We started working on the first version of the Ponder Program back in 2020. Many schools were reaching out to ask us how they could go about creating a framework for delivering career related learning, and we felt we needed to do something. Ironically when we started the process we found ourselves in the same place as many of our schools – not quite sure where to start.
We’d also been wondering how to structure our own resources – we have so much that even we find it overwhelming at times, and we felt like creating a sequence of what to deliver, to whom, and when throughout the year would help us structure our own programs.
To start things off, we mapped every existing framework we could find, including those from the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, and looked at what they all had in common. Fortunately, the Australian Blueprint for Career Development (ABCD) is a world-class document with a huge amount of detail, and from this work we were able to identify four key modules that could be used to structure learning throughout a student’s journey.
And this was a great start, but it wasn’t long before we realised that the framework itself wasn’t going to be enough – we had some resources, but not enough to fill all the gaps and cover all the content we felt was critical to sequential, scaffolded career development. The thing was that over the years we’d gotten really good at explaining labour market information, but were lacking content that covered some of the key competencies young people need to be able to actually make career decisions.
The Four Modules
It’s funny how things change when you have a bit of structure. As soon as we started using the four modules, things started falling into place. Here are the modules:
- Understanding Self – who they are
- Self in Context – where they fit
- Exploration – what’s out there
- Connection – how it all fits together
Once we had these outlined, it was much easier for us to identify gaps in our resources and begin to create resources that covered these gaps, and these resources became the first elements of the Ponder Program as it is now.
We needed to go beyond the framework
Sure, the framework gave us a place to start, but we learnt pretty quickly that you can’t really have one without the other – you need both the framework and the resources to be able to implement the program within a school environment.
When we first started designing the Ponder Program resources, we spent a lot of time talking to schools and educators to learn about the way they were currently delivering career education and other wellbeing-type programs. There’s no point reinventing the wheel, and we wanted any program we created to slot in with what was already happening, rather than be something schools would need to find room for on top of everything else.
After more than ten years working with young people, we also knew that everything we created needed to be as engaging and appealing for students as it was for schools. We didn’t see any point in creating resources that students wouldn’t want to engage with, so we developed a short, snappy format that broke the competencies down into individual bite-sized chunks that were easy to digest.
One of the best things we found about this format is that it sparks conversations. We challenge students to apply the knowledge to their own plans, and this has been amazing in terms of getting them talking to teachers and parents about what they have learnt about themselves.
We’ve been thrilled to see all kinds of career conversations starting – those between students and teaching staff, students and parents, occasionally between teaching staff and parents, and even more importantly between students. One of the most successful ways of integrating the Ponder Program seems to be in vertical homegroups, where more senior students share their thoughts and ideas with younger students.
Where to next?
The Ponder Program does a great job of building career management skills (in our humble opinion), but we could do more to improve student outcomes. One of the most pressing concerns we’re working on is a way to integrate career content within the curriculum, which we expect will increase the relevance of lessons, improve student engagement, and lead to stronger vocational identity formation over time.
There’s a lot to do, but we’re excited about the future.