In the last blog, I talked about focusing on what it is you want your cooking courses to achieve. Once you have done that, you need to think about how to find out if your course has (or hasn’t) achieved this.
For many groups, it will be enough to have an informal discussion with participants to find out what they have learned, or to ask them to complete a questionnaire or feedback form.
Our cooking skills study group members are planning to carry out more thorough evaluation than they would normally have the time for. They will gather information (based on the outcomes and indicators discussed in the last blog) from every course participant at the beginning, at the end, and a few months following each course.
They will use evaluation methods in addition to participant questionnaires to ensure the information they collect is more ‘robust’. Here’s how one cooking skills study group member – Susan Kennedy from NHS Forth Valley developed evaluation methods for the courses run in the area:
‘Being part of the study group has given us the chance to spend a lot more time than usual to develop how we evaluate our cooking skills courses.
For many years we have used easy-to-read questionnaires at the beginning and end of each course. These use survey scales so participants can mark how confident they are about various things such as ‘reading and understanding a recipe’.
But we sometimes find that participants don’t want to show they lack skills, and mark themselves higher than they really are, or they don’t really know how to gauge their level of skills and overestimate these at the start of the course.
As part of the study group we have spent more time developing our observation evaluation techniques. These can help us check or understand better the information we get from the questionnaires.
We have an observer (an extra cooking course practitioner) who attends each session. As well as supporting participants with their cooking skills, she observes their skill development and learning. She also listens for, and notes down any spontaneous comments from them, such as their views on the recipes, or if they have used these again. She writes these up after each session. Participants know what her role is, but we don’t want her to stand over them with a clipboard – it needs to feel as natural as possible.
Adding observation to our evaluation methods has been fairly easy and doesn’t involve extra work for the participants. But our courses have no more than six participants, so it’s not too difficult to observe that number of people.’
CFHS has more information about evaluation methods for cooking skills courses in ‘What’s cooking in Scotland? Part Two’
Kim Newstead and Susan Kennedy