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Planning considerations

It is essential that schools consult with their communities about their health education programme, which will include sexuality education, before beginning to implement any unit of work about puberty. This will enable teachers to work in partnership with the students' families and will help to establish their students' needs. Sexuality Education: A Guide for Principals and Boards of Trustees explains the requirements for such consultation and suggests ideas for managing the process of consultation effectively.


To find out more about their students' needs, teachers could also:

  • network with contributing schools to find out what programmes have already been implemented;
  • identify the current knowledge, skills, and understandings of students and assess their learning needs on this basis;
  • use questionnaires, surveys, focus groups, and classroom interviews;
  • build on other information available, such as referrals to the guidance system, and community initiatives and incidents.

Drug Education: A Guide for Principals and Boards of Trustees, page 22

Having gathered a range of information about what their students need to learn about sexuality, teachers could consider which of the possible learning outcomes might meet these learning needs. After discussing these outcomes with parents and caregivers as part of the consultation process, teachers could refer to the related learning experiences and choose activities, from this material or elsewhere, that are likely to help their students understand the changes that come with puberty. For example, to help students achieve the learning outcome "identify and describe body changes associated with puberty", a teacher might decide to use the learning activities for Our Changing Bodies.

Within a particular context, teachers can combine activities that develop achievement objectives from different strands. Teachers should choose learning activities that build on previous activities and should encourage individuals and groups to take responsibility for their own learning. Sexuality education involves students in learning about what happens to them in their everyday lives. When planning and selecting learning materials for their students to use, teachers should take into account not only the students' prior knowledge and experiences but also their different attitudes, values, and cultural backgrounds. It is important that the programme offers the students a range of activities.

Use the criteria on page 46 of Sexuality Education: A Guide for Principals and Boards of Trustees as a guide when selecting resources.


Factors affecting learning

Research into key factors that have a positive effect on students' learning (Hattie, 1999) indicates that innovative, responsive teachers can make a real difference to the achievements of their students. The single most significant factor is feedback. Teachers who provide feedback to students, giving them frequent information about how well they have understood and performed the current learning task, are giving them real, practical help that will have positive results. Effective teachers give feedback; they also set specific, appropriate, and challenging goals for their students. Students who are involved in setting these learning goals and who then receive feedback while working towards them are more committed to achieving the goals and do in fact achieve better results. Innovation is important. Teachers who consistently review their practices and try out new models, methods, and processes are likely to improve the quality of learning for their students.

Learning outcomes

Learning outcomes signal the learning that is expected to occur as a result of particular learning activities. They are set after considering student learning needs. (See The Needs of Learners on pages 50–51 of Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum (1999)). In this material, learning outcomes are linked to achievement objectives as follows.

A learning need is identified. For example, your students may need to:

  • identify and develop strategies to help them manage the changes that will affect them during puberty.

This learning outcome can be linked to level 3, strand A, achievement objective 1 and is therefore identified as related to achievement objective 3A1.

Students will identify factors that affect personal, physical, social, and emotional growth and develop skills to manage changes. Refer to Possible Learning Outcomes and their links to the curriculum.

Preparing in advance

The foundation for a successful unit of learning about puberty is an already established, supportive classroom atmosphere. In addition, it is important to revisit classroom guidelines so that all the students agree about issues such as confidentiality, "no put-downs", mutual respect, and the need to be tolerant of differences.

It is essential that teachers become familiar with the content of the unit of work so that they can be as comfortable as possible when they introduce it to the students. Teachers are advised to prepare well in advance and to rehearse any aspects that they feel may be difficult for them to teach. To prepare for a unit of work on puberty, teachers should consider:

  • legal requirements, including the requirement to consult with the community (refer to Sexuality Education: A Guide for Principals and Boards of Trustees [Ensure that all ethnic groups represented in the school community are included and that caregivers are made aware of the programme content. Allow sufficient time to address issues that may arise. During consultation, schools may identify the needs of particular cultural groups.]
  • how to go about withdrawing any student whose parents or caregivers do not want them to take part in the programme (with the least possible discomfort for the student and their family); [A letter to parents and caregivers provides an opportunity to discuss any concerns about the school's programme.]
  • the needs of the students; [Consider, for example, students' physical maturity levels, their cultures, and their prior experiences. Plan for diverse learners (for example, ESOL students and those with special needs or abilities).]
  • school action plans and policies for appropriate action in the case of a student who discloses negative experience; [Be prepared for possible disclosures relating to abuse.]
  • support from senior management and the board of trustees; [The board of trustees could arrange a sexuality education workshop for parents and caregivers to promote a greater understanding of such programmes.]
  • their own personal needs to prepare for teaching about puberty; [Consider your familiarity with the content of the unit. Access and review the resources available (refer to References and Resources). Discuss, with colleagues or advisers, ways of answering specific questions appropriately. Be aware of community expectations and of school policy.]
  • professional development opportunities that relate to sexuality education;
  • team-teaching opportunities; [In sexuality education programmes, it can be useful to have an experienced teacher working with a less experienced teacher or to have a female and a male teacher team-teaching.]
  • the need to take a tolerant and accepting approach to sexuality education; [The teaching approach should be able to include a diverse range of viewpoints and should avoid negative judgments and blanket condemnations.]
  • whether all aspects of the programme will be taught to mixed classes and whether any might be better approached with single-gender or same-culture groups;
  • a range of appropriate activities for students with diverse learning styles; [For example, the programme could include role plays, discussions to foster critical thinking, and opportunities to gain practical experience in accessing information.]
  • how best to encourage the students and their caregivers to continue communicating with one another about sexuality issues;
  • the role of resource providers and support networks outside the classroom; [These may include iwi and hapū, tagata Pasefika organisations, peer support groups (both in the school and outside it), public health nurses, and social workers.]
  • arranging for each student to develop a personal booklet to keep for future reference.

Teachers' note

For teachers of students with disabilities

Students with disabilities may need more specific direction to help them build a sense of self-worth and the skills to maintain their personal safety. All those involved in the care and education of these students should plan jointly to provide them with appropriate learning experiences.