There are a number of strategies that can be used to create a supportive learning environment which enables students to feel safe to learn and ask questions. They include:
- Making students aware at the beginning of PDHPE lessons that disclosing personal information that indicates they may be at risk of harm will be reported to the school principal in all instances. This includes personal disclosures related to instances of abuse, drug use, neglect or sexual activity under the legal age of consent.
- Being aware that some parts of PDHPE can be confronting and sensitive for some students.
- Enabling students to withdraw if they find issues personally confronting to protect them from making harmful disclosures. Equally, it is important to be prepared for issues that arise as a result of a student making a public disclosure in the classroom.
Preventing public disclosures
Actively discourage public disclosures by.
- keeping discussions global rather than personal
- distinguishing the difference between public and private information.
- dissuading students from talking in the first person in class discussions.
- encouraging students to talk in third person, for example, 'If a person... what if someone...'
- maintaining a professional role.
- answering questions and responding to statements globally without personalising, for example:
- 'Some people…'
- using the one step removed strategy. This might include using fictitious case studies and moral dilemmas.
- instead of the direct 'What would you do if...?' approach, substituting:
- 'Suppose X happened to someone. What advice would you give them? What could they do?'
- 'Imagine someone was feeling..., what advice would you give to help them in their situation?'
- using conditional language, such as 'X might happen' or 'Z could happen'. not 'this will happen'.
- using the protective interrupting strategy to interrupt students who begin to disclose private information. For example, saying 'it sounds as though you want to talk about this, why don't we talk about it after class?' After protective interrupting, guide the discussion back to one step removed.
Establishing clear expectations
Establish and maintain expectations, guidelines and boundaries for students to encourage mutual respect and allow for positive relationships to develop in the classroom. Reinforcing positive behaviour is equally important.
Engage students in the development of a class agreement or expectations. The following are some examples. In this class we will:
- listen to different ideas without ‘put downs’
- not interrupt while someone is talking
- stick to the point
- allow everyone the right to speak
- be responsible for our own behaviour
- keep what other people say in class as confidential
- never refer to someone by name when giving an example
- always support each other
- respect other’s cultural traditions, beliefs, values and languages
- respect that everyone has the right not to offer an opinion.
Allow for anonymity
Students should be provided with the opportunity to contribute in less public ways. Some students may find it difficult to contribute to class discussion and may say little in group activities. Don’t assume they are not engaged in the activities.
Generate purposeful discussion
Help students to feel positive about themselves and the activities in which they are participating. Generate purposeful, respectful discussion and promote positive classroom experiences by:
- expecting and reinforcing positive behaviours
- being consistent when dealing with students
- modelling expected behaviours, for example, active listening
- using and reinforcing inclusive and appropriate language
- affirming the diversity in the responses of individual students.
Promote key messages
Be clear about the purpose of the lesson and the key messages you want students to take away from each lesson. Communicate this with students through learning intentions and goals.
When students see the relevance of learning, they are more able to connect with education and are more likely to engage with it.
Think critically and plan lessons so that students have a take away message. The purpose of a lesson should not always be solely about knowledge of content but rather, students should practise and develop skills that will allow them to participate as a positive member of the community.
Appreciate and celebrate the diversity of all students within the classroom. Provide opportunities for students to reflect on situations and issues in the context of their own life experiences. Keep in mind that those students who do not feel included or valued will most often disengage from learning.
Model and build respect
Maintain a classroom environment free from bullying and harassment. Promote respect and provide a safe learning environment. Model and reinforce the language, attitudes and behaviours expected of students.
Risk of significant harm
All staff who suspect a student is at risk of harm must inform their principal or workplace manager as per the Protecting and Supporting Children and Young People Policy.
The Protecting and Supporting Children and Young People – Procedures outline the required action by staff.
The Mandatory Reporter Guide (MRG) can assist in making an informed decision regarding child protection concerns.
Principals must report any concerns about the safety, welfare or wellbeing of students that constitute a risk of significant harm to the child protection helpline on 133627.
The child wellbeing unit can be contacted on 9269 9400 for additional advice on the use of the MRG.