Sexuality education: a study exploring the use of participatory exercises in aiding young people’s understanding of the complexities of sexual wellbeing and relationships.
Introduction In order to give young people the best chance of embarking on safe, healthy and enjoyable sexual lives, the subject matter, intention, and most importantly delivery method, of sex education must be reconsidered. In this paper, the potential for the use of alternative, arts-based methods of teaching sexuality education in school settings was explored, placing an emphasis on the student voice and agenda. Methodology A review was undertaken of the current body of knowledge surrounding the design of sexuality education programmes and engagement with young people. This included a gender framework and a rights-based comprehensive sexuality education framework. Data was generated for this thesis over a 3-day period with 23 student participants in one school in Dublin, Ireland. Exploratory qualitative research consisted of 2 workshop sessions; one with 10 students and one with 13. These were designed using practical, participatory drama-inspired exercises that supported nuanced understanding of concepts related to sexual health such as consent, boundaries and communication. In addition, young people’s critical evaluation of current sexuality education and the workshop sessions was sought using focus groups. This data was analysed using thematic analysis and presented accordingly. Results Irish young people are ready and eager for extensive sexuality education that addresses issues that influence their lives in an in-depth, practical and relevant way, and that they respond well to alternative participatory methods of indirect instruction. This key finding is explored through seven themes relevant to the research questions; Positivity, Experiential Learning, Consent, Teachers and Teaching Methods, “The Facts”, Gender and Respect. Findings are presented with the student’s voice throughout the process together with researcher observations. Conclusions Young people’s testimony supports the view that Irish school-based sexuality education is failing to engage them in a relevant and productive way. Indirect instruction in the form of drama-based participatory exercises show potential to allow young people to explore complexities related to sexuality in an abstracted, safe environment and help them build a skill set for real-life events.