I don’t know about you, but I get bored making, serving and eating the same old-same old. And don’t you love to be served up a fabulous meal by a serious foodie? I’d be the first to agree that cookbooks perform a vital function. Especially in an age when it is unlikely that children and grandchildren are in the kitchen soaking up the traditional family recipes, cookbooks allow people the ability to perform in a kitchen with a reasonable amount of self-confidence.
Faced with a raw chicken, fresh vegetables, and a mound of potatoes, a person can produce a satisfying meal. They can choose to add garlic and herbs or leave out the mushrooms. People who really like to cook may take cooking lessons and are likely to take cuisine-specific classes in their areas of greatest interest and strength or even attend culinary institutes that reveal the advanced techniques of food preparation. To become truly proficient, they practice, practice, practice. (see my article on the benefits of sustained practice)
In education there are a number of cookbooks. They may be called “curriculum frameworks” or something similarly sturdy and substantial sounding. Some have actually been around for years despite being touted as the outcomes of education reform. They serve the same purpose as kitchen cookbooks (attempting to guarantee a consistent outcome) and as such are bound by the same limitations. However, in an education system which is under fire from many quarters, cookbook education can sometimes rightly be seen by administrators in charge of “making the numbers” as the most easily defensible program a system can take. A school of educational thought, based on educational theory, develops a highly structured program that is as close to”fool”proof as it can be made. The program is presented to teachers, who are then expected to present it to students. Voilà, education happens. That is supposedly the delight of cookbook education.
So what separates someone who can cook from someone who really cooks? It helps if you are engaged by cooking, love food, and if you understand culinary procedures and presentation, without being bound by them. It is this ability to move beyond the cookbook, to stray from rote adherence to the steps one is given, to adapt to the circumstances of the kitchen, its resources and ingredients, and…to become creative (My top VIA strength).
There are, of course, inherent dangers in this approach. Remember, rote cook booking is essential for the novice. One who cooks every day, though, gains the kind of confidence to deviate from the cookbook, to improve the recipe, to adapt the recipe to individual circumstances and ingredients. Ideally, this happens to teachers, too. In fact, the better a teacher is, the more likely it is that the recipe will be improved for the students in her or his classroom, naturally shaping it to the strengths of students by using a teacher’s own strengths.
Good teachers are often acutely aware of the drawbacks and limitations of the educational recipes they are given. When educational systems insist on cookbook education, they may alienate their most creative teachers, their most experienced teachers, their most effective teachers. One area of promise from positive psychology research in the field of education that addresses this is collective efficacy, the belief of a faculty that as a group, they can execute the positive courses of action required to successfully educate students (Goddard, et al., 2004).
Collective efficacy represents a level of confidence in the ability of a group to reach a shared goal. It influences common expectations for action, supports creative problem-solving, and results in resilient goal attainment by influencing the effort and persistence necessary for academic achievement. No cookbook needed!! Perceived collective efficacy facilitates collaboration and the willingness to accept challenges to teaching in the face of difficulty (Goddard, et al., 2004).
More importantly, educator collective efficacy is significantly related to both math and reading achievement at the elementary level, and to cross-curricular achievement at the high school level, even when controlling for those all-important school context measures such as socioeconomic status, minority enrollment, urban/suburban/rural location, size, and prior student achievement (Goddard, et al., 2004). Faculty collective efficacy significantly influences not only the ways in which teachers approach their work; it also has a direct impact on high school students’ verbal, math, and science achievement (Goddard, et al, 2004).
So why work alone, and why cook from the book when positive professional cultures foster productivity, collegiality, support for hard work, and high expectation for student achievement (Deal and Peterson, 1999). Get cooking 🙂
Deal, T. & Peterson, K. (1999). Shaping School Culture: The Heart of Leadership (Jossey-Bass Education). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Goddard, R.D., LoGerfo, L. & Hoy, W.K. (2004). High school accountability: The role of perceived collective efficacy. Educational Policy, 18(3) 403-425.
must have! (cookbook) courtesy of Aunt Owwee