COLUMBUS, Ohio High school health classes fail to help students refuse sexual advances or endorse safe sex habits when teachers focus primarily on testing knowledge, a new study reveals.
But when teachers emphasized learning the material for its own sake, and to improve health, students had much better responses. In these kinds of classrooms, students had lower intentions of having sex and felt better able to navigate sexual situations.
"A focus on tests doesn't help students in health classes make healthier choices," said Eric M. Anderman, lead author of the study and professor of educational psychology at Ohio State University.
"In health education, knowledge is not the most important outcome. What we really want to do is change behaviors, and testing is not the way to achieve that."
The study appears online in the Journal of Research on Adolescence and will be published in a future print edition.
This study is part of a larger 5-year project that is studying HIV and pregnancy prevention in rural communities in Appalachia.
Researchers from Ohio State, the University of Kentucky and George Mason University are collecting data from more than 5,000 students in 32 Appalachian high schools.
For this study, students were surveyed in 9th grade before taking a health class that included information on HIV and pregnancy prevention. They were then surveyed again between four and six weeks after their class, and at the end of 10th grade, about one year later.
After taking the class, students were asked if their teachers had encouraged them to learn the material because they would be tested on it (called an extrinsic focus), or if the teachers encouraged them to truly learn and understand the information because it would be important for their lives (termed a mastery focus).
The researchers then compared these two groups of students on a variety of measures.
Overall, the results sho
|Contact: Eric Anderman|
Ohio State University