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Evaluation of Empower

Added 31 May 2024 | Updated 14 Jun 24


About Empower

Empower is a programme designed for girls and young women aged 11 to 14 excluded from, or at risk of being excluded from, mainstream education. It aims to improve their critical media literacy skills in small group sessions, with an emphasis on discussion. Originally commissioned by the Department for Science, Industry and Technology (DSIT), Empower is structured around 10 one-hour sessions designed to develop and improve young people's media literacy skills, knowledge and attitudes including resilience to mis and disinformation, awareness of the online environment and positive online communication. Participants also receive books and access to author events.

Key findings

The programme reached 1,710 students at 158 settings. 132 post-training and post-project surveys were received from teachers and 138 pre- and post-project surveys were received from students. The evaluation showed that the intervention:

  • Increased students’ ability to identify mis and disinformation. Students reported greater critical engagement when evaluating the credibility of news stories after taking part. For example, the percentage who checked whether sources were trustworthy increased from 23.6% to 69.7%. The percentage able to identify two of three examples of online news stories correctly as either real or fake doubled from 23.6% to 54.5% over the course of the project.
  • Improved students’ self-reported online communication behaviours. The percentage who said they would respond to rude or prejudiced comments made on a friend’s social media post with positive actions increased from 41.6% to 62.1% after taking part. In addition, more than 4 in 5 (84.4%) said they thought more before sharing something online after taking part.
  • Improved teachers’ confidence in supporting critical media literacy. 9 in 10 (90.4%) teachers felt more confident about supporting their students’ media and news literacy after taking part.

The Empower programme offers an engaging and effective way to provide Alternative Provision settings with training, resources and support to equip girls and young women with vital critical media literacy skills. The use of small group sessions and discussion-based learning were essential elements of the success of the programme, particualrly when delivering information about sensitive topics in what can be challenging environments.

Learning from delivery has informed future iterations of the programme, which now includes information about generative AI, more modular and ‘workshop’-style sessions and more flexible data collection methods.

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