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Confidence to Cook – sharing evaluation skills to improve cooking skills courses

Fiona Matthew from the NHS Grampian Confidence to Cook took part in the CFHS cooking skills evaluation study group. In this case study, Fiona explains what she learned most from being part of the study group, what learning she passed onto others and in turn, what impact it had on their work.


The study group

CFHS Cooking Skills Evaluation Study involved eight organisations running community cooking skills courses: Dundee Healthy Living Initiative, Edinburgh Community Food, Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, Healthy Valleys, Lanarkshire Community Food and Health Partnership, NHS Grampian, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Forth Valley.

The group met several times over two years to plan their evaluation project. They discussed what difference they believe their cooking courses make, and agreed what outcomes they would evaluate over the next year.

View the project report here

The Confidence to Cook programme

Fiona has been running Confidence to Cook for around 15 years, so was an experienced member of the study group. However, being part of the group increased her confidence to evaluate and helped her realise you don’t need to be an academic to carry out quality evaluation – a person running a course can carry out good evaluation if they have the time and resources.

Fiona was keen on using evaluation tools ‘beyond questionnaires’ and particularly liked the idea that ‘triangulating’ evaluation information can help towards achieving a more robust or credible evaluation (What is triangulation?)  Fiona wanted to pass on this knowledge to those she has trained to run cooking groups.

Three key women that had completed Confidence to Cook ‘train the trainer’ courses in Grampian and who regularly deliver cooking courses at either Community Food Initiatives North East, Garioch Kitchen or Elgin Youth Café were already keen to improve their evaluation skills. Fiona ran a workshop for them that aimed to demystify evaluation and Fiona offered further mentoring if they needed it.

How did it work out?

Improving evaluation skills

Fiona’s key messages about evaluation began with better planning: tips and ideas included:

  • Planning what it is you hope your cooking course will achieve, or thinking about ‘what is the problem you are trying to solve’ whilst also considering the motivations of the people you hope will attend cooking courses.
    1. Writing ‘outcome statements’ based on these, e.g. ‘Increase participants’ willingness to try new foods’*
    2. Thinking about what *indicators show this outcome has been achieved (or not), or what questions you need the answers to; e.g.: one indicator for the above outcome could be ‘levels of participant trying new foods’
    3. Planning evaluation methods based on these and discussing how to get different sources and triangulate, e.g.: one source could be observing and noting a participant’s willingness to taste new food and seeing if this changes during the course, and a second source could be asking the participant at the beginning and end of the course how they feel about trying new foods.

Other key messages that Fiona planned, included:

  • ‘One size doesn’t fit all’ – you may need to adjust and adapt your course activities, teaching or recipes to the needs of individuals
  • Having a plan, but being flexible in order to meet people’s different needs
  • Have fun!

What difference did it make?

All three women developed their evaluation methods. Observing sessions, being more reflective and being encouraged to be more flexible heightened their awareness of individual needs and how to meet these needs, here’s an example:

‘During several sessions I observed that one young girl, whilst fully engaging in the cooking side of the session was really reluctant to eat any of the food that had been prepared. Whilst the rest of the group were eating, I had conversation with the young girl, asking her about the food she ate at home. We established that she liked fish fingers so I suggested that we made our own healthy version along with some sweet potato wedges at our next session – she agreed. Once again she engaged fully in the cooking aspect of the class, enjoying the egging and bread-crumbing part, however, on this occasion, the young girl who would not eat any of the food she had previously prepared, ate six pieces of fish along with trying the sweet potato wedges, something she hadn’t tasted. Just by observing a situation and then tailoring a class to meet the needs of one individual, I was able to increase the confidence of that one young girl whilst also making her feel more part of the group…’

Observing and taking notes was also found to be useful for finding out what difference the course made for individuals:

 ‘… I find participants often share stories during the workshop discussions or while cooking that are excellent examples of changes or increased confidence and by having this [observation] sheet close by I can note down these comments while I remember them…’

Future plans

Fiona has continued to run short evaluation workshops aimed at those who have already completed the Confidence to Cook train the trainers’ course. The three women who took part in the pilot workshop have contributed to these by explaining what difference better evaluation has made to their own work.

Here’s an observation sheet that has been adapted from a study group member and adapted by the Garioch Kitchen to suit the outcomes they planned for their cooking sessions: Cooking Class Observation Sheet

See the Confidence to Cook training kitchens case study here and visit the Confidence to Cook website for more information about the programme.

*There is more information about evaluation, including planning outcome statements, indicators and tools for evaluation on the Evaluation Support Scotland website.


Published: August 30, 2019