Teaching sensitive material: A multi-disciplinary perspective


  • Mary Heath Flinders University
  • Clemence Due University of Adelaide
  • Wendy Hamood University of Adelaide
  • Amanda Hutchinson University of South Australia
  • Tania Leiman Flinders University
  • Kerry Maxfield University of South Australia
  • Jane Warland University of South Australia


Many disciplines require a curriculum that encompasses sensitive content. Our capacity to respond to this content appropriately as educators is crucialto student attainment of discipline-specific professional competencies as well as students’ capacity to serve future clients and communities. Appropriate preparation for future professional lives that will inevitably touch upon sensitive issues is also critical for students’ resilience. In this paper, seven tertiary educators from a range of disciplines consider learning and teaching in relation to sensitive issues. This paper draws on our own teaching experiences and the research literature to argue that, while teaching sensitive subject matter can present risks to students, it has profound bene ts for students’ development and future professional work. We argue that there is considerable consensus in published research – as well as among ourselves – about strategies to support student learning and minimise risk, together with a limited number of areas that remain controversial both in practice and in the literature. We provide practical information directed toward managing the risks presented by teaching sensitive issues. We contend that addressing sensitive content is a professional responsibility for teachers, disciplines and universities. 

Author Biographies

Mary Heath, Flinders University

Flinders Law School

Clemence Due, University of Adelaide

School of Psychology

Wendy Hamood, University of Adelaide

School of Animal and Veterinary Science

Amanda Hutchinson, University of South Australia

School of Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy 

Tania Leiman, Flinders University

Flinders Law School

Jane Warland, University of South Australia

School of Nursing and Midwifery


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