Project idea: Due to the fact that I had to present the topic “Gender equity in education” in our course, which aroused my interest, I made some more research and thought about this topic a little more, especially concerning gender differences in one of my subjects, Maths. That was the reason I wrote the essay about this topic. I listed the things we as teachers have to improve theoretically, but I thought about a concrete thing that we could do to improve the young women’s attitude towards Maths. Therefore, my idea consists of bringing women, which successfully made career in Math-related jobs, to school so that young women see what they can do with this subject and that they don’t have to be afraid of it.
Target group: The main target group naturally are young women aged 16-18.
Strength: The project addresses many things I listed in the essay above, which are motivational factors for girls, for example, it gives an overview about career opportunities, it gives a connection to where we need Maths in our everyday life and it takes the stereotype threat from girls.
Weaknesses: I have to find speakers that fit to the project and – which is the main criteria – have time to attend and want to attend the project by heart. They have to identify with the project as well, that must be sure.
Opportunities: awaking the pupil’s interest in Maths; empowering young women to follow this interest, bringing more young women to STEM studies
Threats: There is one big disadvantage in my mind. The whole project is – of course – very women-centered. However, what about the boys in the attending classes? Of course, they cannot be excluded. But the whole project cannot address just the girls, because that would be a gender inequality in the other way. Therefore I should change the target group to young pupils in general, because it is also a good thing to awake interest for Maths in boys. BUT still with female speakers and focussing on the female view of the topic.
pupils: They are the target group and the aim is to give them an interesting experience. More specific, we are talking about 16-17 year old pupils (11th grade).
Maths teachers: They are the main initiators of the project. The project is too big to be organised by one teacher only, so ideally all teachers of this subject on the school help together.
parents: They should know about the project too, because they mostly pass their attitude towards Maths on to their children. If a parent didn’t know that a child is interested in Maths, then he/she knows that he/she should encourage that interest after the project.
school: The school, more specific the headmaster, has to allow the project. Moreover, the other teachers have to play along too, because they have to give away their lessons, because the first project day takes place during school time.
speakers: I would like to have one woman attending, that works in research. Actually, I already talked to a professor from the TU in Graz, which would like to attend the project. To give a broad view of the possible jobs, the other speakers should be working in different companies. Possible jobs would be: software engineers, actuaries, statisticians, etc….
companies: Without them, there wouldn’t be any speakers. They also want to interest young people in what they are doing.
Time plan: The plan is to implement the main part of the project at the beginning of the school year – around September 20th. There are mostly no exams and the pupils are higher motivated than at the end of the school year, when the weather is hot and everybody only wants to go swimming. Therefore, the speakers must at least be organised in the end of June. The first project day consists of 4-5 speakers coming to school. At that day, the attending pupils don’t have regular classes. One of the
speakers is the “main attraction” and will hold a lecture for all attending students (around 40-50, so two classes, but with potential to grow bigger in the following years) at the school. The lecture will consist of giving insights on their everyday work routine, but shouldn’t last too long (max. 30-40 minutes), so that the pupils stay attentive. After that, there is a short break and then every speaker holds a workshop in a different classroom (also attended by one teacher each). There are smaller groups (max. 12 pupils) and 1 h time for one workshop. It concentrates on general topics of the work life of the speakers, but can also have some more mathematical content, edited in a way that it is not too difficult for the pupils (this happens beforehand by the teachers in coproduction with the speakers). After one hour, there is a short break again and the pupils switch to different workshops. After another repetition of the last part, the first day is over. Altogether, it consists of the beginning lecture and three workshops. That means, that the pupils cannot attend every workshop, but they can pick the ones that interest them the most.
The second day of the project consists of visiting one of the speakers at their company, where she shows her working place and gives an even better inside in her work. The whole tour should last two hours at most. Two teachers are going with the pupils. It is important that this part of the project takes place in the afternoon, so not during regular school time, because it is easier to convince the headmaster, if only one regular school day is cancelled, not two. The second day will take place shortly after the first day. Ideally, there is not more than a week in between, but two weeks at most.
Communication, PR: This is the most important part for getting companies to participate at the project. Companies will only allow their employees to attend the project in their working time, if the project is well communicated. An article at the homepage of the school, an article in the local newspaper, maybe some posts on social networks and I think many companies will be happy to be part of the project. Moreover, it helps to get the other teachers and the headmaster on your side, if they see that the project has a positive impact on to the school’s image.
Evaluation: Careful evaluation is planned after the first run of the project. Firstly, this happens through quantitative project monitoring, which is quite usual in pedagogical projects. This consists for example on feedback-assessments, where pupils can rate how they liked the project. Nevertheless, I want to make a step further and also do quality assurance over the long term. Did the participants improve in the regular Math class? Did they tend to pick STEM-studies after school more often? How is their opinion on the project, when there has gone some time? Did the general attitude towards Maths improve? It also consists of interviews with the pupils about their experiences, because we get much more information out of such an interview than out of a rating from 1-5.
However, we have to keep in mind that the pupils are not the only stakeholders. The other ones should be participating in the evaluation process as well. That means, that also the speakers should express their feelings of the projects, as well as the parents and we as teachers.
If the evaluation is positive, then the project will be planned also for a second run the year after. And if there are first results of long-term evaluations are positive, then it can be planned more than one year in advance.