An exploration of the features and outcomes of an exemplary human sexuality education program: A longitudinal descriptive study of teachers' and former students' perceptions

Eva Suzanne Goldfarb-Maskin, University of Pennsylvania


This study explored the perceptions of teachers and former students of an exemplary sexuality education/family life education program as to what features and outcomes characterized the program and what impact, if any, the program has had on its students' lives. It also examined participants' perceptions of their experiences in and with the program. The findings were based on semi-structured, open-ended interviews with participants and on their responses to the Sexuality Education Program Feature/Program Outcome Inventory (Klein, 1988). The family life program was in an urban school district serving a largely African-American and Latino population, in the northeastern U.S. The sample consisted of 20 former students who graduated from High School either 2 or 4 years prior to this study, and all 10 teachers who are currently teaching family life and have been in the program since the 1983 state mandate for family life education. Use of the perceptions of program participants as the main data source, and the pursuit of data on long term program impact, represent a departure from traditional educational evaluation research. Overall, participants felt that the program provided students with important information and skill development. For some, it also offered the only safe, comfortable environment they had as adolescents to ask questions and learn about sexuality. This was particularly true for female students, and for participants who were highly religious. This latter group identified more features and outcomes from their program, including increased self-esteem and reduction in fear of sex-related activities than did less religious participants. Overall, students were much better able to articulate specific outcomes of their family life classes than were the teachers. The findings of this investigation suggest that, contrary to the literature in sexuality education, factors such as teacher's gender and teacher's race may make a difference in the learning experiences of adolescent boys and girls. It also suggests that co-ed classrooms may not always provide the best learning atmospheres for female or male students. Evidence found here that females and males have different ways of learning and, therefore, respond to different types of teaching styles supports similar findings reported elsewhere. This study also found that the messages being given to girls regarding sexuality are different than those being given to boys. This study highlights the need for further evaluation research in sexuality education which uses qualitative analysis techniques and relies on the experiences of program participants to uncover both anticipated, and unanticipated processes, features and outcomes.

Subject Area

Health education|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Goldfarb-Maskin, Eva Suzanne, "An exploration of the features and outcomes of an exemplary human sexuality education program: A longitudinal descriptive study of teachers' and former students' perceptions" (1991). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9125654.