During the 2016/17 academic year, SEPnet Outreach & Public Engagement has been piloting a project determining the best role Physics Outreach Officers can play in tackling and improving the gender stereotyping problem in schools.
This was the first SEPnet-wide project which involved building a direct partnership with a set of schools to deliver a programme of activity over an academic year. The pilot was a first step, so the priority for the evaluation was on logistics over impact of the project, though both were considered. The evaluation was carried out by Elizabeth Jeavans and Sarah Jenkins. The full report can be found here.
Overall the project delivered a programme which led to positive experiences across all stakeholders:
- Year 8 Students – following their involvement in Shattering Stereotypes, they now view future opportunities as not being constrained by stereotypical perceptions of gender.
- Year 12 Students – developed transferable leadership and communication skills through their participation in the communications challenge.
- Teachers – valued external visits and having resources from universities.
- Schools – In some schools, the pilot project raised awareness of gender stereotyping across their entire schools
- Outreach Officers – welcomed the opportunity provided by the project to work as part of a team and to be involved in building up a relationship with schools, as opposed to one-off activities.
This gives the project a fantastic base to evolve and grow from in future years. However the project did highlight some areas where further development is needed. Most of these were themed around the following areas:
- Message. Throughout the project there was some confusion about whether primary purpose of Shattering Stereotypes was to address/ reduce gender stereotyping or to equalise the gender balance in physics through greater understanding of physics career opportunities.
This was the tension the project team struggled with from the development of the project. The idea was to address / reduce gender stereotyping, but the strength of SEPnet’s experiences in School’s Outreach shifted this towards equalising the gender balance in physics, especially in the earlier workshops.
- Logistics and Partnership. Throughout the project there were some logistical challengers in booking the Shattering Stereotypes activities. There was also a lack of connectivity across the activities and support between said activities.
This was due to its nature as a pilot project. It was the first time SEPnet has both worked in the realm of Gender Stereotyping and in the format of delivering activity throughout the year. This together with the large workloads and busy environments in schools led to some workshops being missed at some schools and a lot of last minute work being carried out by Officers and Teachers.
A summary of experiences and outcomes, along with opportunities from development can be found here.
The report also issued a list of twelve recommendations, all of which we taking into account as we develop the project for the 2018/19 Academic Year.
The project team would like to give a massive thanks to all the teachers who partnered with us on the pilot project. Their input and time has been invaluable and has a great impact in how we continue to develop and deliver this project, and many others across SEPnet Outreach.
The project team would also like to thank:
- Elizabeth and Sarah for their contribution and insights throughout the process.
- All the physics role models from activity two, who took time from their busy schedules to attend events.
- The Year 12 students who took part, most of whom are currently in the process of applying for University. The team wishes them good luck in your future careers.
- All the Year 8 students who participated in the pilot project. Their enthusiasm for the subject matter was apparent from day one of the project. They constantly surprised us, challenged us and pushed us to do better. The team hopes they all remain staunch champions and continue to challenge gender stereotyping wherever they see it.
The schools who participated in the pilot project where:
- Charles Darwin School, Biggin Hill.
- Lampton Academy, Hounslow.
- Overton Grange, Sutton.
- Preston Manor, Brent.
- St Peter’s Catholic School, Guildford.
SEPnet will be running the project through the 2018/2019 academic year.
If your school is interested in joining the project as a partner, please e-mail the Director of Outreach & Public Engagement firstname.lastname@example.org. At the moment SEPnet is looking for state-funded, mixed-gender schools for this project.
Further details on the project will be available in Mid-March 2018.