Teaching sensitive subjects – what works and what does not?

Nicholl, Honor and Price, Jayne (2012) Teaching sensitive subjects – what works and what does not? In: AISHE-Conference 2012: Responding to Change: Effective Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 30th & 31st August 2012, Dublin City University, Ireland..


The inclusion of sensitive subjects with educational curricula can raise many issues for those who are required to teach these subjects to undergraduate and post-graduate students. Yet the evidence base on what works, and what does not, within the classroom setting is very limited. This leaves those inexperienced in this field with limited evidence on which to base their educational practices. Base on extensive experiences of teaching many sensitive subjects to students in third level institutes the authors will discuss a range of strategies that they, and their students, have found to be effective in creating an appropriate learning set in the student and an appropriate and safe learning environment in which sensitive personal issues can be addressed. These strategies include the use of poetry, music and group exercises as well as involving non teachers in the classroom sessions. Parents of children who are ill, or parents who have been bereaved, for example, have been included in the delivery of teaching subjects including care of the dying child and in providing palliative care for children and their families both in the home and hospital setting. Student evaluations and the literature will be used to support the use of specific strategies that have been found to be effective. Discussion during this presentation will focus on what works and the practicalities that need to be considered when planning and implementing teaching sessions involving content that may be sensitive or which may have an impact on students’ potential wellbeing.

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