Even with careful planning, you are likely to encounter unexpected situations in Cooking Matters classes. In this section, you will learn to turn potential challenges into learning opportunities.
You can prevent many unexpected problems by making safety a priority. Learn to manage safety in the Cooking Matters classroom with the following video:
Prepare to respond to these common classroom challenges
Too much time
From time to time, you’ll find yourself with extra class time. This can occur when recipes don’t take as long as anticipated, the participant group just isn’t chatty, or not enough questions were asked during a discussion to actually generate a dialogue. Having an arsenal of talking points in your back pocket can really help. There is a lot of information in the curriculum that we don’t always get to cover—refer back to your instructor guide to find additional activities or handouts. Or, consider using the team approach: pull the nutrition instructor in to discuss why this meal fits into MyPlate or is healthful, or utilize the culinary instructor to do an extra demonstration. You can almost always find a way to bring budgeting into the conversation too—mention how you could stretch some of the ingredients in a dish to other meals or talk about substituting an ingredient with a less expensive item.
Not enough time
Almost all Cooking Matters volunteers feel there isn’t enough time to get through everything in the lesson plan! That’s okay though, because learner-centered classes are about meeting the needs and interests of the participants.
It is important to remember that lesson plans are a guide to accomplishing objectives, so there is some flexibility in how and when to achieve those objectives during the course. Keep in mind that being learner-centered is about incorporating the interests that are most relevant to learners, so it may be necessary to “let some things go.” When planning for future lessons, there may also be an opportunity to revisit certain topics.
Getting off track
Learner-centered teaching can lead to unexpected and interesting conversations. Sometimes you may want to follow a particular conversation during class. Other times, you might want to save the topic for later. Use the “bike rack” tool, review the topic at hand, and announce time checkpoints to refocus an off-track discussion. Remember, not every question asked during a Cooking Matters class will be relevant.
Click HERE to learn what questions you should answer.
The curriculum also offers ways to focus the group. Here's an example of a lesson in Cooking Matters for Adults that offers tips for getting the dialogue back on track:
Because Cooking Matters uses facilitated dialogue, it’s common for misinformation sharing to occur. As an instructor, acknowledge good thinking before correcting misconceptions by thanking the speaker and emphasizing the worth of the speaker’s experience. Then, to gently correct the speaker, you can consider summarizing current research or referring the idea back to the group to see if others disagree. Also, keep in mind that Cooking Matters courses should be focused on the learners, and that as an instructor your role is to provide strategies and encourage information sharing that is relevant to participants, as it relates to cooking, nutrition, food safety, and budgeting.
Missing materials or broken equipment
Every now and then, you may find yourself missing important course materials, working with broken or less-than-ideal kitchen equipment, or having forgotten to bring important ingredients. Use this as a learning opportunity to talk about how to improvise or substitute.
Dealing with injuries
The first step in dealing with injuries is always to find the site contact to take the appropriate steps to handle the injury. If there is a question of whether the participant needs to be taken to the hospital this is something the site contact should do. If it is minor, have participants clean up their own cut and put on their own bandage. As instructor, make sure that you sanitize their work area and tools, and do not use the food they were working with if they cut themselves. If they return to the kitchen, they must wear a glove on their bandaged hand.
PRACTICE some troubleshooting skills!
Click HERE to test your skills