wide approaches
Participants at the forum requested another event with a longer time frame that is teacher-led.
Teachers, principals, school nurses, youth workers, researchers and anyone interested in expanding community based responses to violence prevention and child protection
Submitting an expression of interest to present
We are calling for speakers who are willing to share their contemporary approaches to relationships and sexuality education.
In your expression of interest please provide:
- An abstract (maximum 300 words)
- A brief biography (maximum 200 words)
- Details of how long you would like to present and the workshop/facilitation approach you would like to use
- Any other requirements or considerations
Expressions of interest
Please send your expression of interest by COB Wednesday 14 October 2015 to
Please contact Rebecca Johnson
P 07 3250 0240