The Tragic Optimist

what I learned at the cooking class – part II: class design

This is part II of what I learned at the cooking class.  Part I covered the actual cooking parts.

As we were finishing up our last rotation on the grill, waiting for the corn to finish, I asked one of the instructors how they came up with their ideas for classes, and how they planned them out.  He was really open and thoughtful about what went in to the planning of a cooking class.  He and another instructor plan all the grilling classes.  They start by looking at what other classes are already being taught, and what techniques, foods, and preparations are not currently covered.  Then they look for recipes that would fit that.  They have to balance the class to make sure that the recipes can be done in the scheduled time, and that there are enough recipes covered that people feel like they’re getting their money’s worth, but still make sure that there’s time to really participate in all the aspects of the different recipes, while still having the time to see and taste the results.  What part of the recipes can be done before the class to help things go smoothly without sacrificing the learning of the participants.  They normally break up the participants in to groups so that a small group is working on a recipe or two in one segment, and then the groups rotate.  This means that it’s easier for everyone to really get in on each recipe, and everyone gets pretty individual attention with the instructors, but it’s an added level of complexity.  Now you have to not only make sure the recipes work in the allotted time, but that they can be broken up such that all of them work in a set time for the rotation.

We spend a lot of time in my department at work talking and thinking about teaching and learning.  How do you decide what to include in a class, and what to leave out.  How do you strike the right balance between enough relevant information that you’re not wasting the students’ time, while giving enough time for hands-on activities that will be engaging.  How well does it work to break students in to groups, can you have multiple groups working on different things?  Will that mean that different students are exposed to different things?  Is that bad.

I love that other people, in a very different field of education struggle with the same questions that we do.  I loved just hearing someone else think through the process of planning a class out loud.  The parallels obviously only go so far, but they were striking, and it really hit home just how much I do love the teaching aspect of my job.


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