By Chef Dina Altieri, Dean of the School of Culinary Arts
As a coach, I have helped students not only achieve gold medals and national recognition in competitions, but also have helped propel their motivation in the classroom and the kitchen. It’s important to note that our competitions (and all the preparation that goes into them!) have made me a better chef, educator and leader.
How do we, as educators, prepare students for success in the classroom, but also as professionals? Here, I share a few strategies, which I recently presented at the University of New Mexico’s Mentoring Conference.
Revamp your curriculum to focus on engagement. Interactive, collaborative assignments are especially useful for a diverse student population. Students need the opportunity to express themselves professionally among their peers. When faculty members choose activities that encourage student-to-student contact, they help create an environment that supports two-way conversation among peers.
Engagement leads students to build strong interpersonal skills, which translate to the workplace. In addition to stimulating conversations between students and faculty members, engaging coursework also allows faculty members to watch as students’ interpersonal skills grow, by seeing students accept constructive criticism and work to improve. This skill extends well beyond the classroom. It is important to future employers that graduates have solid communication skills and interact professionally in the work place.
Demonstrate the importance of grit. Angela Duckworth propelled conversations about grit with her 2013 TED talk titled “The Power of Passion and Perseverance.” Showing students that learning is a “marathon, not a sprint” is critically important. Completion of a challenging task is rewarding, but an intense feeling of satisfaction may come from the fact that one has previously tasted inadequacy. This is a natural part of life and helps to build courage, confidence and resilience—all key factors in a gritty personality. Making the work too easy is not the answer. In fact, some students will lose interest if the work is not challenging. The desire to persevere and become better than the last attempt is a virtue educators should instill in their students.
Become an active coach in your classroom. Great educators push students toward success through thoughtful coaching. They carefully articulate the expectations and do not compromise course standards to pass students. Also, they provide learning activities to build their students’ stamina and promote progress toward mastery. Allowing room for growth through a progression of learning outcomes is a key component in any successful teaching strategy.
Continuous learning is as important for educators as it is for students. John Wooden, an American basketball player and coach once said, “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” In the classroom, students are not the only ones who are learning. Faculty members have the ability to design (and redesign) quality course materials that keep students interested. While lecturing and demonstration are powerful teaching tools, an instructor’s ability to thread together new and varied learning activities to help students make connections can have a magical effect on student learning. Furthermore, creating two-way communication with students will require them to reflect on their learning, which will inform how you design your courses.
Student success is the collaborative responsibility of the student and the institution. In increasingly diverse educational environments, it is critical to incorporate new strategies to reach individual learners. Educators can dually teach while coaching student behaviors conducive to a growth mindset. Academic and social integration, in addition to collaborative learning models, can actively engage learners, but an educator’s understanding of their role in student success must guide the plan. By modeling positive learning behaviors, educators can drive student learning with a collaborative spirit and a clear focus on student success.