Teaching Decision-Making Skills to Promote Health Literacy

As health educators, we know the importance of teaching decision-making skills to promote health literacy. We want students to understand that choices in life come with consequences.

The big question is: How do we teach decision-making skills to our students?

SHAPE America’s October #SHAPEHealthEd Twitter Chat answered that question and more!

Here are some of the great ideas, tips and resources that were shared by our panelists and chat participants:

Q1: In what way do you use decision-making to promote health literacy?

  • A good decision-maker must have sound health knowledge or know where to get factual information. It’s important that we teach health literacy skills so our students have this factual information to make an informed decision.
  • Decision-making also promotes health literacy because it’s a skill that can be used now and in the future.
  • The decision-making process is essential to succeeding in a world of health choices. Practicing steps in class empowers students to thrive.
  • I use decision-making when writing lessons, units, assessments and full curricula to allow opportunities for students to practice decision steps that are relevant to their life. We aren’t born with these skills, but practicing the steps leads to #healthliteracy.

Q2: How do you introduce decision-making to students? Are there any special hooks, movie clips, stories, etc., that you use to spark interest?

  • When teaching decision-making, I felt there was something missing. I thought students needed to be more mindful of the decision-making process so I devised the “Power of the PAUSE.”
  • We use a unit hook called “You Pick!” Students get to decide if they want our unit to proceed as usual or to have more free time. Without knowing it, we get to see their ability to use any decision-making model immediately.
  • I use storytelling. I share stories about six students I had in my health classes over the years — three students who died due to poor decision-making and three students who are living their lives to the fullest. We then discuss the steps of the DECIDE process.
banner for the DECIDE Process

Q3: What decision-making model do you use with students? Is there any specific way you use it?

  • I use the DECIDE process, but I model this decision-making process with the entire class several times. It’s important to get students to “play it out.” I interrogate and question their decisions until they have completely played it out.
  • Provide a sample scenario, work together as a class using the model, and practice in small groups.

Q4: Do you have any lessons that you could share on teaching decision-making skills?

Q5: How would teaching decision-making skills to elementary students vs. middle school students vs. high school students differ?

  • All students, at every grade level, should still follow the basic process for learning a health skill — and have plenty of opportunities to practice decision-making and receive feedback from their teacher or peers.
  • I have had my high school students think about this. I ask them to create scenarios for K-5 or junior high school students. This assignment gets them to think about situations where a decision-making process might help. We then pick out a couple and work through them as a class.
  • The biggest difference for me would be the scenarios we use for practice. I would provide more scaffolding (ideas) for younger students.

Q6: How do you get students to reflect on and/or address peer pressure when it comes to decision-making?

  • When discussing the “Power of the PAUSE” we specifically discuss the environment we are in when making a decision so that students can be mindful if there are others around them who may influence their decision-making.
  • It’s important to acknowledge that making decisions in a classroom is different than doing so when students are around their peers and dealing with peer pressure. This is why skill practice is so important — the skill should be almost automatic.

Q7: How do you assess students’ decision-making skills? Examples of assessments?

  • Here is the decision-making rubric I use. We are a standards-based curriculum and grade on a scale of 1-4. The key to grading assessments is the ability to provide feedback to each student since this skill of decision-making is taught throughout the semester.
  • Students create a decision-making comic strip for their summative assessment. Students have to show each part of the DECIDE model in their comic strip.
  • Another assessment practice we discuss is how certain groups of people have access to decisions that others don’t. We tend to ask students to draw on critical theories around equity to explore how privilege and capital affects the ability to make decisions.
SHAPE America Twitter Chat graphic, teaching decision-making skills to promote health literacy

Many thanks to all the teachers who shared their knowledge and resources on this Twitter Chat! You can find the complete transcript here.

Please join us for our next chat — Creating a Safe and Welcoming Classroom for All — which will be held on Monday, November 4 at 9 p.m. Eastern.

Just log onto Twitter and follow the hashtag #SHAPEHealthEd. Hope to see everyone there!

Additional Resources

Chad Dauphin

Chad Dauphin is a health educator at Adlai E. Stevenson High School, where he served as associate athletic director from 2006-2017. He has presented at several state and national conferences on the topics of health education and athletics and served on the SHAPE America Health Education Council. Chad is currently chair of the #SHAPEHealthEd Twitter Chat task force. He can be reached at cdauphin@d125.org