Teaching about, and dealing with, sensitive issues in schools: How confident are pre-service teachers?

Marita Lynagh*, Connor Gilligan, Tonelle Handley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Teachers are developing an increasingly active role in the education of students in areas of sensitivity, including issues such as sexuality, mental health, grief and loss and child protection. There is a growing expectation for teachers to become competent not only in educating students in these areas but also in recognising and dealing with such matters if and when they arise in the classroom. However, a large proportion of teachers express discomfort in these areas, resulting in negative outcomes for both teachers and students. The current study evaluates the impact of a specifically designed 13-week Unit of work among two different cohorts of pre-service teachers in an Australian university on their confidence in and perceived competence in teaching about, and dealing with, sensitive issues. The 13-week Unit of work was undertaken as part of a Bachelor of Education degree program and addressed relevant content from the New South Wales K-12 Personal Development, Health and Physical Education curriculum and other additional sensitive issues. Training was found to be an effective means of increasing confidence both in teaching and managing sensitive issues in pre-service teachers. Attitudes towards the importance of training remained very positive both before and after the course. A follow-up study is planned to explore the effects of this training after 12 months teaching experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-11
Number of pages7
JournalAsia-Pacific Journal of Health, Sport and Physical Education
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


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