When first stepping into a classroom, one of the biggest worries for STEM Ambassadors is “Will these young people enjoy the activity or just switch off? Will they understand what I’m telling them?” Nabih Asif, from our London STEM Ambassador Hub reflects on how you can improve your confidence in communication.
STEM Learning offers a fantastic free online course that allows our volunteers to develop their ability to communicate to students about STEM. Volunteers are able to interact with other learners on the course and exchange their own learning practises and personal experiences. They can also discuss the course content over this two-week period.
While leading this course as an online mentor, I was able to interact with and support not only STEM Ambassadors, but teachers, technicians and students too. All of whom were looking to enhance a previous skill set or learn a new one.
Learning to engage
At the beginning of the communication course, learners know that they have room for improvement when communicating with children. They often want to build confidence in presenting as, from their own experience, they have struggled to listen and learn from un-engaging speakers themselves.
The course helped our volunteers develop their awareness of things like body language, active listening, non-verbal communication, as well as presentation and discussion skills for running their own workshops. One tip that many learners were surprised at was the impact of a melodic tone and the influence this can have on audiences.
Erika gave us this feedback on why it was beneficial for her to complete the course:
“This course has reminded me to try to see things from the point of view of the learner. Sometimes the tendency is to focus on our performance but it is crucial to consider how the young people in front of us feel. It has made me consider in more depth my body language, tone of voice and pace of delivery. I will now aim to include reflection breaks during the lesson to help the learners assimilate what they have been taught.”
Refining your skills
Through my own experience of volunteering as a presenter, going through this course allowed me to become aware of some of my own communication tactics that I was already unconsciously using. Not only this, but gave me a chance to reflect on my use of eye contact with students who aren’t paying attention and to be wary of using specialist jargon. In addition, it helped me relate to the issues some of our learners may face when trying to gain confidence in presenting.
A key takeaway for learners was that through time spent building your experiences of volunteering and taking part in courses like this, you are able to refine and strengthen your skills when presenting.
We can all agree that when at school or at university we had teachers we learnt from and those we didn’t. Of course, even the most effective teachers did not all start out as fantastic presenters.
One of the best ways of improving how we deliver activities is by receiving feedback. This allows us to reflect on what went well and where we can improve, ensuring that we meet the objectives for what teachers are looking for and the needs of the students we are presenting to. The fantastic Feedback Tools course on Future Learn is a great resource which teaches you who else can give you feedback and how you can efficiently self-reflect to improve your presentation skills.
Through my personal outreach experience, I was always told to get feedback from a teacher at the end of the day to see how the day went. But is that enough? And what type of feedback is beneficial?
When volunteering, there are a variety of individuals who can give you feedback on the content of your activities and your performance. The list ranges from not only educators but also the young people, yourself, and other STEM Ambassadors. Getting feedback from multiple sources is useful as feedback can be limited by an individual’s own experience and knowledge.
The types of feedback can vary also. For example, a teacher may give you written feedback at the end of a day, you could receive verbal feedback at the end of an activity from another volunteer, or by simply observing students and assessing their engagement levels. It's important in your observations to note clues from your students in their body language to gain a better understanding of your performance.
What do you do with the feedback?
Gathering feedback can be used to set goals for your personal and professional development but also to develop your own knowledge and skills when it comes to volunteering. It has the potential to enhance the quality of your STEM volunteering activities, and positively impact the experiences you share to increase the aspirations of young people.
Find out more on FutureLearn: