teaching sensitive stuff


Hi there!

tomorrow I start teaching on a module called criminology and its controversies. It is a first year module (and I have sought and received advice about it here before!) I am a bit concerned because the subject matter necessarily requires consideration and discussion of sensitive topics, sexual assault, violence, infant deaths, homophobia etc (and that is just lecture 1!) and I want to start the lecture by telling the students that there may be discussion of some topics that they might find stressful or upsetting in the course of the module, but that it is fine, and we will all be respectful of each other and if they want to leave they can etc etc. does anyone have any ideas about how to handle such a 'health warning'? I don't want to scare them off, but equally I think it is irresponsible to march in a talk about difficult issues unprefaced. Anybody got any similar experience/ideas??

Avatar for sneaks

I think it sounds fine what you are planning to start with, but you may want to research extra support for students, I had to do this for my interviewees.

Kind of like the 'if you have been effected by any of the issues in this program' type thing.

So maybe have the contact details/leaflets of student support centre/counselling etc etc. in case students have had harrowing personal expereinces.


you might also want to check out the Spring issue of ELiSS, Enhancing Learning and Teaching in the Social Sciences,-a special issue on teaching sensitive topics in the social sciences http://www.eliss.org.uk/PreviousIssues/Volume2Issue3/tabid/289/Default.aspx


Thanks both of you! I have just come back after a gruelling two hours and reckon that the health warning went OK. I used the university student support services website on my references so people could go there. Will definitely check out that special issue, as I am sure there are other ways of doing it too. Many thanks for your help.