How Can I Improve the Quality of My Teaching
in Order to Motivate Year 9 Boys?
Researcher: Jean Bell
How can I improve the quality of teaching in order to motivate year
9 boys in Food Technology?
Terms of Reference
To review my role as a teacher of Food Technology.
* To identify issues relating to motivating year 9 boys
* To propose new strategies in my teaching to improve the situation
* To review the current situation
* To review examples of good practice in teaching and learning
* To develop new approaches to teaching year 9
I joined Castledown School in September 1996, after a long period of
teaching in FE and being engaged in a number of posts connected with Adult
Education. I had initially trained as a secondary teacher and was very
keen to return to the school environment. My passion with Domestic Science
began long before secondary education, always being encouraged to cook
and create at home. This continued at school, and at 6th Form College,
where A level Home Economics was more of the same, lots of
fun, and exciting creative activities. We were passionate about the subject!
The real shock came, when, after raising a family and pursuing a range
of different jobs, I returned to full time teaching. My enthusiasm
and passion for what had now become Food Technology was just the same,
but the ingredients for my lessons the students, were
entirely different wanting to question and challenge everything,
they were much more aware of the world and not happy to just accept their
lot for what it was thank goodness for progress!
Of course, there had been a lot of progress in the world the microwave
cooker was commonplace in every home, cook chill products were
in every store, all homes had a dishwasher, and everything came pre-prepared
and pre- packed. Added to this, the cultural ethos of the pupils I was
now trying to teach, were enormously different to those with whom I had
first shared my enthusiasm for Home Economics in the last century. These
students just didnt seem to want to share my enthusiasm for the
subject, and the job seemed doubly difficult.
The National Curriculum for England explains with absolute clarity, the
importance of design and technology.
Design and technology prepares pupils to participate in tomorrows
rapidly changing technologies.
They learn to think and intervene creatively to improve quality
The subject calls for pupils to become autonomous and creative
problem solvers, as individuals and members of a team.
They combine practical skills with an understanding of aesthetics,
social and environmental issues, functional and industrial practices.
Through design and technology, all pupils can become discriminating
and informed users of products, and become innovators.
(The National Curriculum for England Design and Technology, 1999)
Design and Technology is the all encompassing subject, which offers
all students, regardless of ability, culture or social status, the opportunity
Design and Technology is about making things that people want and
that work well. Creating these things is hugely exciting: it is an inventive,
This was the statement made by James Dyson, Chairman of Dyson Ltd., and
quite simply explains what all children should get out of Technology lessons
Why then do I not feel that my year 9 boys find my lessons fun?
Parker J. Palmer identified with this concern by teachers, in his paper
The Courage to Teach (1).
When I ask teachers to name the biggest obstacle to good teaching,
they usually reply my students. When I ask why this is so,
hear a litany of complaints: my students are silent, sullen, withdrawn;
they have little capacity for conversation, they have short attention
spans; they do not engage well with ideas; they cling to narrow notions
of relevance and usefulness and dismiss the world
This is exactly how I felt about many of my students in particular,
year 9 boys. How could they not be excited about the course I had planned
for them? How could they claim to be bored with the video, questionnaire,
piece of research, or worse still, the wonderfully creative, productive,
Parker J. Palmer continues by reporting on a banner from a brochure announcing
a national conference on teaching and learning:
Its a Fact Many students have no direction and lack
motivation. These students have little knowledge of the social skills
necessary for teamwork and negotiation. Theyre bored and passive
in situations calling for action, and belligerent and destructive in contexts
requiring reflection. In his paper, he continued to refer to the
factors used as excuses for the changes in the culture of the young people
we endeavour to educate absentee parents, the banality of
television and mass culture, the ravages of drugs and alcohol. He
goes on to question whether social changes alone can account for such
dramatic decline. He even suggested:
the DNA itself has degenerated within the past quarter century!
Whilst I would not go to that extreme, it has long been my opinion that
young people today are bred differently!! How can these students not want
to devour every gram of knowledge offered on the plate? How can they be
indifferent to the wonderful opportunity to be artistic, creative, and
at the same time produce a fantastic cake or pie to take home and share
with the family for tea? With 420 students in the school, and nearly 30%
special needs, there are a number of social and cultural issues that need
to be addressed when planning a scheme of work for the students, especially
when it involves practical work, and demands are made on the parents to
provide materials from home. Our children live with absent parents - either
because they are single parents for whatever reason, or they have to work
every hour they can in order to provide for the ever - demanding family.
In other cases, parents are in the forces, and consequently spend long
periods away from home. Young people are frequently unable to make any
connection between schoolwork and the real world in which they will have
to survive. More specifically, they dont generally sit down to a
meal as a family, so there is no exciting prospect of sharing the goodies
and receiving praise for ones efforts. More importantly, students
arent asked too often to bake cakes and pies the National
Curriculum is much more demanding than that, besides which, a one
hour lesson severely limits what products can be made in the time available.
When looking at the history of the kitchen (all part of an integrated
programme) children are surprised to discover that people used to have
large store cupboards. In todays modern world, the kitchen
is not functional, merely a showpiece that requires little cleaning. It
certainly does not provide for a large pantry full of an exciting range
of materials with which to create some delicious product for the family
My main concern is that the boys tend not to bring in the materials they
need for practical activities. There is not really a problem with the
majority of the girls, who happily bring in the materials as requested,
and leave them in the classroom at the start of the day. At the start
of the year, when requirements are relatively simple and limited, there
is not too much of a problem. However, as the year progresses, and the
work becomes more complex, participation in practical activities tends
to decline. Alistair Smith, in his book Accelerated Learning in
Practice suggests a format for successful lessons:
Change the ratio of talking to doing from 80% teacher talk and
20% students doing, to 20% teacher talk and 80% of students doing. Adopt
a policy of no more than 16 minutes an hour direct instruction.
Alistair Smith is clearly proposing that students would be much more
successful if they were in greater control of their learning activities.
I firmly believe that practical activities are an excellent vehicle for
teaching and learning; the dilemma is how to motive the year 9 boys.
Palmer J. Parker later refers to a conversation with the dean of an experimental
college, at the end of which, he came to understand something quite crucial
the way we diagnose our students condition will determine
the kind of remedy we offer
This statement describes, with absolute clarity, how a programme of study
should be designed. It must take in to account the needs of the
patient, and the appropriate medicine must be prescribed.
In this specific situation, the diet must consist of skills,
knowledge and understanding all of which are underlying principles to
the KS3 strategy. In the National Curriculum for England Design
and Technology, there is a demand for design and technology to develop
key skills, including communication, application of number, IT, working
with others problem solving and improving own learning and performance.
Equally, there is a supposition that design and technology provides opportunities
to promote spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. To be fair,
in Food Technology, this we do frequently, considering peoples needs,
and likes and dislikes for whatever reason.In his book, New Teaching
Skills, Nigel Collins claims that skills are not just things you
know, but things you can show, and that skills are developed through practice,
deliberate or unplanned. In Food Technology, the type of skills
developed would be classed as practical or productive. There is often
a fixed outcome. Also in Food Technology, we tend to draw on transferable
skills, those skills which can be applied to a number of different
tasks. There are many examples reading, writing, drawing, decision-making,
application of number etc. It would be expected that a subject
specific teacher has a very sound, detailed knowledge of his/her subject,
and if the student diet has to consist of in-depth knowledge, then the
teacher surely must have the required information, and more.
Every subject teacher needs to be aware of the requirement to
promote the betterment of their pupils and this can be achieved through
curricular areas. (Arthur, Davison and Moss, 1997) In Food Technology
a whole wealth of knowledge is there to be shared the history,
the geographical connections, the application of science and Religious
studies, to mention but a few. There is also every opportunity for all
students to progress. The great fascination with Food Technology is that
is encompasses such a very wide range of knowledge. The difficulty is
imparting that to the year 9 students of the 21st century, in such a way
that they will feel that the diet is rich and appropriate. Technology,
to see a purpose for the effort required, and to make a connection between
the task in hand and the world in which he must survive.
Jamie Oliver, Britains most talented, exciting and unpretentious
young chef, is passionate about food. He started cooking when he was eight,
he avoids culinary jargon and any time- consuming process that isnt
justified by the end results.( Jamie Oliver The Naked Chef, 1999)
In a one hour lesson, and with limited resources- not least money,
this is the kind of approach perfectly suited to year 9 boys. Gone are
the days of slaving over a hot stove. Gone are the days of the well-stocked
pantry, and definitely gone are the days of triple lessons for Food Technology.
So the diet we offer must change to suit the patient. Short, sweet and
snappy must be the key!
Oliver goes on to claim:
this was where my real passion for food was conceived; surrounded
by people who were so much more talented than I was, whose enthusiasm
was highly contagious and very inspiring.
Herein might lie the answer. Whilst the knowledge base is excellent, and
the passion beyond question, more than likely it is my enthusiasm that
is not as contagious as it should be, to inspire these young people who
lack motivation. With the ever-increasing demands being made on the very
limited lesson time, the classroom teacher has very little opportunity
to allow part of his/her self to show through. Quite clearly, the diet
I offer to year 9 must change. Rather than just covering the syllabus
in the time allocated, completing the assessments as and when required
and writing reports to meet deadlines, my lessons should leave the students
feeling enthused- and yearning for more.
I set out to identify some of the possible barriers to learning in my
lessons. Firstly, I used the video to record a typical theory
lesson. This generated considerable interest for the children, who were
keen to be seen on the film! Once settled, the lesson progressed well.
Students were on task, they put up their hands to answer questions, they
answered questions well, and appeared to be making good progress. There
was pace, variation, and input from the teacher as well as from the students.
Secondly, I asked the pupils themselves. I circulated a questionnaire
to all year 9 boys, currently participating in Food lessons (see appendix
1). I endeavoured to look at cultural issues and social factors, as well
as school influences.
The video portrayed a well managed classroom and pupils on task.
It also gave me gave me a very honest view of myself. Most apparent was
my dreadful voice! Not light, friendly, inspiring and fun, but monotonous,
flat and almost rasping see appendix 1.
The survey produced some interesting results see appendix 2.
|| % Yes
|| % No
The majority of boys who participated in the survey claimed that they
enjoyed Food Technology, but definitely preferred practical to theory
lessons. Why then do I only offer 50% practical lessons? Why do the students
have to do so much writing? At least half of those surveyed do cooking
at home, yet only 1/3 prepared their own materials for school. Too little
preparation time, too many ingredients to collect together, issues with
money, not very macho to be seen wandering around the supermarket? All
of these issues could contribute to a lack of enthusiasm. Virtually all
those questioned claimed to enjoy food-tasting activities not a
great surprise, since all teenagers, especially seem to graze their way
through life! Why then do we very rarely plan food-tasting activities?
With the current culture at home of TV dinners, cook chill meals
and latch door children with absentee parents, these young people
quite possible have very little knowledge of the wide range of food products
available let alone know what they taste like.
A large percentage of the students claim to like watching food related
videos there are currently plenty of TV programmes with chefs sharing
their enthusiasm for the skills they have, and are willing to share. How
easy to record an appropriate programme and share a short clip at the
start or end of the lesson to show that even the modern day cooking
man can be rich and famous! It should be quite easy to sell
the idea of real men doing real cooking. After
all, theres Jamie Oliver, Gary Rhodes and Ainsley Herriot to name
but a few of todays modern men making excellent money out of cooking.
If they can do it, so can years 9! Scientists are important in the development
of new food products. With over _ of students surveyed claiming to enjoy
experiments with food, the inclusion of more of this kind of work can
surely only serve to inspire and motivate these young people, helping
them to see a real purpose to what they are doing. Over 60% of the students
enjoy watching cookery demonstrations. A good idea would be to invite
a local chef into school, ask a year 11 student to do a demonstration,
or even contact a local 6th form college, to ask if they have any lecturers
or budding chefs who would be willing to share their skills and enthusiasm
with the youngsters. Very few of the students liked washing up
not a great surprise! However, by asking the students to prepare less
- complicated dishes appropriate for the time available might mean that
the volume of washing - up could be reduced. This in turn will encourage
the students to be more inclined to participate in the lesson, because
there will be less preparation, more time to actually make the product,
and not so much clearing up to do. Increased use of the dishwasher might
also be a possibility.Returning to Parker J. Palmers idea that students
are the biggest obstacle to teaching, with all the adjectives to
describe the average student, perhaps, looking at the results
of my initial research, this isnt strictly the case. Not for all
students, at least.
Firstly, students were very clear in their own minds, that the current
programme forced them to do too much theory first point to change.
Students are not keen to write, they are much happier working on computers,
regardless of what we think they should do. With many absentee parents,
a large number of children are left to their own devices at the beginning
and end of the day. There is no chance that mum or dad will be around
to help students get ready for school. As a result, the ever- caring parent,
making their own life easier, and, in their eyes, helping the child out,
will prepare the ingredients themselves. The result is, that the student
often arrives with a bag, and no idea whats in it, or they arrive
with a bag of goodies that bears no resemblance to what was asked for!
Another small problem, is that many homes do not possess weighing scales,
hence the reason many students arrive not properly prepared for the lesson.
Whilst weighing scales are available in school, this does take up valuable
time in an already too short lesson. It is therefore important,
that to engage the student, I need to consider what materials I ask the
students to bring to school, or think of alternative ways of providing
With a large percentage of the students showing great interest in food
tasting, what better way to introduce a range of new foods,
than to have a five minute lesson starter introduce a new
food, plus have a corner shopping basket display, with information
about the new food, for discussion, and maybe a short, relevant
worksheet for homework.Pru Leith, from Leiths School of Food and
Wine, understands the value of practical activity. Tell me and I
forget show me and I may remember let me do it, and I learn.
Learning through making works!.In their response to my survey, the
year 9 boys questioned would certainly agree with this statement
and who am I to argue? After all, isnt that what Food Technology
is really all about making things and having fun? Without exception,
these students have shown that far from being sullen, withdrawn,
and not engaging well with ideas, they are in fact very clear in
their minds what it is they like and dislike, what they would enjoy more,
and what would improve their enjoyment of lessons. Clearly, this is a
major issue, which I need to address. Another point to consider is that
the government, having made these very concise demands on a course, expect
all pupils to go some considerable way to achieving all of these targets,
through the scheme of work. My task is to plan a programme of study, which
not only meets these criteria, to satisfy OFSTED, but which will also
please the students, who will find the lessons fun! Without question,
the demands of the course are high. The government is looking to raise
standards of education, and as a professional, I endeavour to do just
that. The dilemma, is how to please all of the people all of the
I am very pleased that I embarked on this task. If nothing else, the
students at least now know that I am interested in their point of view.
As a result of this assignment, there are a number of approaches that
I could easily adopt without too much effort, and without too much change
to the scheme of work. In response to the video, I need to wait for silence
(the students are very good at listening) and then to speak in a normal
voice, like a friend speaking to another.
I should not be afraid of silence. Students need quiet in order to think,
and formulate their ideas. Relax, step back, and watch. I do not need
to be directing all the time. I must allow the children to
discuss the work in hand. I was reminded of my own children when they
were young you encourage them to talk, and then, when they do,
you ask them to be quiet! Students learn a great deal from each other.
Not as Parker J. Palmer said, they have little capacity for conversation,
they have, in my opinion, enormous capacity for conversation, the job
for the teacher is to encourage the conversation to go in the right direction.
This requires careful planning, clear direction and time limits given
for discussion sessions.
As far as practical activities are concerned, I need to plan well in
advance, so that families have time to shop, and prepare materials. I
need to teach the students how to weigh accurately and speedily (or maybe
plan practical sessions that do not require too much weighing, as this
takes up too much time.) The products we make need to be much simpler,
requiring only a few materials. I must include more food tasting activities,
as well as more demonstration sessions. The video is a wonderful teaching
vehicle, providing there is a very clear purpose to its inclusion in the
lesson. Equally, I need to include more experimental work in the programme
this could solve some of the problems with providing materials
from home, since the school could provide materials for practical experiments.
The washing up will always be an issue, but with simpler, less complicated
dishes, the amount of washing up should be reduced. The timetable is obviously
a major influence on the work we do, so it would be ideal to have some
double lessons, thereby allowing more time for practical activities.
The worst thing about having to rush is that there is strong possibility
that things will go wrong, and materials will be wasted. I do not feel
that this is fair on parents who have worked hard to support the school
and me by providing the necessary ingredients.
Alistair Smith quotes Cris Edgell, from Sacred Heart School (Sept 1997)
who identified a number of success factors that the school identified
as contributing to dramatic improvements. One of these was improved
teaching strategies. I am convinced that if I implement these new
teaching strategies to my year 9 classes, then the boys will be as enthusiastic
as the girls, and whilst results are not bad, it would be splendid if
the number of pupils gaining level 7 at KS3 did improve as a result of
the pupil consultation.
Survey to explore the barriers to learning in Food Technology by year
As part of a project to motivate year 9 boys in Food Technology, I would
be most grateful if you would assist me in my project, by spending a few
minutes answering the following questions. Thank you for your help.
1. Do you enjoy Food Technology lessons? Yes/No
2. Do you prefer practical lessons? Yes/No
3. Do you prefer theory lessons? Yes/No
4. Do you do cooking at home? Yes/No
5. Does your father cook at home? Yes/No
6. Does your mother cook at home? Yes/No
7. Do you prepare your ingredients for practical lessons? Yes/No
8. Do you enjoy Food Tasting activities? Yes/No
9. Do you enjoy watching food related videos? Yes/No
10. Do you enjoy doing food experiments? Yes/No
11. Do you enjoy watching food demonstrations? Yes/No
12. Do you like washing up? Yes/No
Arthur, J., Davison, J., and Moss, J. (1997), Subject Mentoring in the
Secondary School. London: Routledge
Bullock and Jamieson (1998), The Curriculum Journal: The Effectiveness
of Personal Development Planning.
Collins, N. (1986), New Teaching Skills. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Dearing, R. (1994), The National Curriculum Review. London: SCAA
Department for Education and Employment (1998), National Targets for Education
and Training. Sudbury: DfEE Publications
Department for Education and Employment, New National Learning Targets.
Sudbury: DfEE Publications
Department for Education and Employment (March 2000), PANDA Report
OFSTED. Sudbury: DfEE Publications
Joseph, M. (1999), Jamie Oliver: The Naked Chef. London: Penguin Books
Leith, P. (1999), The National Curriculum for England: Design and Technology.
Sudbury: DfEE Publications
Palmer, P. J. (1998), The Courage to Teach: Exploring The Inner Landscape
of a Teachers Life. Califormia: Jossey-Bass Inc. Publishers.
Powell, M. (1980), The Beginning Teacher Education Study: A Brief History
of a Major Research Project in: C.Denham & A. Lieberman (Eds.), Time
to Learn (Washington, DC, National Institute of Education
Smith, A. (1998), Accelerated Learning in Practice: Brain-Based Methods
for Accelerating Motivation and Achievement. Stafford: Network Educational