Pick who you want to target

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Now that the objective of your initiative is clear, you need to identify who you want to benefit.

It’s important to determine who you are targeting. Some initiatives work better for particular groups, so this helps to narrow down what an effective initiative could be for your particular objective and target group.

By the end of this step you will have:

  • Identified who should benefit from the initiative.
  • Identified who should be able to participate in the initiative.

Identify your target audience

When you think about the improvement you want to see (whether it’s resolving a problem or realising an opportunity), who do you want to see benefit? This group is your target audience.

Generally, your target audience will be either:

  • All students but maybe limited by age group or by location, or
  • A specific group of students (e.g. female students, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, high-performing students)

You might choose to target particular groups (some groups need additional and special support) to improve equity or excellence, because these groups are:

  • Falling behind in either engagement or achievement compared with their peers (e.g. CSIRO’s Indigenous STEM Education Project runs six programs to increase STEM participation among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, who have both low STEM engagement and poor STEM outcomes).
  • Under-represented in STEM either at school or in the workforce (e.g. see the latest data trends at the STEM Equity Monitor).
  • Under-served, or don’t get the same exposure as other students (e.g. the Shell Questacon Science Circus runs science presentations to inspire young people in regional areas to value and engage in STEM learning and career possibilities).
  • Good candidates to excel in STEM e.g. competitions.

It can be tempting to pick a large target population, or several groups, because most people who are passionate about STEM education want to improve it for everybody. But you must think about what is realistic and where you can have the most impact. Often the more specific your target population, the better you can meet their needs.

See the Which school students need STEM education page for further information.

Think about the best time to engage your target population.

Although you might like your initiative to have an impact at a certain age group or year level (e.g. in Year 10 as they choose senior secondary subjects), this impact is best achieved by targeting younger students. For example, female students tend to start dropping out of STEM subjects at secondary school, but an initiative might be best to increase girls’ engagement with STEM in Years 6 and 7 to prevent this drop-off, rather than try to reverse it after the students have lost interest. 

Identify who should be able to participate in the initiative

In an ideal world, your initiative should focus only on your target population. Sometimes this is not possible.

  • Targeting might not be practical. Including only the students you want to benefit causes too much disruption. For example, if the lower-performing students would benefit from a museum excursion but it is not possible to run a trip with only part of the class.
  • Targeting might have unintended consequences. Including only the students you want to benefit creates stigma or situations that make the initiative less effective than it could be. For example, if the aim is to increase the engagement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in mathematics, providing a targeted additional mathematics class just for those students could make them feel isolated or lesser than their classmates, which could end up damaging their enjoyment and engagement with maths.

Think about what would be practical and effective for the students you want to benefit. The diagram below shows the different ways this could look for your initiative. No way is necessarily better than the others. However, you don’t want your target population to be completely different from those eligible, as in the far right of the diagram.

Best case scenario Often necessary Often necessary Definitely Avoid

Targeted students closely or perfectly match eligible students

e.g. Female students visit an expo on famous females in STEM

Target students are a minority of the eligible students.

e.g. Both low and high performing students take part in a competition, although the high performing students are expected to be the ones who will benefit more from the experience.

Some target students are eligible, while some eligible students are not the intended target group.

e.g. An initiative wanting to target students from low SES backgrounds runs at schools in low SES areas, which includes students from high SES backgrounds.

There is no overlap in the students who are eligible and those who should benefit.

e.g. An initiative aims to attract students from rural areas into STEM careers, but only runs in urban areas.

 Targeted students    Eligible students