08 SES 01 A, Professional Development and Global Issues Related to Health and Sustainability
Parallel Paper Session
Research question: From conversations with teenagers, what do pre-service teachers learn about 21st century youth cultural influences on adolescents’ health and wellbeing?
Purpose of research study
Two fields of research are pertinent to this study. The first is that of global youth culture influences on young people’s thinking and behaviour and the implications for their mental, physical and social health (Kenway & Bullen, 2001). Amongst adolescent school-students a plethora of beliefs, attitudes and group-think have significant – and often misunderstood – influence on the way they think and behave (Kroger, 2004; Nayak & Kehily, 2008). Understanding this is particularly important for health education teachers in secondary schools, as is acknowledging the meaning and characteristics of youth health and wellbeing in the early 21st Century.
The second field of research is teacher education. Educating pre-service teachers to develop a critical awareness of socio-ecological determinants of adolescent health contributes to the development of effective, well-informed health education teachers.
Examining and processing young people’s lives in changing times, and exploring how adolescents’ experiences vary over time and place (France, 2007) is valuable learning for pre-service teachers (student teachers) of school-based health education.
In 2011, as a course assessment requirement for a teacher education course in health education, student teachers were asked to engage in informal conversation with at least one teenager about his / her interests, beliefs, activities and perceptions of youth culture influences. The assessment task required the student teachers to analyse and discuss their impressions of contemporary teenage worlds. By providing the student teachers with an opportunity to hear about the world of adolescents through dialogue with teenagers, and later sharing these conversations with class colleagues, important course objectives were achieved. Having opportunity to develop currency with the trends, fads and practices that define teenagers’ realities elicited in the student teachers a deeper insight into, and empathy with the age group they will be teaching. The participants also demonstrated a growing critical consciousness of underpinning and broader societal influences on teenage populations’ health and safety in today’s world, (West, 2004; Whyte & Wyn, 2008) and recognition of the implications of these for their owning teaching of health education. A socially critical analysis of social media and Internet activities as social determinants of health for adolescents in today’s world is discussed in this paper.
Relevance to European / International dimension
Because young people exist in a global environment made possible by Internet and social media activities, the relevance of the findings and discussion in this paper extend across space and place. Children and young people exist in a world where culture has become increasingly defined by technological and cyber realities. Many of the influences of these activities on young people’s health and wellbeing can no longer be defined within the traditional national, cultural or gender divides.
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