Sex and Relationships Education, Personal, Social and Health Education, Educational Resources and Training
SRE Training Methodology
Hilary Dixon

Methodology References

References for the validation and legitimisation of the method in teaching about sex and relationships, including to people with learning disabilities.
In three sections:
1.   References about Active Learning Methodologies.
2.   References about Personal, Social and Health Education in the Context of Learning Disability.
3.   References about Teenage Pregnancy.
Research into reducing teenage pregnancy persistently shows that the approach most likely to achieve success is wide-ranging within a context of self-esteem, educational achievement, and personal and social values and attitudes. This has bearing on teaching methods.
1.   References about Active Learning Methodologies.
Active learning refers to several models of instruction that focus the responsibility of learning on learners. Bonwell and Eison (1991) suggested learners work in pairs, discuss materials while role-playing, debate, engage in case study, take part in cooperative learning, or produce short written exercises, etc:
Bonwell, C. and Eison, J. (1991). Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom AEHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No.1. Washington, D.C.: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 1-87838-00-87
Active Learning is related to the Experiential Learning Model developed by David L. Kolb, which is composed of four elements:
concrete experience,
observation of and reflection on that experience,
formation of abstract concepts based upon the reflection,
testing the new concepts.
Kolb, D. A. and Fry, R. (1975) Toward an applied theory of experiential learning. in C. Cooper (ed.) Theories of Group Process, London: John Wiley
One of the leading academic researchers into Active Learning methodologies is Prof. John Hattie of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, see Influences on student learning by John Hattie.
For a comprehensive list of references about research on Active Learning methodologies, see: Geoff Petty’s links page
2.   References about Personal, Social and Health Education in the Context of Learning Disability
There is not a great amount available in terms of academic research in the area of personal, social and health education for people with learning disabilities, though some is appearing, see:
Garbutt, R. (2008). Sex and relationships for people with learning disabilities: a challenge for parents and professionals Mental Health and Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 5(2), October 2008, pp.267–276
You can see the report online. Garbutt (2008) is from the School of Sociology & Social Policy, University of Leeds, UK, ( as part of their project in connection with CHANGE (
The references list in Garbutt (2008) gives further reference to papers produced on this topic.
3.  References about Teenage Pregnancy.
In 1999, a review of evidence on reducing rates of teenage pregnancy Europe-wide:
Kane, R. and Wellings, K. (1999) Reducing the Rate of Teenage Conceptions. An International Review of the Evidence: Data from Europe, London, Health Education Authority. ISBN 0 7521 1435 2
A facsimile of this study is available here with part 2 here.
Conclusions and recommendations from this report (pp 67–68) include a recommendation that:
‘Sex education needs to be augmented by open attitudes and a positive approach to the sexual health of young people . . . More important than the paradigm of sex education adopted is the spirit in which it is offered. Where the climate is open and accepting rather than ambivalent, and where messages are clear rather than ambiguous, outcomes seem to be more favourable.’
In 2002, a study with a similar focus looked at the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Cheesbrough, S., Ingham, R. and Massey, D. (2002) Reducing the Rate of Teenage Conceptions. A review of the international evidence on preventing and reducing teenage conceptions: the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, London, Health Development Agency. ISBN 1-84279-078-1
Conclusions and recommendations from this study (p 33) include:
‘Education on self-esteem and relationship development should begin from an early age in school and other contexts.
Education for parenthood should be included in school curricula for all pupils.
Equality of gender roles should be encouraged in settings such as education, health care and the workplace . . .’
Since then, there are been various studies, some of the recent most rigorous and comprehensive being:
In the United States:
Kirby, D. (2007). Emerging Answers 2007: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Washington, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy ISBN 1-58671-070-2
Available online.
In America, the big issue has been abstinence-only programmes versus comprehensive programmes, the former being consistently found to have little or no effect (see Kirby, 2007). A comprehensive programme in the USA however, is different from what in Europe would be considered a comprehensive programme. In Europe ‘comprehensive’ would mean part of a wide-ranging personal, social and health education programme, while in the USA it seems to mean a programme for sex education that includes discussion of condom use (ibid). High teenage pregnancy rates in the USA have been attributed to low incidence of condom use; see:
Jones, E., Forrest, J.D., Goldman, N., Henshaw, S., Lincoln, R., Rosoff J.I., Westoff, C.F., Wulf, D., (1986) Teenage pregnancy in industrialized countries, New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University Press).
There is a US study indicating that sex education has an effect of reducing early sexual intercourse:
Mueller, T.E., Gavin, L.E., Kulkarni, A.J. Adolescent Health 42(1), 2008. Volume 42, Issue 1, Pages 89–96 (January 2008).
Available online.
In the UK:
Baker, P., Guthrie, K., Hutchinson, C., Kane, R. and Wellings, K. (2007) Teenage Pregnancy and Reproductive Health. London: Royal College Of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. ISBN: 978-1-904752-38-7
Includes a section on ‘What Works, Evidence of Effectiveness’, though this is more about collecting evidence than providing it.
Department of Health (2006), Teenage pregnancy next steps: guidance for local authorities and primary care trusts on effective delivery of local strategies, everychildmatters/ resources-and-practice/ IG00145
See in particular Chapter 5, ‘What Works in Reducing Teenage Pregnancy’.
Note: that document is very different from:
Department for Children, Families and Schools (2007) Teenage Pregnancy Next Steps: Guidance for Local Authorities an Primary Care Trusts , which though it has a similar title barely mentions Sex and Relationships Education at all!. (Some confusion going on between government departments here, or possibly the 2006 report got sanitised and gobbledegooked. Anyone know which?)
The research on reducing teenage pregnancy includes much about ‘what’ but little about ‘how’, though from research recommendations one can deduce that education that involves the students, rather than lecturing to them, is an essential element of an effective strategy. This implies active learning methods.