[25] Teaching sensitive topics: Reflecting on impact

on

PRESENTATION

Teaching sensitive topics: Reflecting on impact

Author (s)

Dr Susan Roberts Senior Lecturer
Hilary Rodham Clinton School of Law
None

Abstract

Sexual violence is an emotive and sensitive issue. While there has been much emphasis on the issues which arise in researching such topics, less attention has been paid to those which emerge in teaching and learning in this field (Lowe and Jones 2010). Given this, here, the focus is on the delivery of teaching on sexual violence to under-graduate and post-graduate students; and the challenges encountered in that. This Powerpoint presentation includes a personal account of the experience of teaching this sensitive topic over several years, with an emphasis on an approach permeated by the ‘ethics of care’ (Dalton 2010: 3).

In an attempt to foster debate about good practice – and in line with the overall conference theme of impact – the presentation aims to:

(i) highlight the challenges encountered in teaching sensitive topics;

(ii) consider the impact of such teaching; and

(iii) discuss the strategies which may be adopted to mitigate potential harm

Where module content is sensitive and focuses in detail on sexual offending, the impact on students enrolled on the module should be carefully monitored. However, impact takes on an even greater significance when the student group includes victims/survivors, and the potential for harm to be inflicted on this population is considerable. Sexual violence is experienced by a significant number of adults and children on a global level (Du Mont et al. 2013). Given the growing student population, it is likely that in any module, there will be a considerable number of victims/survivors present. Students often select modules based on their level of interest in a topic; and also, in some cases, on the form of assessment. When the subject matter is sexual offending, it appears that for students who have experienced sexual victimisation, choices are made based on a number of additional factors. These include: the search for confirmation that what they experienced could be defined as sexual abuse; the need to understand why they were sexually victimised; and the need to understand the dynamics of the abuse process on an individual level. While the two modules referred to in this presentation are designed to further understanding of sexual violence against adults and children, they also have the potential to facilitate disclosure of previous abuse; and to evoke further pain and trauma, the impact of which should not be under-estimated.

Delivering teaching on sexual offending to a student group which comprises victims/survivors can prove extremely challenging, not least because others’ responses – including their use of language – can have a powerful and deleterious impact on those who have experienced sexual victimisation. Given this, a range of strategies have been employed in teaching, as a means of mitigating a potentially negative impact on some students; and enabling all to meaningfully engage in the teaching and learning process. These strategies will be explored in some detail during the course of the presentation, with a particular emphasis on their effectiveness; and the lessons learnt from their employment.

Session Outline

This session, which focuses on the issues which arise in teaching sensitive topics, will be of interest on an inter-disciplinary level. Although the emphasis here is on teaching and learning in the field of sexual violence, staff across the University will be engaged in teaching other sensitive topics, all of which merit consideration.

The session will comprise a Powerpoint presentation. In an attempt to foster debate about good practice – and in line with the overall conference theme of impact – the presentation aims to:

(i) highlight the challenges encountered in teaching sensitive topics;

(ii) consider the impact of such teaching; and

(iii) discuss the strategies which may be adopted to mitigate potential harm

Following the presentation – and in accordance with the interactive nature of the conference – participants will be invited to: share their experiences of teaching sensitive topics; and to consider whether, as a practical outcome to the session, there might be some benefit in devising a ‘good practice guide’ which would be of relevance across disciplines.

Key Words

Sexual violence; sensitive topic, impact of teaching, potential for harm, strategies.

Key Messages

1.Teaching sensitive topics can prove challenging

2.The impact of teaching and learning in the field of sexual violence should not be under-estimated

3.Strategies may be devised which will mitigate potential harm

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.