From Theory to Praxis: DRI Proposal

My From Theory to Praxis project is a DRI proposal for research I am planning to do as part of my senior thesis. I’m currently in the process of applying to the CIS to be a Public Health and Education major, and concepts we’ve learned in GSS101 have been essential in the formation of this proposal.

 

Introduction

This study will involve a comparative analysis of different sex education curriculums in the state of North Carolina to determine what aspects of a curriculum make it more successful. Students in six different schools will take an exam to determine their knowledge before and after being taught their school’s sex education curriculum. The schools will be divided into three categories – public, private, and religious – with two schools from each category being examined. A pre-test and a post-test will be administered to determine the change in knowledge due to the school’s curriculum. From this information, I will design my own curriculum to recommend to schools in order to improve sexual education programs.

Justification

Sexual education is extremely important as it leads to healthier futures and allows students more agency in their lives and choices. The reality is that most teens will engage in sexual activity in some form, and they need to be educated on how to do this safely and what risks they face. Teenage pregnancy and incidences of STIs have increased in North Carolina and are considered major public health crises. The state is consistently ranked ninth in the nation for teen pregnancy rates. As of 2008, 67% of North Carolina’s reported STI cases occurred within people ranging from age 15 to age 24. Misinformation about safe sex practices is considered a huge contributing factor to both of these issues.

In 2009, the Healthy Youth Act was passed, which now requires public schools to present information that is “factually accurate, objective, and based on scientific research that is peer reviewed and accepted by professionals and credentialed experts in the field of sexual health education”. It replaced the abstinence only until marriage curriculum. However, there is a lot of variety from school to school in terms of what is included in the curriculum and how it is taught, and it is important to see what is most effective in terms of imparting the most knowledge. Schools are allowed to push a religious perspective, and are allowed to present a biased curriculum.

Methods

The primary method of data collection will be a pre-test and a post-test given to students before and after they are taught sex ed in their school. Each school teaches this at a different time, so I will have to investigate when each of the six schools I am studying teach this curriculum, as well as what exactly this curriculum entails. The pre-test and the post-test will be the same test, in order to determine if and how much knowledge is imparted by each school’s curriculum. This data will then be examined to see which curriculum is most effective in terms of increasing knowledge, as well as to see if this differs between public, private, and religious schools.

Based on this information, I will then design my own curriculum. I will take the pieces of each school’s curriculum that was most successful, as well as additional pieces that are deemed necessary based on the tests and where information was lacking, and build a new curriculum. Looking at other schools’ and states’ curriculums will be helpful in this process.

Preparation

I have taken Intro to Global Health, Intro to Public Health, Intro to Gender and Sexuality Studies, History of Educational Theory and Practice, and Philosophy of Education, all classes relevant to this study. Additionally, I did an in-depth study of my high school’s health curriculum and proposed changes that were later implemented based on my research. 

Dissemination

The end goal of this research is to share my research with high schools both in North Carolina and beyond in order to propose changes to their curriculum to improve the amount of knowledge garnered and how comprehensive it is. In addition to proposing it to various high schools, including the ones that participated in the study, I would like to be able to share my work on campus so students here may benefit from it as well.

Interviews or Surveys

The test with which the students will be provided is in the process of being designed. A few of the questions are as follows:

  1. Name as many different forms of contraceptive as you know
  2. Name all forms of contraception that prevent both infection and pregnancy
  3. True or False: STIs cannot be transmitted via anal sex
  4. True or False: Girls cannot get pregnant the first time they have sex
  5. How do people get infected with HIV?
  6. What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?