Building decision making capacity

We designed Ponder to help students develop their ability to make decisions.

I remember the conversation we had a couple of years ago when we first talked about the Career Development Framework. We were sitting around trying to work out how to teach students the skills they need to make better decisions, and kept coming back to how decision-making really is a skill all on it’s own.

At that time, most of our resources focused on the ‘nuts and bolts’ of career options – deadlines and entry criteria, with the odd bit of reflection tacked on to the side. We’d just released the first version of our Subject Selection Workbook, which differed from our other resources because it really walked students through the process of exploring and then selecting their senior subjects, and we wanted to see where else we could use this approach.

Which is how we got to the Career Development Framework, which eventually became the Ponder Program.

The reality is that when we’re talking about the skills young people need to transition from school to whatever comes next, being able to write a resume is not as important as being able to make considered, informed decisions. Don’t get me wrong – they need to be able to apply for jobs and seek out work, but those things are the added extras; career management competencies are where the good stuff comes from.

I often refer to the Australian Blueprint for Career Development, which outlines the 12 career management competencies we need to make good career decisions at all stages:

“…the Blueprint identifies the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that an individual needs to make sound choices and effectively manage their own career. In the Blueprint, these are referred to as career management competencies.”

We’re so lucky to have the Blueprint because it breaks down the skills we need to make good career decisions into their component parts, making it easier for us to identify what we should be teaching and when. And while the Blueprint is an Australian document, the skills, knowledge, and attitudes it outlines are universal – they apply to everyone in every context.

But building these skills isn’t a simple affair. It takes a coordinated approach, with ample time for reflection and practice, which is where Ponder comes in.

Ponder is designed to build decision-making capacity in students

We believe that students need the opportunity to understand the concepts behind making decisions, and then chances to both reflect on past decisions, and practice making new ones, to build decision making skills. To do this, students go through a cycle of four modules each year which allow them to learn about themselves, where they fit, what their world of work looks like, and how they can bring these things together.

Because we know that students grow and change throughout their time at school, we revisit each topic every year, giving them the space to reflect on their growth and ponder what this could mean for their future. Reflection is a major part of the program; we ask students to think about their own experiences, and relate the program content to their lives at each step of the way, and we find they do a really great job of this.

Reflection is an essential component of effective decision-making, as it allows us to examine our experiences, thoughts, and emotions critically. By engaging in the reflective process, we can identify patterns, draw valuable lessons, and develop a deeper understanding of our decision-making styles and potential biases. This self-awareness contributes to more informed, balanced, and deliberate choices, ultimately enhancing personal and professional outcomes.

Of course, decision making is complex, and just learning about the theory or reflecting on previous decisions isn’t enough – students have to practice the process of actually making decisions to build their skills. That’s why we ask them to make informed decisions (that are age appropriate) at every stage, so, for example, early on we ask students to think about who they can turn to within their circle for support. It might not even feel like they’re making a decision, but they’re practicing evaluating their options and selecting a preference.

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