I have a problem with my Advanced Baking course that I want to solve. The problem is that the Advanced Baking course is repetitive and needs to be reworked. I’ve spent time talking to the students to find out what they think of the course and how they feel it would be best to improve it. That was stage one of the design process. Now I’ve moved on to stage two which is defining the problem. As I mentioned in my last blog post defining the problem seems very straight forward and easy…but it isn’t. I have struggled this week with looking at it creatively and reframing it.
To help me with reframing the problem I worked through a few activities to help push my thinking. The first was a list of “5 Whys?”. It helped me identify the root cause of the problem and went something like this.
My Problem is: The advanced baking course needs to be redesigned
Why? Why does the advanced baking course need to be redesigned?
Response 1: It is too similar to the baking course and that makes it repetitive.
Why? Why is it too repetitive?
Response 2: The units of study are the same in both courses.
Why? Why are the units of study so similar?
Response 3: That was how it was written by the teacher before me.
Why? Why did she write the units of study in this way?
Response 4: She felt that baking should be about cake decorating.
Why? Why did she focus on cake decorating?
Response 5 (my root cause): That was what she was comfortable with.
The second activity was a “Why How Ladder” and it helped me to identify a very abstract common need that addressed all of the needs of the students. Then by asking How for each of the original Why statements I was able to come up with some possible actions that might help solve the problem.
In the end, I was able to come up with a definition of the problem. A definition that will probably need to be tweaked to perfection over the coming week.
Definition of the Problem
The problem is that the Advanced Baking course is repetitive and does not give the users an opportunity for individualizing the content and choosing the lab experiences that give them the experience they need. The users are high school students who are interested in baking and have already taken introductory coursework in baking which gave them background knowledge and the basic skills needed for baking. The root cause of the problem is that the course has not been rewritten for a long time. It was written by a teacher who was not experienced in all areas of baking so she focused it on her favorite areas. From my point of view, this has turned into a bigger problem than I first imagined. We have to go deeper to fix the underlying problems before we begin to work on the way the course is taught.
Now that the problem has been defined I see a total rewrite of the Baking and Advanced Baking courses beginning with a comprehensive scope and sequence as the first step in correcting the problem. That, of course, is just the first step. The course should be written in a way that encourages individual skill building and student-driven learning. Their success in the future hinges on their ability to continue learning even after they finish the course. They also need customer service skills and a chance to produce baked goods on a larger scale.