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Learning to read a recipe or learning to cook?

October 5, 2011
Chicken soup and toast

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday I made the most abysmal soup. I had some asparagus in the fridge that was just on the wrong side of fresh, so I thought I’d whip up some soup. I like to cook (I like to eat more!), but can’t say I’m a soup-whiz. I have a few standards that I go to (chick-pea and leek, a la Jamie Oliver), but otherwise it’s not really my strong suit. Did I let that stop me? Nope. I figured I could wing it. I figured wrong.

Mistake #1 I didn’t taste the soup at various stages.

Mistake #2 I put in too much salt.

Mistake #3 I panicked and tried too many different ways to cut the salt factor

In the end it looked and smelled disgusting, was inedible and I had to have grilled cheese for lunch.

Why am I writing about soup and cooking in a learning blog? Well…lessons are to be drawn! And, I’m designing a course and thinking about metaphors (journey metaphors to be specific), but when you are in idea generation mode, sometimes you just let the creative wave go where it wants to go. This time, it was soup.

The Lessons:

  • Don’t teach people to read recipes, if the goal is for them to learn how to cook.
  • Feedback (as in tasting) is a useful way to adapt your next step.
  • Building blocks, layers…lots of things we learn are incremental, so scaffold learning for that.
  • Don’t teach the way it’s supposed to work, teach people how to recover from mistakes. If I had known strategies for dealing with oversalting, then I wouldn’t have panicked and tried to fix it.
  • Spaced repetition would help too. Since soup is seasonal (say that 10 times fast), I was rusty. And I’d like to hope that my January soups will be better than my sad October soup was.
So, as I put together concepts for my course, in the back of my mind, I’ll be thinking of soup.
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