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Dialogic teaching: towards reconfiguring classroom talk about sexuality

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Drawing on Robin Alexander’s theory and method of ‘Dialogic Teaching’, this paper engages with debates about the need to reconceptualise the teaching of sexuality education. By exploring the complexities of educating about sex and sexuality it calls for attention to be paid to the how patterns of talk may function to open up spaces for more robust pedagogies. Dialogic Teaching is presented as providing opportunities to mitigate the ideological conflict endemic to sexuality education today. Using examples of classroom conversations between a teacher and his group of students involved in a recent Australian study this paper critically analyzes one teacher’s opportunities (or missed opportunities) for dialogic teaching, including opportunities for students to explore, challenge, reconsider, extend and enhance their learning of the myriad and complex issues relevant to sexuality such as negotiation and consent, pleasure and desire. As a form of pedagogical ethics, dialogic teaching offers a radical model for the future teaching of sexuality education.
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Pedagogy, Culture & Society
ISSN: 1468-1366 (Print) 1747-5104 (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rpcs20
Dialogic teaching: towards reconfiguring
classroom talk about sexuality
Fida Sanjakdar
To cite this article: Fida Sanjakdar (2019): Dialogic teaching: towards reconfiguring classroom talk
about sexuality, Pedagogy, Culture & Society, DOI: 10.1080/14681366.2019.1570967
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/14681366.2019.1570967
Published online: 27 Jan 2019.
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Dialogic teaching: towards reconguring classroom talk
about sexuality
Fida Sanjakdar
Faculty of Education, Monash University Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
ABSTRACT
Drawing on Robin Alexanders theory and method of Dialogic
Teaching, this paper engages with debates about the need to
reconceptualise the teaching of sexuality education. By exploring
the complexities of educating about sex and sexuality it calls for
attention to be paid to the how patterns of talk may function to
open up spaces for more robust pedagogies. Dialogic Teaching is
presented as providing opportunities to mitigate the ideological
conict endemic to sexuality education today. Using examples of
classroom conversations between a teacher and his group of
students involved in a recent Australian study this paper critically
analyzes one teachers opportunities (or missed opportunities) for
dialogic teaching, including opportunities for students to explore,
challenge, reconsider, extend and enhance their learning of the
myriad and complex issues relevant to sexuality such as negotia-
tion and consent, pleasure and desire. As a form of pedagogical
ethics, dialogic teaching oers a radical model for the future
teaching of sexuality education.
KEYWORDS
Dialogic teaching;
pedagogy; sexuality
education; classroom talk;
sexual pleasure; desire
Introduction
The current pedagogical imagination for sexuality education in many Australian classrooms
is conceptualized around a discourse strictly associated with risk knowledge (Rasmussen
2016) and normative ideals of sex, sexuality and gender (Shannon and Smith 2015;Allen
2011) which frames students as objects of concern or in need of protection (Sundaram and
Sauntson 2016). This predominantly hermetic approach views sexuality education primarily
as a prophylactic (Sears 1992), denies studentsagency (Bay-Cheng 2015), negates their
critical capacities (Albury 2015) and downplays the importance of sexual pleasure-desire in
their lives (Wood et al. 2019;AllenandCarmody2012). Furthermore, pedagogy itself is
reduced to an act of transmission; setting teachers in a position to imagine all sexual
knowledge, to deliver knowledge securly compliant with group norms and to provide
educational experiences directed toward some vision of correctsexual thought and
behaviour. For many years, critics of Australian sexuality education have argued that
educational standards in this subject do not necessarily translate neatly into practice; that
just getting the curriculum documents rightwill not automatically xthe teaching of
CONTACT Fida Sanjakdar da.sanjakdar@monash.edu Faculty of Education, Monash University Melbourne,
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
PEDAGOGY, CULTURE & SOCIETY
https://doi.org/10.1080/14681366.2019.1570967
© 2019 Pedagogy, Culture & Society
sexuality education (see Goldman and Collier-Harris 2012;Mitchelletal.2011;Goldman
2011; Harrison, Hillier, and Walsh 1996). The growingrecognition that educational standards
in this subject are not necessarily found neatly in curriculum documents and policy frame-
works suggests that the eectiveness of the mobilization and manoeuvring of this subject
are essentially based on pedagogy.
There is a push for more interactive pedagogies in sexuality education classes. These
would promote student voice (Fitzpatrick 2018; Loutzeinheiser and Slovin 2018; Allen
2017; Buston and Wight 2006;), and meet the needs and interests of young people as
dened by them (Sanjakdar and Yip 2018) suggesting that the teaching and learning of
sexuality education is positioned to be invested in, producing a specic kind of sexual
individual, one that is open-minded, has and voices an opinion. However, the collapse
of the pedagogic theme(Britzman 2009, 9) in sexuality education research has failed to
explore how teachers of sexuality education can generate and engage in quality learning
experiences with their students. A more concerted eort to explore varying eective
pedagogical practices in sexuality education classrooms remain an under-examined
dimension of sexuality education research.
This paper frames dialogue as a desired pedagogical strategy in the teaching of
sexuality education. There is no shortage of research which shows that students learn
more eectively, and intellectual achievements are higher, when they are actively
engaged in pedagogic activity through dialogue, discussion, exploratory talk and argu-
mentation (Skidmore and Murakami 2016; Barnes 2010; Mercer 2000). In this paper, the
principles of dialogic teaching(rst coined by Robin Alexander 2004,2001) are pre-
sented as a pedagogical approach suitable to challenge current historic yet dominant
approaches to sexuality education with its heavy concentration on the biological/hygie-
nic/reproductive/normative aspects of sexuality. As a subject area, sexuality education
oers a wide application of discursive constructions of knowledge achieved by multiple
ideologies and perspectives about sex and sexuality. Consequently, teachers of compre-
hensive sexuality education today are not only expected to seek ways to maximize the
exchange and sharing of information, ideas and understandings about sex and sexuality,
but to also inculcate in their students the skills needed for negotiating the emotional
experiences that this subject espouses. Concerned with certain patterns of talk interac-
tion and exchanges in the classroom, dialogic teaching involves both teachers and
students in joint acts of meaning-making and knowledge construction and employs
systematic thinking approaches which allow students opportunities to grapple with
dicult concepts like those presented in sexuality education.
As an entry point for exploring dialogic teaching as an eective pedagogical strategy in
sexuality education classrooms, I present this paper as a dialogue. In the close readings of
my observational eld notes that follow, I present readers with conversations between
Mr. D (pseudonym), a sexuality education teacher, and his year 8 students (13 and 14 year-
olds) in his weekly sexuality education class at his school, Multicultural High(pseudonym).
As the purpose of this paper is to explore the possibilities of dialogic teaching in creating
rich, open, uid classroom talk about sex and sexuality and thus shift what I have come to
experience as the predictable order of teaching in this subject area, I do not oer these
ndings in the traditional empirical sense. Rather, in this paper I use data as a way of
hooking intodialogic teaching approaches which can invite more creative and constructive
talk patterns in sexuality education. Inspired by Britzmans(2009, 9) notion of pedagogy as
2F. SANJAKDAR
enabling us to think what happens to thought within its own unfolding, I do this by
weaving my voice near, within and alongside that of Mr. Ds, as a way to unfoldunarticu-
lated dialogues of sex and sexuality that could have taken place in Mr. Ds classes to inspire
student learning. In this paper, my voice works to orchestrate a dialogic discourse on how
principles of dialogic teaching can enable bothteachers and students to experience the very
process of more discursive learning about sexuality.
Dialogic teaching: theoretical review
In his large-scale comparative study of primary education in ve countries (India, Russia,
France, England and the United States) Robin Alexander (2001) sought to explore the
processes and practices of teaching at the classroom level. His study suggested that
interrogatory whole class direct instruction is probably the dominant teaching method
internationally(516). On the basis of his analysis of how the inequitable patterns of
classroom talk had failed to adequately engage, stimulate and advance learning and
understanding of students, Alexander proposed a solution to the problem: the concept
of dialogic teaching. In his seminal piece Culture and Pedagogy(2001) he sets forth
a typology of classroom discourse, repertoires of learning distinguished along the
dimensions of: classroom organization (whole class, group, individual); pedagogic mode
(direct instruction, discussion, monitoring); pedagogic function (scaolding, assessment,
information sharing, problem solving, supervision); and discourse (interrogatory, exposi-
tory, evaluative, dialogic).
Dialogic teaching has two crucial and interdependent elements: 1) the primacy of the
relationship between learner and educator, and 2) the centrality of language in promot-
ing that relationship. Alexanders recognition of learners as active participants in the
teaching-learning processes t within the constructivist theory of learning. Inuenced by
the theoretical work of Jerome Bruner, Alexander (2001, 527) proposes scaolded
dialoguebetween repertoires of learning and teaching:
Scaolded dialogue [is] achieving common understanding through structured and
sequenced questioning and through joint activity and shared conceptions, which guide,
prompt, reduce choices and expedite handoverof concepts and principles.
Research into language use in the classroom suggests that well-scaolded dialogue can
help students of all ability levels and language backgrounds to engage in learning (Teo
2016; Street 2014; Mansor et al. 2011; Khansir 2012). Alexanders concept of scaolded
dialogueis further elaborated in his model of dialogic teaching in which he identies
ve principles with the aim of highlighting how the quality of talk and interaction
between teachers and students could lead to successful learning outcomes. These
principles suggest that the way talk is syntactically structured is not the signicant
measure of how well it will produce dialogically oriented classrooms. Rather he recom-
mended that dialogue in class should be:
(1) Collective: teachers and student address learning tasks together, whether as
a group or as a class;
(2) Reciprocal: teachers and student listen to each other, share ideas and consider
alternative viewpoints;
PEDAGOGY, CULTURE & SOCIETY 3
(3) Cumulative: teachers and student build on their own and each others ideas and
chain them into coherent lines of thinking and enquiry;
(4) Supportive: student articulate their ideas freely, without fear of embarrassment
over wronganswers and they help each other to reach common understandings;
(5) Purposeful: the dialogue is planned and transacted with specic learning out-
comes clearly in view (Alexander 2001, 528).
To engender student talk that is truly dialogic, that is elaborated and engaged as well as
contingent and reective of the talk of others in the class, Alexander (2001) suggest that
patterns of dialogue in classrooms are not only shaped by the epistemological and
ontological stance of the teacher but also by other forces at work. When active in the
classroom, the principles of dialogic teaching inform and predispose students and
teachers to certain classroom interactions which create the possibilities for the teacher
and students to build on each others contributions in developing knowledge. Citing
Bakhtin (1981), Alexander distinguishes between conversation that tends to be relaxed
and dialogue which is characterized by purposeful questioning and chaining of ideas
into coherent lines of thinking and inquiry- the dialogic principle of cumulation. The
Bakhtinian notion of dialogue assumes an interweaving of voices in which individuals
test their perspectives against others past, present and co-present. To illustrate how
dialogue possesses a greater degree of structure and is dierentiated from mere con-
versation Alexander (2001) developed a repertoireof talk strategies and of questioning
patterns to assist both teachers and students in developing understandings of how
classroom talkcan mediate and shape how and what is learned. For example,
Alexander suggests teachers pose questions to particular named individuals to manage
and teach students about turn-taking by nominationand minimize competitive bid-
dingfor the teachers attention. He also suggests that teachers use follow-up questions
directed at students to extend the teacher-student exchange on a given topic. When
such patterns of discourse strategies are used in class, Alexander suggests that
apedagogy of mutualitydevelops which treats students not as empty vessels to be
lled with received wisdom by the teacher, but as competent thinkers in their own right.
This viewpoint is also distinctively Freirean.
The rejection of the concept of the banking system of learningis possibly the
most commonly accepted of Freires ideas in contemporary education. As Freire
(1974, 61) noted: . . .[T]his dialogue cannot be reduced to the act of one person
depositingideas in another, nor can it become a simple exchange of ideas to be
consumedby the participants in a discussion. Similar to Alexander, Freire further
talks about searching together (i.e., student and teacher, student and student) for
truth rather than truth being imposed by one over another. Dialogue is thus essential
to communication; value-laden, educational and transformatory: Without dialogue
there is no communication and without communication there can be no true educa-
tion(Freire 1974, 65). It is important to note that in neither Freires nor Alexanders
work is a specic type of speech syntax required. Instead, both emphasize stancesor
positionsof teachers and students when engaged in a scripted type of talk. Both are
also interested in changing asymmetrical power relations in which each learns from
the other. In dialogic teaching interactions, students are exposed to alternative
perspectives and required to engage with another personspointofviewinways
4F. SANJAKDAR
that challenge and deepen their own conceptual understandings. Hence, it is the
element of dialectic, how learning is dened not only as acquisition of knowledge
but as participation in knowledge building practices, which distinguishes dialogue
from mainstream oral or interactiveteaching as currently understood by many
teachers. Through these dialectical relations, new levels of consciousness and new
possibilities for pedagogical action can be created.
As a result of earlier feminist and post-structural critiques, contemporary sexu-
ality education has morphed into a learning of sexualities. Michelle Fines(1988)
seminal work on the missing discourse of desirein relation to sexuality education,
not only provided a discourse to release females from a position of receptivity, but
began an analysis of dialectics in sexuality education (Cameron-Lewis and Allen
2013). Consequently, sexuality education has seen the introduction of various
dialectics including pleasure and desire (Allen, Rasmussen and Quinlivan 2016;
Fields 2008), sexual consent (Whittington & Thomson 2018;Clarke2018), gender
education (Pendleton Jiménez 2016)andmostnotablyqueer pedagogywhich
focuses on anti-heteronormative and non-homophobic teaching (Jones 2016,
2013). While the inclusion of such pluralities of dialectics in school sexuality
education curricula is a cherishable accomplishment, current sexuality education
pedagogies are still far from adequately engaging students in the signicant dis-
cursive constructions of sexuality now shaping sexual knowledge. What is currently
sorely lacking in these classrooms are talk patterns which illuminate how teachers
can support students as they learn through talking, how to talk-to-know, to connect
information to real contexts and to reason, grapple and argue together.
There are growing expectations that students in sexuality education classes should be
learning and engaging more profoundly and productively with the juxtapositions of under-
standings and emotions now shaping sexuality education. However, unfoldingthe many
discourses now shaping sexuality education, classroom talk is a skilled performance rather
than a prescribed technique. In the next section of this paper, I demonstrate, by way of my
voice, an unfoldingactive interchange of ideas, the missed utterances(Bakhtin 1981)and
discursive moves of the teacher that have the potential to introduce counter and other
thoughts about sexuality and make available forc
onsideration,themultiple layers of dis-
course inherit within the teaching and learning of sexuality education today. In applying
Alexanders principles of dialogic teaching to Mr. Ds classroom talk interactions, I aim to
demonstrate how mutual patterns of talk can be further encouraged, how studentseveryday
knowledge can be scaolded to cultivate interest and intersubjectivity as well as how various
transformations of the conditions in which classroom interactions are embedded in have the
potential to sustain more enriching discussions. In this process, re-accentuations, and re-
organisation of ideas, enter the process of meaning making, thus, making the entire discourse
inherently dialogic. Dialogic teaching becomes not only a radical shift in thinking required in
sexuality education, but a movement towards communicative action in sexuality education.
Design of the study
Ethnographic observational eld notes and interview transcripts were collected as part
of an Australian Research Council (ARC) funded project on which the author collabo-
rated with New Zealand colleagues to investigate the teaching of sexuality education in
PEDAGOGY, CULTURE & SOCIETY 5
diverse school settings (for a fuller survey of other publications about this project,
I direct readers to the following discussions Sanjakdar and Yip 2018; Sanjakdar et al.
2015; Allen et al. 2014; Rasmussen et al. 2016).
The focal classroom in this paper is a mainstream eighth-grade classroom (1314 year-
olds) at Multicultural High, a co-educational public secondary school located in a socio-
economically disadvantaged district in the Northern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia.
Students came from various cultural, religious, linguistic and ethnic backgrounds, the
majority (>80%) from Turkish and Lebanese backgrounds. Their teacher, Mr. D, had
been teaching for over 31 years, the last 10 years at the school. Observation and
interactions with Mr. D and his students occurred over a two-year period allowing me
to develop nuanced accounts of the school/classroom setting and the practices that took
place within and around them. When observing Mr. D teaching his sexuality education
class, I kept a detailed eld book of notes: rich, detailed data from the setting where it
occurred. Inspired by Layders(1993)resource mapfor social research which involves four
inter-woven, layered social processes, in my notes I recorded both objective information
(facts or events) and subjective ruminations (i.e., beliefs and feelings) about Mr. D and his
students (mannerisms, behaviors, spoken language), the interactions (the dynamics of
face-to-face communication patterns in class), the setting (classroom environment, social
activities in the classroom and between students) and context (wider macro forms of
social, and cultural organization within the school).
Reading my eld notes back, I noticed that there was no dening structure to Mr. Ds
classes. He started each class with a quick catch upduring which he would take care of
housekeeping (i.e., attendance, student notes from home and any special sharing of
home events). This typically lasted 710 minutes of his 50 minute class. In each class,
Mr. D would welcome me and encourage students to speak upin class and not be
intimated by my presence and scrupulous note taking at the back of the room. Routines
were well established. It was common to see a full class and students were generally
well prepared, with notepads and iPads. There was a Teachers Aid assisting one
particular student whom Mr. D later described as delayedand requiring more one-
on-one attentionin class.
In my in-depth interviews with Mr. D and the occasional casual chats before and after
class, he frequently expressed to me his feelings of inadequacy about teaching sexuality
education stating that he has no experience. But, as the Head of the Health and
Physical Education Department at his school, it was his responsibilityto teach the
stu. On many occasions, Mr. D acknowledged that he was mindful that the teaching of
sexuality education was dominated by negative discourses of fear and embarrassment
and he wanted to make sure that his students felt comfortable in his class. As
Mr. D explained to me, in his teaching he aimed to normalizethe subject; I want my
students to see sexuality as a normal and natural part of their life. To achieve this,
Mr. D felt quite comfortable in class using sexually explicit terms, showing real life
images of the human reproductive organs and by continuously drawing on his own
heterosexual sex life and experiences as way of examples and further description.
Although Mr. D acknowledged that the multicultural make up of student population
at the school might make many students feel uncomfortable with his contemporary
styleof pedagogy, he was adamant that his explicit approach would help to create the
open and comfortable classroom environment he wanted to achieve.
6F. SANJAKDAR
Examining classroom talk: using critical discourse analysis and voice
In the next section, I closely examine an excerpt between Mr. D and his students on the
topic of Conception and Contraceptionby applying principles of Critical Discourse
Analysis or CDA (Fairclough 2013) and my voice. From a sociological standpoint, dis-
course (be it written or spoken) is dened as any practice by which individuals imbue
reality with meaning. CDA is the study of social life, understood through analysis of
language in its widest sense (including face-to-face talk, non-verbal interaction, images,
symbols and documents). CDA conceptualizes language as a form of social practice and
sees any textas reecting and aecting the social and interactional contexts in which it
is produced and received. This diers from more traditional forms of discourse analysis
in which analysis can be quite de-contextualised. A key principle of CDA in the class-
room is its specic focus on how power and ideology are enacted and reected through
language and text (Christie 2002). Applying CDA to Mr. Ds classroom talk becomes
imperative to uncover the ideological workings of Mr. D, why he produced certain
discourses in his classroom and to what end. Thus, using CDA can be used to uncover
the ideologies about sexuality embedded in Mr. Ds pedagogical approach.
As well as essentially interested in analyzing discourses with an internal dimension
(i.e., ideology), CDA is also concerned with external relationsand deals with structures
in discourse involving people, places or actions. An analysis of both internal and external
dimensions can present dierent types of meaning and develop understanding of the
intent of the text; focusing analysis of texts on the interplay of personal beliefs,
representation, identication and action, brings a social perspective into the heart and
ne detail of the text(Fairclough 2013, 27). Thus, by performing a CDA on Mr. Ds
classroom dialogues, I can begin to unlock the ideological and social meanings
expressed in his discourses. The application of both dimensions of analysis is particularly
important to applying Alexanders(2001) principles of dialogic teaching to Mr. Ds
classroom talk patterns and demonstrate the ways in which dialogic teaching can
improve Mr. D pedagogy and more broadly serve as a model of eective pedagogy in
sexuality education. As mentioned earlier in this paper, current pedagogical approaches
to sexuality education lack a cumulative space which advances rich and nuanced
analyses of the complex issues about sex and sexuality as well as disrupt common
hierarchically gendered social orders.
In my application of CDA to Mr. Ds classroom talk, I will both characterize his
discourse by paying particular attention to systematic patterns in language, words and
utterances (textual analysis) as well as understand his discourse by factoring in the social/
environmental inuences on the communicative situation (contextual analysis).
Generating interpretations of discourse involves making connections between the dis-
courses analyzed and the social spaces in which they emerged. Both verbatim transcrip-
tion (including moments of silence and their duration, modulations, emphasis,
meaningful gestures and expressions) and interpretation will occur simultaneously in
a backwards and forwards movement that resembles a continuous dialogue.When I wish
to delve deeper into the interpretation to focus on how certain interactions and
dialogical processes could have produced more pronounced discursive pedagogical
strategies desired in the teaching of sexuality education, I intersect my voice and
position my perspectives near and alongside those of Mr. D. In doing so, I oer an
PEDAGOGY, CULTURE & SOCIETY 7
interplay of dialogues to demonstrate how lessons in sexuality education, like that
oered by Mr. D, can do more to oer sexuality scholarship that is comparative,
contextual and purposeful. Thus, the aim of my voice (in italics and bold) was to
weave my structures of talk onto and near the talkingof Mr. D to demonstrate the
possibilities of dialogic teaching at work in his sexuality education classroom.
Drawing from my own teaching experiences and knowledge of pedagogy, I demon-
strate how dialogic teaching can create an interplay of classroom talk that applies
diering forms and functions of language as well as teaching processes which enable
both teacher and student to think and explore their learning through a real dialogue.
While I acknowledge that the following short excerpts cannot illustrate the full reper-
toire of teaching practices and techniques that characterize dialogic teaching, they do
serve as exemplars to showcase instructional in-the-moment, contingent decision-
making while explicating both the linguistic characteristics of dialogic teaching and
the particular sexual discourses that could have taken place to provide for more enrich-
ing and educational experiences than currently oered.
Results and discussion
Stopping the sperm: an exemplar of dialogic teaching at work
Mr. D is making a coee as I enter the staroom at Multicultural High for my 4th observation of
his sexuality education class. He greeted me with a smile as he always did. As we make our way
to the classroom, passing crowds of students as they rush to get their books from their lockers
before the nal bell rings, Mr. D impromptu informs me that the focus of todays lesson is
contraception and how to put a condom on. The kids always love doing thishe remarks.
After a brief greeting to his students, Mr. D proceeds to the board; the studentsfamiliar with the
routine, began opening their books in anticipation to write everything he was about to put up.
Today we are looking at the dierences between conception and contraception. Mr. D begins.
What do these words mean?Silence. Mr. D waits impatiently next to the whiteboard eager to
construct a brainstorm of his studentsideas. Are they opposites?a male student yells out from the
back of the class. YesMr. D responds in a rather joyful tone. Conception is when the sperm and the
egg meet and contraception prevents the sperm from entering in to fertilise an egg.Why would
somebody use contraception?Mr. D proceeds. Protectiona voice calls out. A few other student
responses start to break the silence in the room. If you are not married’‘To stop a pregnancy,If you
are not nancially ready.YES, YES,Mr.Darms.
A quick glance around the room and I notice students playing with their stationery, others
looking outside the window and a few exchanging notes with each other. Clearly not disturbed
by the apparent lack of interest and attention from his students, Mr. D continues. Ignoring
a sudden surge of student questions streaming in at once such as Does the pill stop preg-
nancy?’‘What about abortion? Is that contraception?’‘Does abortion hurt the girl?’‘Does the
abortion hurt the baby as well?. Mr. D remained facing the board. No responses were given to
the barrage of student questions. Rather, Mr. D suddenly turns around and says: In the next few
years, you might be ready to have sex and ready to have a child and even ready to have an STI!
What is an STI?A student seated at the front immediately responds: If they have these bumps
all over.YESMr. D arms. Yes, if it is something like herpes, you will know, but if you had
gonorrhoea you wouldnt necessarily know.
In my frequent conversations with Mr. D, it became apparent to me that he had hoped
that class discussions, such as the one above, would equip students with a sense of
8F. SANJAKDAR
agency in their sexual decision-making. However, in associating sexuality with preg-
nancy and later Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), Mr. D was in fact reinforcing
common and dominant discourses of fear in sexuality education. STIs continue to
pose a signicant threat to the health and well-being of populations worldwide and
to young people in particular (Illes 2012). Despite empirical evidence that School Based
Sexuality Education (SBSE) is an important tool for prevention, there are demands for
conservative narratives, like that oered by Mr. D, to be replaced with discourses that re-
imagine sexuality education as an essential aspect of citizenship and a form of civic
engagement. Sexual citizenship implies that an individuals sexual identity and conduct
are not merely a personal matter, but are connected to, structured by and regulated
through the public sphere(Plummer 2003, 70). Had Mr. D opened the discussion about
STIs by positioning it as a public health issue as well as a personal issue, he could have
avoided any potential for fear-mongering and the perpetuation of negative and mis-
leading discourses about young people and their sexuality. For example, the classroom
talk could have been like this:
Today we are looking at the dierences between conception and contraception. Mr. D begins.
What do these words mean?Mr. D waits impatiently next to the whiteboard eager to construct
a brainstorm of his studentsideas. Are they opposites?a male student yells out from the back
of the class. YesMr. D responds in a rather joyful tone. Conception is when the sperm and the
egg meet and contraception prevents the sperm from entering in to fertilise an egg.Why
would somebody use contraception?Mr. D proceeds. Protectiona voice calls out. A few other
student responses start to break the silence in the room. If you are not married’‘To stop
a pregnancy,If you are not nancially ready.YES, YES, Mr. D arms. All the answers you
are giving are possible reasons, yes. Using contraception is now viewed by many as
a responsible thing to do to prevent contracting and transmitting Sexually Transmissive
Infections or STIs. In the next few years, you might be ready to engage in a sexual relation-
ship. What is an STI? A student seated at the front immediately responds: If they have these
bumps all over.YESMr. D arms. Yes, if it is something like herpes, you will know, but if you
had gonorrhoea you wouldnt necessarily know.Yes some STIs can often exist without
symptoms. Both men and women can get gonorrhoeal and/or chlamydial infections and
most often they are asymptomatic which means they DO not have any symptoms in the
short term (Mr. D should also write these terms on the board to demonstrate correct
spelling but also to aid visual learners in the classroom). So we have named three STIs;
herpes, gonorrhoea and chlamydia. What other STIs have you heard about or know of?
(Mr. D to list responses on board and to introduce others (i.e., HIV, syphilis etc). How
do you get an STI? How do you prevent gonorrhoea? How do you know if you have
gonorrhoea? What are the symptoms? Even if an individual has an STI, why do you think
it is important to not only see it as an individual issue but as wider public issues?
Greater attention to more collective structures of dialogue by asking his students further
prompting questions, exploring the diversity of views and knowledge in the classroom,
Mr. D could have created a more cumulative, mutual learning experiences in which
students feel condent to mobilise the messages of sexuality education and view them
as relevant to their lives.
While Mr. Ds questions may be structured as closed, his students at this point of the
lesson appear savvy enough to read his questions as prompts and expectations for
more not intended to curtail conversation. At times it appears these year 8 students
treat a question as a personalized request (as opposed to a generic invitation) to share
their personal knowledge about the topic at hand:
PEDAGOGY, CULTURE & SOCIETY 9
Still interested in learning more about STIs, student questions continue. What about the pill
Mr. D?a girl asks seated towards the front of the class. Is that contraception?’‘If you start on
the pill you have to wait 2 monthsanother student answered. Is there a pill for boys?a boy at
the back calls out. Despite the student questions, Mr. D ignores all of them.
Furthermore, the students respond as part of a community of learners by listening,
sharing and considering alternative ideas trying to build a more complete, communal
knowledge of STIs and its signicance in their sexual health. Although Mr. Ds closed
questions are not deterring students from participating, he fails time and time again to
provide more elaborated responses although there are opportunities to do so. This part
of the classroom talk could have been like this:
What about the pill Mr. D?a girl asks seated towards the front of the class. Is that contra-
ception?’‘If you start on the pill you have to wait 2 monthsanother student answered. Is there
a pill for boys?a boy at the back calls out. These are excellent questions. In your table
group, list all the questions you have about one of these STIs (refer to the list on board)
and in another colour, write how you will seek to answer these questions; that is, where
would you go to nd the answers. You have 15 minutes and then we will regroup and
share our thoughts.
Had Mr. D simply allowed students some time to engage in this simple mind mapping
exercise, he would have promoted the collective learning prompted by the students
questions and enhanced the supportive structures in his teaching to enable students to
articulate their ideas for learning freely; two key principles of dialogic teaching
(Alexander 2001). On many occasions, Mr. D could have simply called on a student by
name with an interrogative inection, such as . . . John?inviting that student to launch
into an elaborated example, but he failed to. Rather, Mr. D appeared motivated by his
own agenda endorsed by his monologized pedagogical dialogue (Bakhtin 1984;
Skidmore 2000).
Mr. D proceeds: Okay. . .lets move on. . .looking at condoms. . .what does a condom look like?
Silence. Mr. D instructs everybody to sit around a table at the front of the room. Students slowly
gather around the table. Mr. D opens a packet of condoms. Holding a condom fresh out of the
pack he asks, Okay whats this?There is a cacophony of comments and laughter by the
students: It looks like a penisa voice calls out. Isnt the oil called a lubricant?another student
adds. The comment about the oil captures Mr. Ds attention YesMr. D replies. If you put
a condom on properly and look after it, dont use oil, dont use Vaseline, it can degrade the
condomhe adds. More questions from the students, each talking over each other. Mr. D now
assembles the condom on a dildo: Can you use the condom again?’‘Doesnt sperm come out
of the condom?’‘Dont you have to change it every 10 minutes?’‘Do they come in dierent
sizes?’‘How do you know what is your size?Student laughter break the lines of questioning for
a brief time. And then Do you go to the chemist and measure your penis?’‘Can a girl wear
a condom?Head down, Mr. D answers the questions with either yes,no,maybeand
asometimesresponse as he carefully assembles the condom on the dildo.
Although students felt comfortable in class to pose many questions, Mr. D could have
done more to stretch the topic and learn more from his studentscontributions. One
simple way Mr. D could have achieved this would have been to anchor his questions and
comments in studentscontributions; this could have encouraged students and teacher
to listen to each other and share ideas (reciprocal) as well as learn and address the task
together (collective). Other pedagogical repertoires that could have featured in Mr. Ds
10 F. SANJAKDAR
talk patterns include: emphasize important student contributions by revoicing them to
nominate speakers, explicate ideas from the talk students may not understand and
produce more talk about it, prompt elaboration and explanation by oering authentic
questions, feedback and discussion. By scaolding student foreknowledge and co-
constructing their contributions, classroom talk in Mr. Ds lesson could have engineered
opportunities for students to participate actively in the discourses while also oering
new and exciting content relevant to the unfolding theme. For example:
Mr. D proceeds: Okay. . .lets move on. . .looking at condoms. . .what does a condom look like?
Silence. Has anybody heard that word before? Condom? Keep your hand up if you have
seen one. Okay good. Mr. D instructs everybody to sit around a table at the front of the room.
Students slowly gather around the table. Mr. D opens a packet of condoms. Holding a condom
fresh out of the pack he asks, Okay whats this?(Mr D. should wait for student responses).
This is a condom. There is a cacophony of comments by the students: It looks like a penis
a voice calls out. Yes it does look like a penis that is a very good observation. Why do you
think it looks like a penis? Isnt the oil called a lubricant?another adds. The comment about
the oil captures Mr. Ds attention YesMr. D replies. The comment about the oil is an
interesting and important one. We will talk further about that. For now I would like
you to concentrate on what we have been talking about so far this term about contra-
ception. Do you think a condom is a form of contraception? More questions from the
students, each talking over each other. Okay, one question at a time. Mr. D now assembles
the condom on a dildo: Can you use the condom again?’‘Doesnt sperm come out of the
condom?’‘Dont you have to change it every 10 minutes?’‘Do they come in dierent sizes?
How do you know what is your size?Student laughter break the lines of questioning for a brief
time. And then Do you go to the chemist and measure your penis?’‘Can a girl wear a condom?
You all have excellent questions and as I demonstrate how to use a condom, I want you
to list all the questions you have and we will work together to answer your questions.
Mr. D continues:
Once Mr. D has nished assembling the dildo he says: How to put a condom on is really
important.Who wants to have a go?The class erupts in laughter. In an encouraging voice,
Mr. D says, What do you think you need to do before putting on the condom?he waits. No
student responses, only a few student giggles. You need to check the due dateMr. D arms.
Why are you all so paranoid?Mr. D questions. Just do it! Better now than when you rst have
sex, it might be dark, you might be nervous. About 10 minutes into the lesson, a few students,
mainly boys summon the courage to have a go. As the students assemble the condom on the
dildo, Mr. D repeatedly interjects with Remember to always check the due date. Another
student put her hand up to have a go. Okay, Mr. D said. What did she do wrong?he questions
after she nishes. No reply. Silence. She didnt check the due date?Mr. D continues emphasizing
his main point Check the date’‘Squeeze the top,Check the date.When the man takes his
penis out from the womens vagina, what do you do then?Mr. D asks. Go home!a student
replies. More laughter. The bell rings. Lesson ends.
According to Bakhtin (1984), this kind of pedagogy, knows only a single mode of
cognitive interaction: someone who knows and possesses the truth instructs someone
who is ignorant of it and in error(81). Akin to Freires(1974) banking concept of
education, in which students are transformed into receiving objects, the monologicity
of this discussion by Mr. D, the tone and rhythm of the dialogue is used primarily as
a vehicle to eciently deliver knowledge with little uptake of studentscontributions.
Mr. Ds frequent use of the ubiquitous and oft-disparaged closed questions functions in
ways that pay less attention to developing the repertoire of students talk; their
PEDAGOGY, CULTURE & SOCIETY 11
capacities to narrate, explain, ask questions, speculate, argue, reason all become
quashed in his quest to get to his point about the due date. In a sexuality education
classroom, the monologicity of lecture as a primary pedagogical mode is troubling in
light of the liberatory aims of the subject to prepare students for a social world and their
role within it.
The teaching about putting a condom onremains a very popular one and common
practice in many sexuality education classrooms. However, judging from the many
student questions, how to put a condom onwas not the dening feature for the
students; a clear disjuncture from Mr. Ds intended learning goals. Rather, it became
clear to me that studentsquestions were internally persuasive discourses(Bakhtin
1984) posed in class in their quest to better understand their own sexual health. To
encourage students to display their internally persuasive discoursesBakhtin (1984)
suggests that teachers need to abandon their traditional role as the expert transmitter
of knowledge in favour of more collective and cumulative forms of dialogue that have
semantically open structures tending not towards convergence on a single agreed
standpoint, but towards a recursive process of intersubjective accomplished under-
standing. Similarly, Alexander (2001,2004) suggests there is little to distinguish the
conversational techniques of recapitulation, elicitation and repetition from traditional
teaching adding only reformulation (of questions or classroom structures) as having
potential to take a specic answer or statement forward.
A key indicator of dialogic teaching is that classroom talk should have a cumulative
quality. This means that the communication between teacher and students should
contribute to the cohesive, temporal organisation of studentseducational experience
and hence to the progressive development of their understanding. Monologic recitation
and test likequestions, where the implied role of the student is to contribute
a predetermined rightanswer in response, typies much of Mr. Ds classroom interac-
tion. Even Mr. Ds scaold is teacher imposed and remains detached from the edice of
a students everyday knowledge, and is therefore less eective in supporting student-
internalized construction of real concepts. Mr. Ds insistence on checking the due-by
date, positioned his students as competitively involved in a game of guess what the
teacher is thinkingand a search for rightanswers. Once again, the nal episode from
this lesson largely conforms to the properties of the recitation scriptin which, accord-
ing to Gutierrez (1994), student responses tend to be short and the teacher does not
encourage elaboration of responses. Had Mr. D reformulated his question What is
a condom?to How can condoms be used eectively in ones sexual health?may
have created opportunities for both Mr. D and his students to develop repertoires of
dialogic techniques that enable them to share and scaold their knowledge as well as
modify the topic of discourse, a strategy which Nystrand (1997) terms high-level
evaluation. This becomes particularly important to weave into other pivotal discussions
about sexual responsibility, consent and negotiation. For example:
Once Mr. D has nished assembling the dildo he says: Howtoputacondomonisreally
important.Who wants to have a go?Mr. D proceeds: How can condoms be used eectively in
onessexualhealth?(Mr. D to listen and discuss student answers) How to put a condom
on is really important.But to put one on means that you are prepared and have consented
to having sex. What does that mean? To consent to sex? (Mr. D to listen and discuss all
student answers and questions). Yes it means permission for something to happen and in
12 F. SANJAKDAR
this case, to have sex with your partner. Why is consent important? (Mr. D to listen and
discuss all student answers and questions). How do you consent to having sex? What can
you do if one partner consents and the other does not? This is a very important rst step.
Okay lets brainstorm some sentences one can use to oer consent (Mr. D to brainstorm
sentences on the board for students to copy into their books).
Within the eld of sexuality research, consent is an important and contested term
(Whittington and Thomas 2018). Originally a term situated within legal vocabulary of
contracts and later medical practices, consent has now become a pivotal issue in
contemporary sexuality and relationships education because the dierence between
abusive and non-abusive sexual relations (including sexual violence and rape) typically
rests on freely given informed consent. Mr. Ds focus on condom use as a preventative
measure against disease and pregnancy stymied classroom talk about consent as
a signier of respectful, ethical sexual practice. Had Mr. D encouraged discussion
about how people can, and do, consent to sexual relations, this lesson could both
engage with and challenge the implicit values shaping young peopleslived sexual
cultures that normalize sexual pressure and sexist double standards (Cameron-Lewis and
Allen 2013). Another important conversation stymied by Mr. Ds pedagogical approach,
is the art of sexual negotiation (Phyllis 2013). Like consent, negotiation is aligned with
negative aspects of sexuality because of its tendency to surface in conversations around
abuse and coercion. The importance of supporting young people to learn how to
negotiate ethically is fundamental to future sexualities education which seeks to view
young people as legitimate sexual beings and addresses their livedneeds. The neces-
sity for such work is evidenced in Carmody and Ovendens(2013, 112) research around
sexual negotiation which found that, while some young people had developed ethical
practices, others were struggling to nd ways to ensure their sexual intimacy was both
consensual and mutual. The contributions to both consent and negotiation would
encourage Mr. Ds students to learn more about co-agency in sexual relations and
how to exercise power over their own sexual lives. Less focus on sexuality as a decit
model (focusing on how men and women are able, or unable, to refuse sex) and more
attempts to coordinate classroom spaces for reciprocal and cumulative talk patterns,
Mr. D can possibly scaold his students learning to embed discussions of consent and
negotiation in a sex-positive framework. In this way, precautionary and positive issues of
sexuality can be brought together and students can navigate the complexities inherent
in sexually intimate relationships or to learn how to negotiate the feelings of pleasures
and danger sexuality within the same conversation. In this simple and yet very popular
classroom lesson, Mr. D missed an excellent opportunity to explore openly with his
students the interplay between condom use, sexual rights, pleasure and desire, positive
sexual relationships, sexual negotiation and consent; empowering discourses now com-
peting for space in comprehensive SBSE that can further assist student development as
active sexual citizens in wider society.
Closing thoughts
The prole of a dialogic teacher is complex, principled and context dependent.
Although Mr. Ds talk is at times supercially monologic and closed there was, never-
theless, great potential to stimulate the veryembodimentofadialogicclassroom,
PEDAGOGY, CULTURE & SOCIETY 13
cultivating studentsforeknowledge to readily receive school knowledge and disposi-
tions. In this paper, I attempted to demonstrate, through my own voice, the possibi-
lities for dialogic teaching in Mr. Ds sexuality education classroom. In doing so,
I demonstrated that the discursive micro-economy of Mr. Dsclassroomhaditsown
relative autonomy; whilst transmission of information was Mr. Ds preferred mode of
interaction and recitation its defaultscript, more participatory modes of organisation
were available to him. Through my voice, what unfolded were possibilities for talk of
considerable complexity and substance about poignant sexual issues and opportu-
nities for his students to be treated as ..active epistemic agents in the production of
their own knowledge(Skidmore 2006,505).
Eective classroom talk does not occur in a vacuum; it is inuenced by the social
relations that structure student-teacher relationships, codes and expectations
embedded in ocial policies and the climate formed by the local conditions of the
school. In spite of such tensions and constructions, the structure and organization of
classroom talk and the valuing of various subjectivities by students is still a deterministic
outcome of the teacher. As demonstrated in this paper, the lead oered by the teacher
can have real and educationally signicant consequences for the course of the subse-
quent talk: it may tend to retrace the familiar certitudes of authoritative, teacher-
controlled discourse or it may invite students to engage in the riskier, more taxing,
but more fullling enterprise of formulating and being answerable for their own think-
ing. The immediate challenge for teachers like Mr. D however, lies in knowing when and
how to disrupt the ow of traditional patterns of communication. This requires
a willingness to explore and experiment with their practices informed by an awareness
of the way in which interactions are aected by their inuence. Without these principled
understandings, any changes in practice might amount to no more than supercial
adjustments. Dialogic teaching serves as a conceptual and pedagogical basis for further
thinking about the development of pedagogy in sexuality education. It is hoped that
improvement in these classrooms will be evident in individuals who view themselves
positively and legitimately as sexual beings and who can enact their sexuality in
responsible and sexually fullling ways.
Whilst I cannot know for certain how the discussion would have progressed if
Mr. D had incorporated the students’‘internally persuasive discourses(Bakhtin 1984)
ignoring them seems to have closed oopportunities for using the studentscombined
knowledge as a resource to develop their collective thinking. Had Mr. D stepped aside as
the sole arbiter of valid knowledge and treated his students as fellow discussants, there
could have been critical turning-points in the discourse where alternative choices were
available which might have challenged the students to engage in higher levels of
literate thinking about sexuality and themselves as sexual beings. Essentially, with
dialogic teaching, Mr. D has the potential to turn around studentscompetitive bidding
for teachers attention to create more interaction and shared talk routines.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the author.
14 F. SANJAKDAR
Funding
This research was supported by an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Program grant
[DP110101173]. This was the rst time the ARC funded research on sexuality and secondary
schooling in Australia.
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PEDAGOGY, CULTURE & SOCIETY 17
... By resorting to narratives of danger, they eschew positive messaging that builds on students' existing sexual knowledge, encourages sexual agency, and equips them to deal with the social challenges that are intertwined with sexuality (Fields, 2008). This is echoed by other authors who observe that even in the most progressive contexts sex education teachers fail to achieve a shift in power hierarchies that would enable student empowerment (Naezer et al., 2017;Sanjakdar, 2019). Thus, while our findings suggest student empowerment is a mechanism of impact that may ultimately affect adolescent SRH, this mechanism likely requires a very facilitative context and skilled implementer. ...
... In this framework, schools are understood as sites that reinforce existing social systems and power structures-which critical pedagogy seeks to counter (Sanjakdar et al., 2015). This approach is a democratic, joint process of knowledge creation that drives on student voice and curiosity, with teachers encouraging questioning and critical thinking via 'dialogic teaching' (Sanjakdar, 2019;Sanjakdar et al., 2015). The critical pedagogy framework thus incorporates the programme characteristics and mechanisms we identified, including the disruption of traditional power dynamics which was linked to our empowerment mechanism. ...
Article
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Background Delivered globally to promote adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health, comprehensive sex education (CSE) is rights-based, holistic, and seeks to enhance young people’s skills to foster respectful and healthy relationships. Previous research has demonstrated that CSE programmes that incorporate critical content on gender and power in relationships are more effective in achieving positive sexual and reproductive health outcomes than programmes without this content. However, it is not well understood how these programmes ultimately affect behavioural and biological outcomes. We therefore sought to investigate underlying mechanisms of impact and factors affecting implementation and undertook a systematic review of process evaluation studies reporting on school-based sex education programmes with a gender and power component. Methods We searched six scientific databases in June 2019 and screened 9375 titles and abstracts and 261 full-text articles. Two distinct analyses and syntheses were conducted: a narrative review of implementation studies and a thematic synthesis of qualitative studies that examined programme characteristics and mechanisms of impact. Results Nineteen articles met the inclusion criteria of which eleven were implementation studies. These studies highlighted the critical role of the skill and training of the facilitator, flexibility to adapt programmes to students’ needs, and a supportive school/community environment in which to deliver CSE to aid successful implementation. In the second set of studies ( n = 8), student participation, student-facilitator relationship-building, and open discussions integrating student reflection and experience-sharing with critical content on gender and power were identified as important programme characteristics. These were linked to empowerment, transformation of gender norms, and meaningful contextualisation of students’ experiences as underlying mechanisms of impact. Conclusion and policy implications Our findings emphasise the need for CSE programming addressing gender and power that engages students in a meaningful, relatable manner. Our findings can inform theories of change and intervention development for such programmes.
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Thesis
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Youth encounters with Internet pornography (IP) have led to global concern regarding the healthy sexual socialisation of youth. A growing body of critical research recognises young people as agentic political actors in their sexual socialisation with legitimate knowledge of their own experiences, and seeks to understand their perspectives alongside those of influential adults in their lives. Grounded in social constructionist thinking, my research extends this emerging body of knowledge. I investigate how key stakeholders (16-18-year-olds, caregivers, and educators) account for and discursively construct youth engagement with IP, and explore their perspectives on porn literacy education. The central premise of this scholarship is to determine how such knowledge might translate positively for young people through sexuality education that recognises their lived realities. Key stakeholders were recruited from nine schools across the North Island of Aotearoa, New Zealand. A mixed-methods design was employed over sequential phases, comprising an online survey (N = 484), a Q-sort (N = 30), and semi-structured interviews (N = 24). Descriptive statistical analyses of the survey data provided a preliminary understanding of youth engagement with IP; a specialised software programme assisted with factor analysis for the Q-methodological study investigating perspectives towards porn literacy education; and interview data were analysed by means of a critical thematic analysis, drawing on a feminist discursive approach to sexual scripting theory. Key research findings are presented across four research articles and indicate that; (i) (gendered) youth engagement with IP is commonplace, and there are varied understandings between stakeholder groups and across genders as to why and how these encounters occur, (ii) youth take up agentic positions that suggest they are active, legitimate sexual citizens, and adults generally harbour concerns about recognising youth in this way, and (iii) the construction of childhood innocence dubiously positions youth as uncritical, ‘at risk’ viewers of IP. Accordingly, protectionist adult intervention is justified and conceptualised in accordance with this construction of youth. My research highlights dominant and alternative constructions about youth sexuality, and describes the synergies and discrepancies across key stakeholder perspectives about youth engagement with IP. Importantly, my findings suggest some youth engage with IP in a more nuanced manner than typically assumed. Through gaining a comprehensive understanding of stakeholders' perspectives, the findings of my research expand scholarly knowledge by providing practical inquiry into the potential of porn literacy as pedagogy.
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Book
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