By Enrico Coleman (Sotheby's) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You can lead a student to class

But you can’t make them learn…

It seems appropriate to be discussing self-regulation and the regulation of others within the context of education on May 9, 2017, National Teacher Appreciation Day as the success of my daily work seems to have come down to how well I get my students to regulate themselves and if I have managed to get myself to do all of my work.

I often tell my students at the beginning of the semester the true tale of my lack of self-regulation when I was a student.  I always paid attention in class, took notes, participated in discussion and used a natural test taking ability to pass the tests.  As soon as the bell rang, school was over and I stopped doing school work.  I never did homework other than reading the books I found interesting.  If I couldn’t finish it in class, it was not going to be done and the only time this didn’t get me by was Junior English as I had to take it three times (11th grade, summer school and senior year) because I couldn’t get myself to write the term theme that was required to pass the course until finally it was write or not graduate.  I do not hold myself up as an exemplar to my students, my GPA was terrible, but rather offer that I understand how some of them feel about their time in school and that if I was able to overcome this scholarly handicap, they could do so as well.

I discovered in college that I didn’t have any problem doing work outside of class if it was a project or product.  I would edit for hours, shoot video at all times of the day, direct radio dramas for fun, because I could see the purpose, the work had meaning.  The same is true with culinary as the prep list dictates what will be done that day and everything on the list is there for a reason.  So much of the work in school is not for a reason or the purpose is never revealed or even more importantly, not significant to the learner.  Posting the class objectives for the day seems useful on the surface because of the same reason it is useful in instructional design: you need to know where you’re going if you’re ever going to get there, but it has been my experience that it is a waste of time.  Students don’t want to know what the objectives are, the question they ask is “What are we doing today?”  For them it isn’t about the goal because so often they don’t care, they just want to know about the journey.

Students derive self-regulation to an extent from classroom management but it is intrinsic motivation, doing the work of learning because they want to, that is the golden goal, the result much to be desired.  For my class that has always been encouraged by having real customers who need real products and are paying real money.  The students learn how to do something, make it for someone and receive feedback from their client.  My very first semester of teaching my principal came down to my classroom for lunch and expressed real happiness with what he saw: students doing work, enjoying being in school and learning basic workplace readiness skills and it wasn’t that I was some classroom management genius, I just remembered what used to motivate me to do my work.

See page for author [CC BY 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

ID Tinted Lenses

Instructional Design has become a much broader topic than when I started this program two years ago. Especially through this course, it has become not only the noun of how instruction should be organized, presented and made more usable/engaging but also a set of principles and tools to apply to communication and perhaps even more importantly a world perspective. Like everything else I have studied in detail: radio and TV production, films, cooking, managing people, teaching, it looks very different once you start cleaning your first metaphorical case of fish and that act changes the way you look at the subject and how you look at the world. Some of this perspective came from the tone and usability of the Rapid Instructional Design: Learning ID Fast and Right (Piskurich, 2006) text and I soon saw how the process is more of a network than a cycle or linear algorithm. I came to see how each step interacted and affected the other steps as something would occur to me while I was working on a specific step. I also enjoyed those activities that encouraged discovering the design elements in unusual or unexpected places. We so often go through our environments without seeing the intention behind much of everything that we see and do and I have always appreciated a greater understanding of how things work and how they are communicated and how they influence us.
Evaluation is probably the most powerful point in the process for the designer but the one that proved difficult for me to integrate. This is ironic considering the hospitality industry is so focused on formal and informal guest evaluations, so crucial to financial success, and I also spend most of my working hours providing evaluations and feedback to nascent hospitality professionals but find it so difficult to see what my customers think. It isn’t that I don’t think it is important, but rather I’m usually so focused on development I don’t remember or feel like I have time for an evaluation piece. Additionally the fact that it requires the client to participate with the resultant complexities of time, ease of use, ability and willingness makes it rare and valuable as getting feedback from my teacher clients is difficult because they are walking through the same deluge of responsibilities that I am every day. I have made it a point to add user evaluations to my lesson plate templates as the third reason they were so often missing is because I wouldn’t even think of asking and that’s just not very smart. Feedback and evaluation are not only effective drivers for increased quality (hence the importance of the Michelin Restaurant Guide, et al) but even more importantly build and reinforce connections between people. Students spend so much of their day being told what to do and what not to do, asking them to evaluate the instruction they receive is not only refreshing for them, but shows and thereby earns respect and thereby increases the likelihood of that most precious ingredient in all of education: motivation to learn.

Clostridium Perfringens By Ramin Herati [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Limitless Paper in a Paperless World

My Teen Servsafe project was actually several years long and involved several clients.  The problem being addressed by my project was changing the audience focus for the Servsafe sanitation credentialing curriculum from the National Restaurant Association from adult hospitality managers to teen high school culinary students. Getting more students to pass the credentialing exam has been discussed whenever two high school culinary teachers are in the same room at the same time but it wasn’t until this semester that I finally looked at the problem from a design perspective.

The original curriculum is designed to refresh knowledgeable managers on the details they need to know, crammed into as few as 8 hours of training – classic “teach to the test” with a predictable lack of success and lack of long term knowledge recall for our target audience.  We have all tried many different tactics over the years but one thing that hasn’t changed is that students who are motivated and care about the outcome will most likely pass.  After my semester in this class I have come to some conclusions about how to better get our learners motivated for more successful outcomes.

Something that didn’t work as intended but was still included in the design was the end of chapter competitive timed quizzes.  There are many aspects of this product that are useful from a cognitive and motivational perspective – plus they’re kind of fun but we weren’t using them correctly.  They were used as pretests and study material rather than assessments and were given too much time and emphasis.  Much like studying test questions over and over they were ineffective in that role, but with the granularity of the assessment they are useful for differentiated remediation and thus took their rightful place as summative assessments for each chapter and then all together as summative assessment at the end of the course.  In fact I will probably convert the 10 chapter quizzes into one large assessment.

The vocabulary unit in was inspired by a client that has success placing greater emphasis on vocabulary in her class.  While her audience is not precisely in line with other schools because her students are more interested in going into the industry than the average school, her back-to-basics approach probably has a hand in her high pass rate as well.  The advantage of the Cerego platform is that it provides the emphasis and practice on the vocabulary in a cognitively useful way with no prior knowledge needed from the instructor and easily understandable feedback to the learner as to their progress.

Overall I’m excited that I’ve been able to offer this instructional package to the other culinary instructors in Virginia and look forward to getting their feedback and evaluations from their implementations and plowing that back into the analysis, design and development.  Not only will the process lead to better instruction but also help to build connections and collaboration to a segment of secondary teachers that are usually the only teacher of their subject in the district, often not the most technologically comfortable and as a result not well networked.  Considering even refrigerators are connected now, this is something that needs to be addressed.

Photo: SAC Faye Storer/MOD [OGL (], via Wikimedia Commons

The Search for Meaning

Designing Instruction means the designer applies intention to as many effective aspects of instruction as appropriate. Designing instruction means focusing on what is taught, how it is taught and why the instruction exists. Designing Instruction means less wasted time for the instructor and for the learners because there is a structure that provides the underlying framework that is necessary to create and implement effective instruction. You start with the first things first!
“It’s the analysis, stupid…”

freudFreud – Exploring the Unconscious Mind. (2006, August 30). Retrieved May 9, 2017, from
How many times does everyone just start doing something, anything, just to feel productive rather than taking a moment and defining the problem? How many instances in life is some piece of communication aimed at the wrong audience? How often are the needs of those involved, not just the guest but also the employees or the bystanders or those in the future not taken into the slightest consideration? It seems so intuitive to begin at the beginning, when the best place to begin is the end. Knowing where you want to go lets you see how to get there and having an inkling of the workings of Instructional Design makes that journey smoother and the chance of getting to the destination.
Instructional Design requires empathy on the part of the designer. They need to be able to see things from many different perspectives, not just the users but also the facilitators. One must understand the audience in order to design for it. They also need an understanding of visual design principles to create products that are appealing to look at as well as cognitive and learning theory. They must be flexible problem solvers because plans will always change due to unforeseen exigencies but the end goal mustn’t be lost. They need to be organized and focused to manage complex projects in a never ending cycle of creation, evaluation and improvement. They can never actually be satisfied because satisfaction is the enemy of innovation and excellence.
The designer is charged with creating a focused product that is attractive looking, appeals to users of diverse abilities and interests who also have different learning preferences and construct it in such a way that makes it more likely to be stored and recalled by the learner. Effective design means engaging usability for intended instructors and the learners who easily gain and retain the information being presented, assess that knowledge in a meaningful way and constantly look for ways to increase feedback and improve the process as simply as possible in as many ways as possible.


One of the important aspects of the class my client teaches, Intro to Biology, is that the students have not been successful with their standardized test in Biology and are in this class to give them a better chance of passing the test and being able to earn their standard diploma.  When looking at the analysis, I wanted to address the standards through hands-on activities whenever possible and avoid teacher centered direct instruction as that can be anathema to many students. It has been my experience that having a clear and present end product and outcome provides greater student motivation.  In my classes, my students learn best and with the greatest self-direction when they feel they are working with a purpose rather than providing fodder for assessment data and the students that make-up this class are similar in demographic and abilities to those of my own vocational classes.  I would say motivation for my client’s class is an even more important aspect of student and classroom success because she teaches a required course whereas most of my students chose my class over other electives.  The tricky aspect of this idea is figuring out how to best connect the activities with the objectives in an intuitive way.  Much like misplaced engagement, which for me has become symbolic of bright and shiny objects to catch students’ attention, it doesn’t do any good for them to create something and not understand how it relates to the objectives.

“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
Carroll, L., Tenniel, J., & Gardner, M. (1960). The annotated Alice: Alice’s adventures in wonderland Through the looking glass. New York, NY: Bramhal House.

Analysis provides the direction to the design.  You figure out which way to go, because the analysis makes you look at why, how and where you want to go.  When I was in the Career Switcher teacher credentialing program in 2007, I spent my week of teacher observation in my son’s 8th grade science teacher.  One of the many things I took away from that experience, besides the meaning of cutting something like a hot dog or like a hamburger, was to not let students work on the cover of the foldable or whatever they are making until they’re done with the actual material.  Don’t forget the point of the activity, don’t let them get lost in making it pretty and not have time to actually learn.  The student centered “design” elements weren’t benefiting from an analysis and needed direction.  It was the analysis that directed the very clever use of design in the Information R/Evolution video (Wesch, 2007) to present the premise that we have developed a different relationship with information as a result of the forces of technology and economics.  The use of the evolving media to illustrate how information and communication have evolved organically from the design which influenced the resulting analysis in a cycle of change and innovation that has changed not only how we think of information, but the meaning of the information is influenced by the design.  Design is the craft of creating effective learning materials but it must serve the analysis, it must go where you want to get to but the journey never ends and the design will help you decide where you should go next.


My view of how learning takes place has changed in the last year as I have more fully processed my intern experience at Per Se. During my time there I was working in a position within an extremely structured environment that had two goals:  provide the kitchen with the best fundamental preparations humanly possible and learn the physical, social and emotional skills necessary to be successful in an extremely stressful environment completely focused on the highest standards of quality in every way imaginable.  Design of the workplace played an important role in channeling desired behaviors and simplifying work flow.  I also witnessed the power of a culture of extreme attention to detail in execution and organization.  When everyone pays very close attention to the most basic fundamentals such as how things are labeled and stored, it builds a habit of doing everything the right way and promotes respect for the ingredients as well as the facility.


Per Se Product Storage [Personal photograph taken in Per Se, NY]. (2015, July 19).

One of the biggest impacts from my Per Se experience was my own reaction to feedback.  Towards the end of my internship, there were some newly hired employees coming on board.  Everyone must first work as a commis (see diagram below) before working anywhere else so that they have a personal perspective of not only the fundamental techniques but also the organization and culture of the kitchen and the brigade.  Some of the stations in the commis kitchen are more demanding than others and one of the newly hired chefs was put on one of the most difficult stations on his first day.  In a kitchen that has some of the highest standards of quality and technique in world, feedback is always truthful, but it can also be abrupt and harsh.  The new chef was subject to a punishing amount of negative feedback as he struggled on his first day in the kitchen.  In the locker room after the shift, I sought to comfort him that his new bosses must have high hopes for him because they had given him such a tough trial on his very first day.  He smiled and said it was one of the best days of his career because he knew he was getting exponentially better every time he was criticized. Rather than trying to merely “stay out of trouble” he took all the negative feedback not as a comment on his personal ability or worth but rather an opportunity to learn how to perform to be successful at the highest levels of his industry.  I strove from that day on to be a better exemplar of accepting and processing feedback in a more effective way and to frame my own feedback in such a way to encourage a similar perspective in my students. Rather than working to stay out of trouble, the focus is on acceptance and improving in the future.

With student learning, I believe curiosity begets inquiry which facilitates cognitive changes that are affected by an individual’s social, cultural and genetic circumstance.  Student agency helps create an environment that encourages them to figure things out, which in turn helps builds new neural connections.  I have only meaningfully learned when I wanted to and as a collaborative constructivist I deem that people in my field learn best when they work as a group in an authentic environment with goals, expectations and standards addressing the same needs and circumstances as are found in the industry.  The slings and arrows of the everyday professional workplace require organic development of specific physical, mental and personality skills to achieve success and it has been my experience that being exposed to them in a controlled, purposeful way helps to nurture those skills into a meaningful permanence for employees and students.  Teachers who “engage students to learn by experience through authentic pedagogy will most likely see the fruits of higher intellectual achievements, not only in classrooms and schools, but more importantly, in their roles as adults as contributing citizens of society.”  Knobloch, N. A. (2003). Is Experiential Learning Authentic? Journal of Agricultural Education,44(4), 22-34. doi:10.5032/jae.2003.04022

When you are lacking in faith,
Others will be unfaithful to you.-Tao Teh Ching
Laozi, & Wu, J. C. (1990). Tao Teh Ching. Boston: Shambhala.


Le Coq, F. (2014, August 12). Distrust. Retrieved February 1, 2017, from

 Teachers should be servant-leaders serving the learning of their students.  Like a successful workplace, teachers must develop an atmosphere of trust and agency.  When students are given meaningful work with clear goals and expectations they naturally create an active, student centered, individualized, collaborative, empowered classroom.  When they work in a trusting environment that embraces the significance and power of learning from failure it creates a culture of discovery, prototyping and innovation that emphasizes the skills sought by employers today. Shell, L. (2016, November 22). Why it’s OK to fail: empowering students to discover. Retrieved January 30, 2017, from 


Starbuck, L. (2015, December 17). The Kitchen Brigade. Retrieved January 28, 2017, from



Columbus Circle, NY, NY [Personal photograph taken in New York, NY]. (2015, July 20).

Instructional Design in the Wild

Looking at the world with “instructional design colored glasses”creates an interesting perspective on the motivations and techniques behind communications of all sorts.


Fios Remote [Personal photograph taken in Fredericksburg, VA]. (2017, January 22).

Consider the humble remote control.  As our society has moved away from relatively expensive printed instruction manuals and towards user discovery, implicit and explicit instructional design becomes more important than ever.  The design of this device has a significant impact on the end goal of providing the user with a satisfactory viewing experience and has an impact on the consumer’s perception of value for all the various components that make up the experience: the television manufacturer, cable company and even the content providers.  Yet the understanding of its use and the details of successful interaction are left to the consumer to figure out from the design.  Customer satisfaction is dependent upon button placement, shape, size, labeling, color and juxtaposition and many of the labels only make sense in a present day context.  While ‘mute’ would be familiar to someone from the 1970’s, ‘last’, ‘widgets’, ‘menu’ and ‘PIP’ would probably not be easily understood and may even be mysteries to contemporaries but interestingly may not have a huge impact on most users’ satisfaction.  In our present culture, as long as the basic functions are easily understood, many of the more esoteric functions are left as ‘Easter eggs’ to be discovered by those who want to figure them out.

Another interesting facet of the design of a remote control is duplicative functions depending on user preference as some people may prefer to choose specific channels through the number keys while others use the channel toggle while still others may want to navigate the guide with the direction buttons.  As channel choice is the most important feature of the remote control, it is understandable that there would be several modes to accomplish it that would appeal to different users.

The remote control has to be many things to many people and it is relatively successful as most people don’t even notice how it provides them with what they want.  Simple, direct, useful, communicative, differentiable and intuitive are useful characteristics for a technology and instructional design as well.  Especially when considering learning technology which may preclude direct instruction, making something that communicates well without requiring a lot of direction is an important characteristic and useful goal.


Prep List [Personal photograph taken in Per Se NY]. (2015, July 13).

In the summer of 2015 I had the great opportunity to experience one of the most educationally rich environments of my life as I interned as a commis for a month at Thomas Keller‘s Per Se in New York, one of only 14 restaurants rated 3 stars by the Michelin Guide in the United States.  An essential tool of communication was the commis prep list.  The staff of the kitchen are part of a traditional hierarchy known as a kitchen brigade with the chef at the top of the pyramid and commis at the bottom but the work of the commis kitchen is some of the most important as its quality forms the foundation of the quality of work throughout.  The goal of this document is to let the commis know what basic preparations the upper level chefs (chefs de partie) need to make the dishes they have planned for the day.

I have made and used many forms of prep lists but this one is designed in an elegant and effective way.  The standard recipes are listed with amounts and which shift needs them and categorized by which commis station will most likely be working on them with space available for special prep that is outside the routine.  With a 9 course tasting menu that changes daily there are always special projects.

The collaboration that the prep list helps to structure is also remarkable.  The line chefs all have a meeting at the end of their shift every day with the chef in charge of the commis and they decide, after looking at what is available, what they want to serve the next day and what they need from the commis kitchen.  Each chef hears what the others are creating and builds the menu so that there are no repetitions and the sequence makes sense.  The next day the commis kitchen uses the same list collaboratively so that everyone knows what needs to be done and can work on something they are good at or pitch in on projects that are going to be difficult or time consuming.  As no one leaves until everything is done, completion of the list becomes the goal of the commis kitchen and fulfills the goal the line chefs had in filling it out.

Besides the tactical advantages I learned from the use of such a list, another aspect that would directly apply to instructional design would be the use of structure to create collaboration and teamwork.  It’s not just that the list is well formatted, the way that it is used builds on the core values of Thomas Keller Restaurant Group and promotes an effective kitchen culture.

View from Per Se [Personal photograph taken in New York, NY]. (2015, July 19).

Setting the Table

Welcome to my Blog on Instructional Systems Design.  I will be reflecting on various concepts, opinions and issues in Instructional Design as applied to Culinary Education. Vocational training is becoming more important than ever and much like the trends in food and cooking, is being modernized as more educational techniques and paradigms are adapted to the culinary classroom to provide more effective teaching and learning.  Similar to the application of scientific methods and thinking that has had a significant impact on the way food is prepared and presented, applying a more academic design to culinary instruction will help to make it more relevant to the present.

Please feel free to join the conversation!