The Food Network…Effective Teacher PD?
As a busy mom with a full time job that requires travel, I hardly have time to watch much television, but when I do, it’s always the Food Network. In fact, one of our favorite “Family Friday Fun Night” activities is for our kids to snuggle in bed with us and watch the fast paced cooking show, “Beat Bobby Flay.”
The thing is, even with all the Food Network episodes I watch and enjoy, I am still pretty limited in my repertoire of meal making. I often joke about how I can be glued to an episode of “Chopped” watching chefs somehow make a tasty dessert out of things like cow ears and quinoa, but I can’t figure out how to possibly make common items in my fridge into a cohesive dinner option. Where is the disconnect, I wonder?
As educators, we work tirelessly to teach so that our students will learn and we are always looking for new strategies to motivate them to achieve at high levels. As I relate the classroom to my lack of achievement (despite motivation) in the kitchen, I wonder if we need to take a step back and look at how we are expecting students to learn and apply it.
I love being able to work with teachers in the moment, helping them learn, digest and execute high-leverage strategies that allow students to achieve, but what is key to students learning? Is it just being able to execute certain teaching strategies well?
As a CT3 Associate who coaches on instructional strategies, I have seen a direct parallel to my life as a flailing chef and how students need to be taught so they can learn. For me, watching the cooking show is important and necessary. The “Focused Instruction” format of the show gives me the foundation for what I am going to cook and gets me into the expert chef’s mind as to how to cook the meal. I love watching Iron Chefs talk through why they add in a certain ingredient before another or why they are dicing onions instead of slicing them. But, while getting into the chef’s head and watching them in action will give me a strong understanding of what I need to do, it isn’t enough for me to move on and attempt the meal on my own.
What I really need is for the Iron Chef to come on over to my house. Yup, he needs to come on over, and cook alongside me, guiding me to ensure I am doing it right. Is that too much to ask?!? Gosh, I could even invite my family along so we could all do it together with him. What a fun Friday Family Fun Night that would be! After that, it might be helpful for my husband, children and me to attempt the meal on our own, with the chef there, of course, just standing back and making sure we are doing it all correctly, jumping in to cue or guide if needed.
Then, and probably only then, would I really be able to attempt that meal on my own, with success. In fact, I betcha I would have learned so many techniques during those sessions that I could apply the skills to another similar recipe, even if I hadn’t tried it before!
It is this release of responsibility that would really allow me to be effective in the kitchen. While the cooking episode was important and pivotal to setting the foundation of my learning, the guidance of the chef, the opportunity to practice with my family, and to eventually attempt it on my own would be the process to really help me secure my knowledge and growth as an amateur cook.
This is known in the education world as the gradual release of responsibility (Fisher and Frey, 2000) and is the structure proven to allow students to learn at high levels of achievement. When teachers “gradually do less of the work while students steadily assume increased responsibility for their learning, it is through this process that students become competent, independent learners.” (Graves and Fitzgerald, 2003, p.98)
As teachers, if we rely solely on “showing” students what to do and don’t give them the scaffolding and structure to guide them and then allow them to collaborate with each other to truly shift the cognitive load so they can do it on their own, their learning trajectory in the classroom will be like mine in the kitchen…left with a mess to clean up and nothing tasty to show for it.
By Carrie Lupoli, Associate
Carrie Lupoli is a CT3 Associate who works with teachers and coaches to understand the gradual release of responsibility and how that framework allows teachers to shift the cognitive load to the scholar appropriately.