Positive Learning Experiences in Health and Personal Development

St Catherine’s ensures our students explore the implications of decisions, encouraging increased self-awareness of the challenges and changes they are experiencing in the early adolescent years, creating a sense of support and understanding amongst their peer group.

The Years 7 to 10 Health and Personal Development curriculum is designed with a strong emphasis on student participation and non-judgemental discussion, with an underlying focus on the physical, emotional and social changes associated with adolescent maturation.  Units of work explored within the Year 7 to 10 curriculum include development and maintenance of respectful relationships, assessment of risk-taking behaviours, decision making processes and the factors that influence adolescents in their decision-making and actions. These factors, including peer group pressure, self- esteem, alcohol and other illicit substances and social media are all discussed in a positive, supportive environment.

We ensure our students explore the implications of decisions, encouraging increased self-awareness of the challenges and changes they are experiencing in the early adolescent years, creating a sense of support and understanding amongst their peer group.

The research findings of Professor Nick Allen from Melbourne University’s School of Psychological Sciences are particularly relevant to our students in the lower levels of the Senior School. Professor Allen’s presentation on The Adolescent Framework reveals the emotions and mental health of adolescence and how these impact learning and decision making processes.

Within his presentation Professor Allen comments that there is a direct correlation between the onset of adolescence, brain development and gender and that these factors have an impact on decision making. He also says that young women who experience the early onset of adolescence may face very different physical and emotional impacts than their peers, including hormonal differences, physical changes and reduction of participation in sports, all of which have the potential to trigger stress, feelings of isolation, concerns over body image and self-esteem issues.

The onset of adolescence can be a baffling and confronting time. As Health and Personal Development educators we have a responsibility to provide a safe platform to discuss ‘real life’ issues and help our students identify and prepare strategies that could be utilised to navigate this significant period of their development.

Facilitating these discussions also requires Health and Personal Development educators to be highly cognisant of the broad differences in maturity levels of our students, particularly in the lower Year levels. It is important to strike the right balance for the discussions, so all students can participate.

For those girls with an interest in health-related issues, in Australia and also globally, further studies are offered to students in Years 9 and 10 as part of our Elective program.  At Years 11 and 12 VCE Health and Human Development is offered, with many students selecting to continue their learning in areas such as health issues in Australia, differences in health status between populations groups in Australia, nutrition and differences in health status between developed and developing countries.

The student reflections provided demonstrate the positive learning experiences we are providing our students in Health and Personal Development:

“I have really enjoyed Health and Personal Development over the 18 months I have been at St Catherine’s. I particularly enjoyed the Year 9 course as I found it was relevant, interesting and inspired a lot of class discussion. I liked the approach that was taken, as it was not condemning people’s choices but rather providing helpful information on how to get yourself out of difficult situations during adolescence and adulthood.” 

“I have thoroughly enjoyed Year 10 Health. I feel like this subject informs us about world issues relating to women, but it also covers relevant issues in our lives and I have been able to express my opinion but also learn.”

Mrs Karen Reddish

Physical Education and Personal Development teacher

Source: Professional Development Session with Professor Nick Allen, Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, The University of Melbourne.

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