Cooking skills blog 4: Do you tailor (or target) your cooking skills courses to suit individual needs?

Our cooking skills study group has already met and agreed a list of outcomes that each of them will evaluate when they run their courses over the next six months. However, all members of the group run their cooking skills courses differently to each other, and they run each of their courses differently. They will continue to do so for our study. This will certainly be a challenge later on when we try and analyse the evaluation information because we won’t be able to compare ‘like with like’. But, we want them to continue to do this. Why?

The practitioners in the group have decades of experience between them and are able to adapt courses to meet the needs and wishes of the (often very vulnerable) people they work with. They adapt by:

  • Targeting’ to the needs and wishes of the whole group – for example providing information about weaning when working with parents with babies, or by asking the group to agree to what recipes they want to learn.
  • ‘Tailoring’ the course activities, recipes or health messages to suit an For example, individuals might use different ingredients, choose their own recipes or they might ask for advice with a food or health issue specific to them.

Targeting and, particularly tailoring, makes the course more relevant to an individual. And there’s evidence to show that this makes sense. Psychological and sociological academic theories have been used to develop ‘behaviour change concepts’. One of these concepts is ‘personal relevance’ and as it implies, it suggests that someone is more likely to change their behaviour (i.e.: use their cooking skills, eat better) if the cooking session is relevant to them.

However, even if people are not ready to change their health behaviour, taking time to find out people’s needs and shaping your course for them, is going to make the course more a more positive experience. It’s possible to do this with even the most structured courses – by adapting ingredients to people’s tastes and answering queries. Obviously this may be more difficult with larger groups.

You can read more about the ‘behaviour change concepts’ in our cooking skills review. Our study group have been learning about these and applying these to their courses.

Next blog, I’ll talk about how practitioners make decisions about what to do with the cooked food at the end of each session, depending on who they are working with, and why this matters.

Kim Newstead, kim.newstead@nhs.net

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