The HIV/AIDS epidemic is one of the biggest public health crises nowadays. For this reason, prevention of this adverse health condition is of significant importance. The major activities utilized in the United States to stop the dissemination of HIV include targeted healthcare interventions, condom distribution through regional centers, promotion of screening, as well as patient and community education (Carey et al., 2015). It is possible to say that the latter one can be particularly effective because it may help change individual behaviors by modifying their perceptions of risk, promoting the importance of referring to specialized medical services, and decreasing the HIV stigma.
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The designed community teaching plan was devoted to the problem of HIV/AIDS prevention in young adult African American females, aged 18-25. Based on recent research evidence, it was suggested that the target population is at high risk of infection. Misconceptions about HIV prevailing among African Americans, as well as specific social-cultural factors defining their health-related behaviors, substantially add to the health disparity related to this sexually transmitted infection. For example, Sampson (2015) states that many young African American females have attitudes to HIV testing and the disease in general, which are linked to “fear, belief of conspiracy, and association of HIV with homosexuality” (p. 29).
To address the identified knowledge gaps, develop a better understanding of infection-related risks, and promote healthier behaviors in the program attendees, the teaching plan was developed based on the Social Learning Theory (SLT). This theory proposes that a person depends on the environment in which they live, and individual behaviors are adapted “through interactions with the variety of socializing agents to which one is exposed” (Burdick, 2014, p. 183).
The SLT framework substantially supported the process of content selection for the course. The chosen materials included information about behavioral and environmental risks for HIV infection among African American females, as well as interconnections between one’s health beliefs and social-cultural environment. At the same time, such learning activities and evaluation of personal and environmental risks, self-reflection, and collective discussion of case studies and narratives helped to integrate the learned information with the participants’ individual experiences and the current degree of knowledge.
Nowadays, HIV/AIDS is one of the largest health problems for African Americans, with females being most substantially affected. It is worth noticing that a lot of people with HIV-positive status in the USA do not know that they are infected. What is more important for this community teaching project is that, as stated by Bogart et al. (2015), approximately 19 % of undiagnosed HIV-positive individuals are African Americans (Bogart et al., 2015).
As for gender-specific health disparities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018) reveals that in 2016, “women made up 19% (7,529) of the 39,782 new HIV diagnoses in the United States,” and 61% of all females who were diagnosed with HIV that year were African Americans (para. 1). Steward (2015) observes that the lack of clear understanding of their actual risk profile in the target population contributes to a low rate of HIV testing among them and a high level of engagement in unsafe HIV-linked behaviors such as the use of substances, non-use of condoms, and others. It is valid to say that the promotion of healthier behaviors and the development of HIV-relevant knowledge through education is one of the most effective ways to overcome these obstacles to better HIV/AIDS prevention.
Evaluation of Teaching Experience
It is valid to say that the quality of learning activities and instruction practices largely determine the level of student engagement. It means that not only should teaching be flexible and cohesive, but also diversified and intensive. Since in the conducted program the educator had a strong sense of purpose and educational aim and developed a consistent and integrated education course, they managed to involve the program attendees in the learning process relatively easily.
as little as 3 hours
In their turn, learners did have to guess about the intentions of the instructor and clearly understood what to do and what was expected. To make sure that the program participants were not bored, the instructional strategies were sufficiently diversified. For instance, learners were frequently asked to respond to some engaging and challenging questions about the introduced materials, as well as personal opinions, and discuss past experiences with others.
A quick intermediate assessment activity substantially helped the instructor to correct and possibly improve the course of learning. Based on the scores, it was decided to utilize a grouping strategy for collaborative discussion of how the social-cultural environment affects the patterns of behavior by pairing learners with high and low scores. Small cooperative discussion groups may be considered an efficient method of peer-mediated learning as it contributed to the improvement of performance in those program participants, who showed a lower level of engagement. It helped them obtain a chance to apply newly acquired knowledge in the educational setting and benefit from social interactions with peers.
Participants’ Response to Teaching
Before starting the course, a preliminary assessment of the learners’ knowledge of HIV/AIDS was conducted. The assessment scores revealed that some of them misperceived social-cultural health risks, while others well understood the disease in general terms. The ongoing assessment of newly developed knowledge conducted throughout the course by using questionnaires and scored discussions showed moderate to significant improvement in the understanding of the disease and multiple aspects of safe/unsafe sexual behaviors by the end of the education program.
As for psychological and emotional responses to teaching, the majority of the participants seemed to be engaged in learning and motivated to discuss the provided information, as well as personal opinions and experiences. The given assumption was substantiated by participants’ feedbacks on the program given in post-studying surveys: most of them were satisfied with teaching activities overall and noted that the course content was relevant to their social-cultural backgrounds.
The factor of information relevance to lives of the course attendees is particularly important because it is observed that “students learn by fitting new information together with what they already know,” and when new materials are meaningful to them, they feel more involved in studying (Bada, 2015, p. 6). It is possible to say the awareness of the program participants’ interests and needs in the context of health promotion, assisted the educator in adding more meaning to the process of learning and encouraging the attendees for more active participation in instructional and learning activities.
Areas of Strengths and Areas of Improvement
Every effective and comprehensive education course has an objective to improve students’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes. One of the primary strengths of the administered community education program is that it addressed three major learning domains introduced by in Bloom’s taxonomy: cognitive (comprehension, analysis, knowledge development, etc.), affective (emotional involvement), and psychomotor (skill acquisition and behavioral change) (Wilson, 2018).
The orientation to these domains provided a solid foundation for the attainment of the formulated education goals, namely, prevention of HIV/AIDS and elimination of possible barriers to it. Another strength is that the instructor succeeded in the creation of positive, collaborative, and flexible learning environment by showing appreciation of the participants’ personal opinions and experiences and using differentiated activities that helped them be more involved and motivated in self-expression.
Consistently with the principles of andragogy, discussions and class interactions are considered effective learning activities for adults. Nevertheless, to increase the participants’ interest in HIV-prevention education and improve the overall teaching experiences, a more creative and innovative approach could be utilized as well. Creative elements in the education strategy may comprise games, including the online-based ones, and various experiments. To address the given limitation, a more thorough investigation of existing creative teaching approaches and practices is required.
The engagement of African American women in discussions about HIV/AIDS is one of the efficient ways to eliminate existing health disparities and promote community well-being. Regarding moving forwards towards this goal, the conducted course was effective. It is also possible to say that the overall teaching experience can be considered successful and positive in terms of the education plan and content development, instruction, as well as the participants’ outcomes and responses. By affection the level of one’s knowledge and improving health literacy at the individual and the community level, the program contributed to the promotion of healthy sexual behaviors and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, which is one of the multiple national healthcare goals.
Bada, S. O. (2015). Constructivism learning theory: A paradigm for teaching and learning. IOSR Journal of Research & Method in Education, 5(6), 66-70.
Bogart, L. M., Derose, K. P., Kanouse, D. E., Grifin, B. A., Haas, A. C., & Williams, M. V. (2015). Correlates of HIV testing among African American and Latino church congregants: The role of HIV stigmatizing attitudes and discussions about HIV. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 92(1), 93–107.
Burdick, C. L. (2014). The merits, limitations, and modifications of applying Bandura’s social learning theory to understanding African American children’s exposure to violence. American International Journal of Social Science, 3(5), 183-190.
Carey, J. W., LaLota, M., Villamizar, K., McElroy, T., Wilson, M. M., Garcia, J., … Flores, S. A. (2015). Using high-impact HIV prevention to achieve the national HIV/AIDS strategic goals in Miami-Dade County, Florida: A case study. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice : JPHMP, 21(6), 584–593.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). HIV among women.
Sampson, B. J. (2015). Factors that influence HIV testing among African American college women.
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Wilson, L. O. (2018). Three domains of learning – Cognitive, affective, psychomotor.