Who am I?

This is me…

This work is about the obsession that is my life…food. Everything that I do revolves around food. My Google searches lead to recipes and my conversations are about foods that I’ve eaten (or would like to eat). My vacation planning always begins with “Where should we eat?”. Some would say that makes me a glutton but in reality, it’s what makes me really good at my job.

I teach cooking, mostly baking, and that constant immersion in the food world creates a passion for the topic that is energizing to my students. The highest compliment I ever got from a student was proof of this. He told his friend, ” You are so lucky to have Mrs. K. She is the best teacher because she is so passionate about everything in her life, especially food. You’ll make amazing food and you’ll learn a lot.”

BUT, this was not the only version of this artwork. The original work showed a more well-rounded person, not quite so food-centric.  I was quite proud of it but it had to be changed to protect the identity of the young and innocent children in my life. Since this blog is public I chose to adjust my work so their pictures aren’t made public.

This work still shows a lot about my life and I’m still proud of it. While creating it I made the connection between my passion for food and being a great teacher.  That helped me become more comfortable with who I am and developed a better understanding of how the parts of my life are connected.

Solving Wicked Problems

For weeks now I’ve been sharing with you the steps I’ve gone through to identify a wicked problem in my classroom.  It started with a simple session of writing questions, followed by organizing the questions and choosing the most important ones. All of the questions helped to identify the following wicked problem in my classroom: Can I re-imagine my baking curriculum as inquiry-based, driven by student questions, and engaging for all learners?

Once the problem was identified I started to gather data to help in crafting a solution. The first thing I did was to create a survey to gather feedback from fellow teachers.

Data who took the surveyThen I went a step further and spent time searching for and reading research articles related to the problem. Right away the research findings started to allay some of my concerns.  For example, one concern that I had was whether I could cover all of the required topics if I used inquiry-based learning because it can take up a lot of time. It was discovered in one study that “covering less material in inquiry-based sections had no negative effect on students’ later performance” (Kogan & Laursen, 2013).  A website that I found useful, as I was crafting my solution, was the Right Question Institute as it is a wonderful resource for inquiry-based learning.

The following presentation details the entire process, including the final proposed solution. To get the full experience, with voiceover, I suggest following the link to Haiku Deck. By clicking on the audio icon on the bottom of each slide you will be able to hear my thoughts that are in addition to the information on the slide.

The solution proposed in the presentation was the result of a lot of thinking, making changes, and thinking again. I really wanted to create the most thorough solution I could with the hope that it would reduce the hiccups during implementation.  A lot of work up front tends to reduce the problems later on.

The first action step for the students, the creation of their individual questions, was possibly the most difficult to decide upon. In all of the reading that I did, it was suggested that we create the questions as a group. The reason I chose to go my own direction on this is that I have students with anxiety and it would be too stressful for them to do this part of the activity in a group setting. They need the freedom to create questions without pressure. Once they have created their list of questions they get to look back over them and choose their best questions. The “best” questions would be the ones that apply most directly to the topic and would be more likely to help expand the learning on the topic.

From these initial steps, the focus changes from individual work to collaborative work. The students put their questions together on one Google Keep board and organize them in multiple ways to make sure everyone has a thorough understanding of the depth and breadth of the questions. It’s possible that they will gain a better understanding of the topic simply by moving the questions around into different categories.

The most exciting part of the process is choosing the plan of action and following it. The students will be very likely to use a recipe, or recipes, to find their answers. It is important to clarify that students are taught the correct way to manipulate recipes and make substitutions so it is not outside of their abilities to complete research in this way.

It is critical that the final step of the process is not forgotten.  The information is useless if they do nothing with it, so students must create a presentation and share their findings. This has the potential to increase the knowledge of the entire class and the students also get the chance to show off their final products with pride.

I’m very excited to use this in my classroom. We are starting a new unit next week and the topic is cookies. I think it is the perfect time to put the plan into action.

References – 

Kogan, M. & Laursen, S.L. (2014). Assessing Long-Term Effects of Inquiry-Based Learning: A Case Study from College Mathematics. Innovative Higher Education, 39, 183-199. https://doi-org.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/10.1007/s10755-013-9269-9

Rothstein, D & Santana, L (2011). Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

The Classroom of My Dreams

My classroom is an afterthought. The single cooking lab that the district had wasn’t enough space they didn’t want to spend money.  Instead, they commandeered the classroom next door and “transformed” it by adding three conventional ovens, three refrigerators, and three sinks. There are typically 24 students using the space at a time, working in six cooking groups. Having three stoves and sinks but six baking groups are inconvenient at best.


Appliances, equipment, and ingredients have all been strategically distributed around the room to make traffic flow possible when the class is full. We’ve made it so efficient that we even run a bake shop out of this space once a month.

Our current space has been maximized, but our enrollment is climbing. It is possible that in the future there will be a need for not only an upgraded space but a new high school altogether. This is what was on my mind this week when I started exploring experience design. If you aren’t familiar with it yet, experience design is a design practice focused on human outcomes. It is iterative, collaborative, and measurable (Wood, 2018). What experience designers do is look at people and human needs as their first frame of reference for designing. They might be planning a hospital, a shopping experience, or a classroom.

With the idea of the perfect classroom space in mind, I tried my hand at experience design. A few things that I focused on were: space, traffic flow, communication, and incorporating nature.

Dream Classroom 3D view

 As you can see, there is abundant space in the new design. Six team spaces have everything needed for conducting cooking experiments.  There is a conventional stove, a sink, a stand mixer, and a small refrigerator.  There is a tablet on a stand so the team can access their recipe while they work. Also in each team space is a counter table with four chairs so students can roll out big batches of dough when they are cooking or sit and work on their laptops while completing a lesson. They can even sit at the table to taste their work and talk about the next iteration of the recipe.

Traffic flow should not be an issue in this space. With each team working in their own kitchen there will be less need for moving about.  Also, the ingredients are on the rows of shelves in the center of the room where all groups can access them.  The two identical spaces in the back corners are production baking spaces. They are well equipped with two Hobart mixers and two double convection ovens. The three teams on each side of the room will share the nearest baking space to make baked goods, in large quantity, for the bakeshop up front.

3D view #1

All of the walls between the team kitchens are 3.5 feet tall. Just high enough to define the space but short enough to encourage communication amongst the teams. If a problem or question arises in one kitchen, they can ask the other students around them for suggestions. This “community spirit” approach is fostered in my current classroom because I won’t always be around so the students should learn how to use the other resources around them when they are in a bind.

The final focus was on incorporating nature into the classroom. I wasn’t surprised to find out that “Increasing daylight in classrooms has been shown to cut down on absenteeism and improve test scores” (O’Donnell et al., 2010). To bring the outside into the classroom, and also give it a purpose there, I added herbs and edible florals. These plants are beautiful on top of the ingredients shelves, and since they are grown hydroponically, they don’t introduce dirt to the kitchen. There is also a massive skylight above the plants and windows in every kitchen.

3D view #3

This has been a fascinating experience, and I’ve learned a lot from purposefully thinking about the use of space. The design still isn’t perfect, but I intend on continuing to make changes as I pursue studying the cooking experience in my classroom. When they are ready to build a new school, I’ll be prepared with my design.

References – 

All 3D images were created using FloorPlanner.com

O’Donnell Wicklund Pigozzi and Peterson, Architects Inc., VS Furniture., & Bruce Mau Design. (2010). The third teacher: 79 ways you can use design to transform teaching & learning. New York: Abrams.

Wood, T. (2018, July 18). Experience Design: A Definition. Retrieved from https://www.foolproof.co.uk/journal/experience-design-a-definition/

Initial Survey Data

Last week I wrote about my experiences first identifying my wicked problem and then constructing a survey to gather data about it.  To recap, my wicked problem is:  Re-imagining the baking curriculum as inquiry-based, driven by student questions, and engaging for all learners.  My survey began with a question about the respondent’s knowledge of inquiry-based learning.  This question helped to identify the respondents who didn’t have any understanding of the topic vs. those who were well versed in it.  You can see below that 22% of the respondents were unfamiliar with inquiry-based learning.

Data who took the surveyI was concerned at first that this might cause an issue, with suggestions given that didn’t apply to the topic. However, while some of the responses directly related to the workings of inquiry-based learning were a bit off topic, responses to more general issues were quite useful. For example, one respondent who was unfamiliar with inquiry-based learning left a few of the specific questions unanswered but gave an excellent suggestion for engaging the hard to engage students. 

The next bit of the survey that has been gathering interesting data is the question about how to generate “Big Questions.”  I was actually quite torn with how to construct “Big Questions” in my classroom, but this has solidified for me the way they should be created.

Data Pic #1

I was surprised by this data. I didn’t expect it to be unanimous especially since some of the respondents were unfamiliar with inquiry-based learning.

The most useful data so far has been from the open-ended questions. Such as this one about how to teach students to ask better questions.

Data Pic #2

I found it most interesting that one of the respondents suggested the Question-Formulation Technique which I have been recently reading.  This technique has three parts “Produce Your Own Questions, Improve Your Questions, and Prioritize Your Questions” (Rothstein & Santana, p 25).  It was a relief to have my current knowledge and understanding reinforced by someone who has used inquiry-based learning in their classroom.

I also felt that the suggestion to model examples of questions or demonstrate how to ask good questions was quite helpful.  I keep going back and forth in my own understanding on when to teach the students how to ask higher level questions. Since my role during the inquiry-based learning is as facilitator or guide, I shouldn’t be guiding their questions during the inquiry. This comment helped to solidify for me that we should practice the skill of constructing questions BEFORE our first inquiry-based unit. The following youtube video is a useful learning tool to start with.

Not only does it show students the different levels of questions but it tells them which level of questions they should be crafting for an inquiry-based unit. After watching the video, the students can practice writing questions about a practice topic.

When I crafted the survey, I added a question about discouraging students from asking questions. The question had a specific purpose. It would help me gather data about a problem I read about and found troubling.  Some teachers discourage questioning because it makes them feel uncomfortable. Others because there isn’t enough time to cover all of the required curricula if they veer off in search of answers. This is unfortunate because “as kids stop questioning, they simultaneously become less engaged in school” (Berger, p 45)

Data Pic #3

As you can see from the data above this question garnered a range of responses. I’m glad in retrospect that I followed it up with the next question, which helps to clarify the initial responses.

Data Pic #4

I am relieved to see that more than half of the respondents strongly disagree or disagree with discouraging students from asking questions. It is unfortunate that some teachers are unable to give up that bit of control over the classroom and be in a supportive rather than controlling role.

Overall, the initial data is encouraging and has helped me to construct some solutions to my wicked problem, as described above.  I’m looking forward to gathering the remaining data.


Barker, Kelsey. “Instant Inquiry: Level1, 2, and 3 Questions.” YouTube, YouTube, 8 Jan. 2017, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7j6BM002ksk.

Berger, Warren. (2014). A more beautiful question: the power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

Rothstein, D & Santana, L (2011). Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

The Long Road of Planning

In my blog post last week “Challenges In Innovative Technologies” I wrote about my experiences giving feedback on the work of my colleagues from multiple perspectives. The first lens I used while providing feedback was Universal Design for Learning and the second was Intersectionality. At the same time, they were also providing feedback related to my draft of a Learning Experience.

I started my week digging into the feedback provided and weighing the suggestions from my colleagues against my vision of the final learning experience. The feedback was very helpful and gave me new perspectives to work from. Perspectives that I hadn’t considered yet. In the following screenshot, you’ll see that my colleague had questions about the prior knowledge of the students, how they would learn the necessary skills to complete the project, and how in-depth the knowledge of circuits would be for the students. Feedback #1

All of the concerns pointed to areas that needed more thorough explanation in the final iteration of the learning experience.

I still didn’t feel that I was ready to start the final rewrite of my learning experience. Intersectionality had really struck a chord with me, and I wanted to understand it even more thoroughly from an education perspective. Conducting research was the natural next step, so I spent time reading research articles about Intersectionality and how it impacts the educational environment. While I was at it, I also followed another path of curiosity toward creativity as it relates to STEAM.

Finally, I sat down at the laptop and brought the learning plan up.  A huge concern for me as I read through the lesson was that as educational professionals “continue to construct disability as unidimensional, they continue to contribute to the master narrative of disability that shames and marginalizes” (Hernandes, Gutman & Cannon, 2018). It was imperative that I think about the WHOLE student as I revised my plan.

I worked my way through from beginning to end making improvements. I started by adding an expanded schedule of events.  Instead of just stating that the lesson would take 10 days, I broke it down by the number of days each section should take.  This will be helpful to students who need the understanding up front of what lies ahead. Also, in this picture, you will see that I included a list of prerequisite skills so the project should only be assigned to students who already have the proper skills to be successful.Pic 1 of Revisions

The next change was adding a coversheet and blank cake form for the students to use while they designed their cake. The cover sheet gives details that are required for the project. The items they must incorporate to be successful. The blank cake form is just a page with an outline of a cake on it.  The students are expected to make a colorful representation of what they expect their final cake to look like, from 2 sides, on these pages.  From experience, I know that when working together in a group on such a large project the students need to sketch out the final design first, so everyone knows from the start what the goal is.   This leads to tension in the group later on during cake production. The questions from my colleague reminded me that I need to put these items on the learning plan to make it clear.

Pic 2 of Revision

The last change was the addition of a class critique of the final cakes. You can find the details of this addition by reading my learning plan “Fondant Cake Decorating: Can We Make a Cake Light Up?”.

One thing that I still need to work on was inspired by my research into creativity and STEAM. “in nurturing and developing creativity, teachers, administrators, and schools must approach creativity within education by developing an interdisciplinary transferral of competences” (Harris & de Bruin, 2017). I have set a goal to connect with the science teachers in the district to work collaboratively in the future with the circuits. This is evidence that even when we think our learning plan is perfected there is always more work to do to keep it current. Lesson planning should never become static.


Harris, A. & de Bruin, L (2017). Secondary school creativity, teacher practice and STEAM education: An international study. Journal of Educational Change, 19(2), 153-179. https://link-springer-com.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/article/10.1007%2Fs10833-017-9311-2#enumeration

Hernández-Saca, D. I., Gutmann Kahn, L., & Cannon, M. A. (2018). Intersectionality Dis/ability Research: How Dis/ability Research in Education Engages Intersectionality to Uncover the Multidimensional Construction of Dis/abled Experiences. Review of Research in Education, 42(1), 286–311. https://doi.org/10.3102/0091732X18762439

Wicked Problems and a Survey

This week I took all of the questions I generated in “The Questions Continue” and “Why don’t we ask more questions?” and I thought about how I really wanted to change my teaching and what that would mean for the students. With all of that clarified, I finalized my wicked problem. Wicked problems are those issues that never get solved because they contain so many ever-changing variables. Once you solve one part of the problem another issue comes up.

My wicked problem is:  Re-imagining the baking curriculum as inquiry-based, driven by student questions, and engaging for all learners.  Teaching my students how to ask better questions will also teach them how to be in charge of their own learning which will be beneficial to them in all areas of life. It will serve them as students and as productive members of society.

Now that the problem has been identified the first step in solving it is to collect information. I have written many iterations of a survey to more thoroughly define the problem and ask other teachers to suggest ways to approach a solution.  This is not the first time I have written a survey but it was certainly the most complex experience I have had.  My questions started out very simplistic and not very useful. I think my struggle was because I am a very independent person and asking others for information or help is not part of my personality.  I got some insight from an online article and also excellent feedback from a fellow student in my grad class.

\Now I think the survey is in the best form and ready for you to respond. Please consider taking a few minutes of your time to take my Inquiry-Based Learning Survey.  I would really appreciate your assistance.


(2019, February 27). Survey Design Best Practices: How to Write a Good Questionnaire. Retrieved from https://www.mymarketresearchmethods.com/survey-design-best-practices/


Challenges in Innovative Technologies

This week I was tasked with exploring broad issues in innovative technologies.  UDL and Intersectionality were selected for our exploration. UDL stands for Universal Design for Learning and asks the teacher to think about how to meet the needs of their students while they are planning so that they can be proactive in preparing for diverse learners. The information that I found to be the most useful was a chart with links for ideas in applying UDL.

The term Intersectionality was new to me. It was a  term, created “to deal with the fact that many of our social justice problems like racism and sexism are often overlapping, creating multiple levels of social injustice” (Crenshaw, 2016). After I watched the Ted Talk by Kimberle Crenshaw the takeaway I had was that people have layers to their identity that all have to be considered if we want to really see who they are.

I created the following presentation to express my understanding of both topics.


My Smilebox Creation

This was also critique week in my grad class which means we were asked to read a classmates learning plan and give feedback from UDL and Intersectionality.  The UDL feedback was more comfortable to offer than the Intersectionality feedback. I hesitated to pretend to be looking at the lesson from a perspective that isn’t my own until it occurred to me that I too have many layers and there are perspectives I can provide.
Overall, a great week with feedback from colleagues that made me look at my learning plan with different eyes. I have work to do now to make improvements, and that’s a good thing. It means I’m growing and becoming a better teacher for ALL of my students.


** All photos in the presentation are the work of the author **

Crenshaw, K. (2016, October). Kimberle Crenshaw: The Urgency of Intersectionality [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/kimberle_crenshaw_the_urgency_of_intersectionality?language=en

Reflections on Planning

Today I put some final touches on a draft lesson plan, and it was more of a struggle than I’m used to. I like planning learning experiences and writing curriculum.  Something about organizing my thoughts and ideas into a structured format resonates with my personality. That, however, isn’t the case when I’m not thoroughly versed in the topic. The learning experience I was planning today incorporated a new technology that I’m not an “expert” in yet, so it was harder to write. Without knowing all of the possible hiccups, it is hard to plan for all eventualities.

The planning started by thinking about what I wanted the students to be able to do at the end of the lesson. I’m well versed in the “Understanding by Design,” or UbD, approach. In UbD there are three stages of design: Stage 1 Identifying Desired Results, Stage 2 Determining Acceptable Evidence, Stage 3 Planning Learning Experiences, and Instruction (Wiggins & McTighe, p. 18).  Stage 1 was relatively easy to identify.  I want the students to be able to decorate a cake with fondant and successfully use circuit stickers to make their cake light up. Stage 2 wasn’t too difficult either.  The cake must have colorful 3D fondant objects, and at least one light must illuminate using the circuit stickers. Stage 3, however, was challenging. Since I haven’t used this technology in the classroom before I don’t have a clear idea of how this will go. To overcome this problem I will ask my independent study student to complete the project ahead of the full class so we can see what trouble he runs into. That will allow me to be slightly more prepared.

The lesson plan draft is called “Can we make a cake light up?” . Please share your thoughts in the form of a comment.


Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

The Questions Continue

“Great questioners “keep looking” — at a situation or a problem, at the ways people around them behave, at their own behaviors” (Berger, p 87).  After reading this in Berger’s book this week, I did some observation of the students and myself in my classroom. I saw a disturbing, yet predictable, pattern emerge. The person asking the questions in the classroom is almost always me.  Student questions are missing. They may ask out of necessity, but they don’t ask out of curiosity.

These observations were on my mind as I looked back over the questions I wrote last week during my five minutes of question quickfire. The more I looked at the questions, the more patterns I saw so I spent some time moving them around on a whiteboard organizing them in different ways and recorded my thought process as I did it.

One problem I ran into while organizing my questions was that I didn’t have any why questions. Berger says that the creative process can be divided into Why, What If, and How stages. “If What If is about imagining and How is about doing, the initial Why stage has to do with seeing and understanding” (page 75). During my video, I identify the questions that I feel at the most important, but they aren’t “Why” questions. To remedy this problem, I thought for a while about what I was really trying to get at by asking the original questions, and then I came up with the following “Why” questions to replace them.2019-03-29_17-51-37_848

I’m looking forward to seeing where these questions lead in my classroom.  It is becoming increasingly clear to me that encouraging the students to start asking their own questions is in everyone’s best interest.


Berger, Warren. (2014). A more beautiful question: the power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

Why don’t we ask more questions?


Have you ever set aside 5 minutes to just ask questions? Starting with one question and just writing down all of the questions that come to mind for 5 minutes? Before this week I had never tried it either, but now that I have I think it is a good practice. The picture above is the end result of my 5 minutes of questioning.  I started with a question about inquiry (or questioning), and at the end of 5 minutes, I had created a board of questions that have the potential to dramatically change the way I teach.

Keeping myself focused on writing down questions regularly for 5 minutes was tough. I really struggled at first to think of more questions, but then they started to flow a little more freely. By the end, I was so focused I jumped when the timer went off. I’m a curious person, and I think I ask an average number of questions on a given day. I ask questions of my students to guide them toward answers, or to encourage curiosity, but also to check for their understanding of the current topic. I ask questions of my colleagues. I direct questions at my children when I pick them up from after-school care to inquire about their day, their learning, their plans for the evening. However, in general, I never ask as many questions in a row as I did during this 5-minute exercise.

To prepare for the exercise, I first read a portion of Warren Berger’s “A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas.”  In his book he suggests that all of the great “changemakers” have one thing in common, “they were exceptionally good at asking questions” (Berger, p. 1). Questions are powerful because they help us learn, they challenge us to think, and they lead us to new discoveries. It’s human nature to be curious and ask questions, and in childhood, we ask an extraordinary number of questions. That begins to disappear as we age and it’s unclear why. It might be because questioning is such a part of us that we take it for granted. It could also be that we’re taught not to ask questions via our school experiences.

Unfortunately, in our schools and even workplaces, we don’t encourage people to ask questions. In many cases, we actively discourage it. Some teachers discourage questioning because it makes them feel uncomfortable. Others because there isn’t enough time to cover all of the required curricula if they veer off in search of answers. This is unfortunate because “as kids stop questioning, they simultaneously become less engaged in school” (Berger, p 45).

In Berger’s book there is a section heading that says, “Can a school be built on questions?” (p. 50) and in the margin, I have written in big bold letters I WANT TO WORK THERE! It just makes so much sense to encourage our children to ask more questions, not less.  I’m completely hooked on this idea. All of my questions from the 5 minutes were related to structuring my teaching around inquiry. Upfront it seems like a logistical nightmare. There are 24 students per class, and we don’t have the resources (stoves, sinks, mixers, etc.) or the budget to go in 24 different directions. It might mean letting go of some control in the classroom because if the teacher asks all of the questions they hold all the power.  However, it has worked for others so why couldn’t it work in my classroom as well?

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of Berger’s book and exploring his website.  My future reading is piling up as I just purchased a book by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana, founders of the “Right Question Institute,” who were written about by Berger.  I’m sure this will just help me create more questions.


Berger, Warren. (2014). A more beautiful question: the power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.