I would like to share here my feedback and reflections from delivering the Career Circles with both VET Teachers and Girls in STEM. Please comment and contribute your own experiences!
We recently finished the first pilots of both sets of Circles (with teachers and girls) and the experience was an interesting one!
Working with the teachers was certainly the most challenging as it uses the methodology in a very different way than usual. Generally the Circles are aimed at developing people's own skills with participants reflecting on themselves. However, in the case of the Circles with teachers, we are actually helping them to reflect on how they can support others. This gives the sessions a different perspective. The most challenging part for us in the UK was to show the teachers how the sessions could benefit them and we did this by demonstrating how they could use the mentoring tools from the Circle pack to help students themselves (boys as well as girls). We also made sure that they had an opportunity to share with each other the experiences they had of working with girls in the classroom where they are very much in the minority. The teachers were able to share issues they had come across and how they were dealt with and also shared and received support on current challenges they were facing.
The feedback suggests that having this time to share ideas/thoughts around the issue of gender and STEM with colleagues was useful and beneficial to the teachers. Quotes we received included:
"I think the programme should be actioned in schools so that female students enrol on these courses and then teachers need training on how to support the students."
"Gaining a bank of tools that could be used with students [was the most worthwhile aspect]".
The Circles with the girls was more straightforward and followed the traditional methodology initially developed by Inova. We had a group of 7 girls (in total although not all attended every session) and they were very engaged in the sessions. The focus was very much on helping them to think about the future and what they would like to do after college, including visualisation, mind-mapping etc to help them explore their ambitions and wishes for the future. We discovered we had a very ambitious group of young women, who are aiming to run their own business or charities and even become pilots! One participant in particular really stood out for me... She was incredibly shy when she entered the room for the first session and found it difficult to open up in front of the group. However, over the course of just the 3 sessions we had she became more relaxed and confident. With the help of her peers in the Circle, she had worked (in between sessions) on speaking with people she didn't already know by offering to help other students with their work. In the third session she told us that she was feeling more confident and was very proud that she had been able to achieve this. As a facilitator I found this very fulfilling, as there seemed to be a real difference in how she was presented herself.
Working with the girls in small groups worked well; although the group was small we did split them into two for the sharing sessions (where each person was given 15-20 minutes to talk about something they wanted support with). This helped as the girls felt more comfortable in the smaller groups with just 3/4 other people. Having 2 facilitators is of course required to do this though.
Feedback from the girls has also been strong. Some quotes include:
Overall, the Circles went well although some recommendations for amends to the materials will be made. Particularly for the girls, it is important to check the terminology being used in the tools to make sure they understand it easily (terms such as 'assertiveness' and 'delegation' were not familiar to them for example.
I look forward to the next pilot in 2016!