The answer may depend on what the people (participants) attending your course want to get out of it and what you (and your funders) hope it will achieve. The amount of time you have, and participant to practitioner ratio may also have an effect on what outcomes you might be able to achieve.
Spending a bit more time focusing on what it is you are trying to achieve will help you design the best activities and choose the most appropriate recipes.
Our cooking skills study group all regularly run cooking courses with low-income communities or vulnerable participants. Although they run their courses slightly differently to each other, it wasn’t too difficult for them to come up with an agreed list of core *outcomes they hope their courses will achieve.
My colleague Jacqui McDowell supported the group to think about this by asking them to each think about ‘who’ they are trying to make a difference for, ‘what’ difference it is they are trying to make, and ‘how’ they are trying to make a difference. For example one of the agreed core outcomes is:
- Participants (‘who’) have improved (‘how’) their cooking skills (‘what’)
However, they also needed to think about what things would ‘indicate’ if a participant had improved their cooking skills. So for each outcome, they also agreed to a list of ‘indicators’. Now the participants can show they have improved their cooking skills through (for example) one or more of the following indicators:
- level of ability to follow written, verbal or pictorial recipes correctly
- level of ability to adapt recipes
- level of ability to weigh and measure food using cup and spoon or / and scales/ measuring jug
So for this outcome, as long as you have an idea about what a participants’ level of abilities are at the beginning of the course – when it finishes you can find out if they have improved these. And it doesn’t matter if your course participants include those with limited skills to those planning to apply to go on a TV cooking programme – for this outcome all you need to know is that you have supported each of them to improve their own level of skills.
If you want to read more about choosing outcomes and indicators, (and measuring if you have achieved these) there is some very accessible information on the Evaluation Support Scotland website.
In the next blog, I’ll start to look at what methods you can use to find out if you have achieved your planned outcomes.
*The cooking skills study group also have agreed lists of outcomes relating to whether they end each course session with ‘participants eating together’, ‘participants taste the food and take some home’ or ‘participants take the cooked food home with them’ as these different activities might each lead to slightly different outcomes.