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Youth Taking Action to Improve their Sex Education at Bellman Secondary Open Access


Other title
expressed needs
sexual health education
democratic education
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Mangiardi, Rosemarie
Supervisor and department
jan jagodzinski (Department of Secondary Education)
Maryanne Doherty (Department of Secondary Education)
Examining committee member and department
William Dunn (Department of Secondary Education)
David Smith (Department of Secondary Education)
Christina Rinaldi (Department of Educational Psychology)
George Buck (Department of Educational Psychology)
Department of Secondary Education

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Educational decision-makers rarely legitimize youth’s perspectives in constructing ‘effective’ sex education. In this study, I concentrated on what students have to say about this aspect of their educational experience, and learned how decision-makers respond to youth’s perspectives. I draw on Michel Foucault’s notions of discourse, power, and resistance to understand the importance of listening to students’ marginalized voices and legitimizing their subjugated knowledges. I then discuss the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, drawing attention to its assertion that youth have rights to learn about sexual health and to participate in sex education. I also draw on constructs of democratic education and student empowerment to argue that youth have expertise and so can express ‘what is’ and ‘what must be’ in dialogue with decision-makers. With the goal of initiating and facilitating Youth Participatory Action Research, I entered Bellman Secondary where I mobilized a research collective with youth partners. The youth learned about research ethics and the interview method prior to addressing the following questions: (1) What are students’ perspectives of their sex education at Bellman? (2) How would students change the sex education offered at Bellman, if they could? The youth interviewed Grade 12 students, inviting them to problematize their sex education experiences, critique the curricular rules, and cross the disciplinary limits with the aim of identifying transformative possibilities that would satisfy their sexual health needs. The collective analyzed the data and showcased our findings in an action plan, titled Sex-E-cation. In order to incite and inform curricular change, the team presented Sex-E-cation to students and two decision-makers—a Health Teacher and School Administrator—with the aim of informing dialogue. Given that these decision-makers failed to participate in the study, it is unclear if they took students’ perspectives into consideration to make sex education more relevant to their lives. While those inside Bellman never participated by responding to the action plan, two outsider decision-makers—a School Nurse and Learning Coordinator—did participate in this way. They planned to take transformative action to rectify problems, and thereby improve students’ sex education so it satisfies their expressed needs.
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File title: CHAPTER ONE
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