To What Extent Do Program Facilitators Deliver Content Effectively?

When it comes to sex education programs, how a program is delivered can affect whether participants absorb the right messages, stay engaged, and learn important skills (Kirby, Rolleri, & Wilson, 2007).

For content to be delivered effectively, program facilitators must be able to:

  • Create a safe social environment that encourages youth participation. This means that they should be able to establish ground rules, structure lessons effectively, and provide youth with adequate opportunities to participate. It also means that activities are carried out in a way that maximizes the comfort level of participants (Kirby, Rolleri, & Wilson, 2007). Communicating messages that are appropriate to the culture, values, developmental age, and sexual experience of participants is also important (Kirby, Rolleri, & Wilson, 2007).Interact well with young people. Program facilitators who feel comfortable talking about embarrassing or sensitive topics, appear credible, and use humor tend to be better at engaging participants (Buston & Wight, 2004; Buston, Wight, & Hart, 2002; Sorenson & Brown, 2007). They should also demonstrate that they can engage youth in interactive activities and use teaching strategies that are appropriate to the cognitive, language, and literacy levels of participants (Kirby, Rolleri, & Wilson, 2007)
  • Positively engage youth. Facilitators should not lecture, preach to, or talk down to youth.  Rather, youth should be encouraged to engage in open conversation and to play a role in the discussion. Also, instructors should avoid reinforcing negative stereotypes about males, which tend to bring about risky behaviors rather than correcting them (Pew Partnership for Civic Change). Instead, the instructor should be seen as a positive, respectful and trusted person who wishes to guard students from harm (Buston, Wight, & Hart, 2002; Kohler, Manhar, & Lafferty, 2008; National Prevention Council, 2011; Pew Partnership for Civic Change, n.d.).
  • Communicate information in a clear and accurate manner.  Presenting information in a clear and medically-accurate way, without exaggeration, is a key feature of evidence-based sex education programs. When program facilitators stick to the facts and avoid using ambiguous or overly-technical language, youth can draw on the best available information to help them make informed, responsible decisions about sex (National Prevention Council, 2011).

To assess the skill of the program leader in delivering program content, programs should survey program participants or observe program leaders while they are implementing the session on a regular basis (see below for an example of an observer-rated and participant-rated tool).

If programs are not being delivered effectively, program administrators should consider increasing supervision time, offering additional staff trainings or hiring new staff with stronger qualifications to replace current staff.  When selecting a sex educator, programs should consider how many years of health education or sex/HIV education experience the applicant has had and the amount of training they have received. (Kirby, Rolleri, & Wilson, 2007). Trained peer educators as well as experienced sex educators may be used to deliver programs (Philliber, 1999).


Sources Cited

Buston, K., & Wight, D. (2004). Pupils' participation in sex education lessons: Understanding variation across classes. Sex Education, 4, 285-301.

Buston, K., Wight, D., & Hart, G. (2002). Inside the sex education classroom: The importance of context in engaging pupils’ culture, Health & Sexuality, 4, 317-335.

Kirby, D., Rolleri, L.A., Wilson, M.M (2007). The tool to assess the characteristics of effective sex and STD/HIV education programs (TAC). Baltimore, MD: Healthy Teen Network.

National Prevention Council (2011). National prevention strategy: America’s plan for better health and wellness. Office of the Surgeon General. Washington, DC.

Pew Partnership for Civic Change (n.d.). Healthy children and families: Teenage pregnancy prevention. Available at:

Philliber, S. (1999). In search of peer power: A review of research on peer-based interventions for teens. In Peer potential: Making the most of how teens influence each other. Washington, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

Sorenson, A. & Brown, G. (2007). Report on the sexual health education of young people. Available at:

Additional Resources

Advocates For Youth. (2003). Science and success: Sex education and other Programs that work to prevent teen pregnancy, HIV & other sexually transmitted infections. Available at:

Ball, V., & Moore, K. A. (2008). What works for adolescent reproductive health: Lessons from experimental evaluations of programs and interventions. Washington, DC: Child Trends. Available at::