What We Learned About Good Teaching From On-Line Cooking Courses: How the Pandemic Can Influence High End Learning In The Post COVID Years

Joseph S. Renzulli, Ph.D.

During the pandemic our family, always interested in anything and everything related to cooking and baking, learned about the availability of online courses from places we had previously attended in-person classes. After registering for various courses, we were sent all the necessary background information necessary to prepare us for our one or two hours online. In addition to the obvious (recipes, ingredients, and tools), we also received information on the history of the recipe, the name(s) and emails of famous chef restauranteurs that created the dish, occasionally a short video (usually with English subtitles) of a conversation and demonstration by a well-known chef, and a list of hints from the chef that was teaching the course. 

We were always excited to learn when “cooking night” arrived and felt prepared as our online chef looked at our set up and gave us a “thumbs up” when he or she scanned the layout of our ingredients (we usually hid the bottle of wine from our computer camera). What is most important about these activities was that we were well prepared for the time and learning that took place when we were actually in the (albeit virtual) face-to-face situation with our instructor.  Admittedly, we were in a self-selected subject rather than a prescribed curricular topic; however, we believe that a good deal of this strategy can be used to promote more enjoyable and engaging learning. And because schools using the Enrichment Cluster component of the SEM  (Renzulli, Gentry, & Reis,2002) enables student choice in cluster selection, we found that the online implementation of clusters has worked extremely well.

This approach reminds me of an earlier but frequently used teaching strategy called the Flipped Classroom (Abeysekera, & Dawson, 2014; Bergmann & Sams, 2012). Briefly, this process recommends students prepare beforehand at home with material assigned by teachers to allow for more advanced and interactive learning in the classroom. The preassigned work includes reading background material about a particular topic, including videos, PowerPoint’s, and any other material that is necessary to begin more advanced work on the topic. After completing the preparation work, students arrive in class ready to start analyzing text, engaging in discussions and debates, solving problems, dividing into small groups, and/or planning their own investigating projects. This approach is a much more engaging and enjoyable approach to virtual learning than what one student called “worksheets on line.”

In a certain sense, the virtual learning that the pandemic brought to the education establishment forced us to reconsider the “sit and git” pedagogy that has been prominant since the time of the industrial revolution. During the pandemic, most teachers learned new skills that enabled them to teach despite not being able to see their students on a face-to-face basis; and most students now have online learning capabilities of varying levels. And with technology improving at an exponential rate, new opportunities for engaging and enjoyable personalizing learning are getting easier for teachers to use. Enjoyment, Engagement, and Enthusiasm for Learning (The Three Es) have always been the major goals of our Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM) (Renzulli & Reis, 2014) and this was never more relevant to us than when our family group took the online cooking and baking courses mentioned above. These changes in learning situations have important implications for gifted and talented students because using them may give them a better brand of creative and investigative learning opportunities in both their regular classrooms and special enrichment and/or acceleration programs.

How can the virtual cooking school experiences give us some hints about what we can do in the post-pandemic years to improve learning and teaching? First and foremost, teachers now have a new set of technology skills that will make their jobs easier. Second, rather than sitting for endless hours listening to teacher lectures, taking notes, and preparing for tests, students can receive guidance and resources for receiving preparation information beforehand so that class time can be devoted to much more interactive activities, not only for mastering required material, but also creative work. This work might be investigating a topic in which they have a heightened interest within any prescribed curricular topic. My own baking lets me play around with a couple of my own recipes because I can give myself the license to do so; and accordingly, we can promote more creativity and innovation by giving our students the opportunities, resources, and encouragement to do the same. Perhaps the most important lesson for our honorable profession is that teachers, who always seem to be at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to curriculum and instruction decisions, can experiment, discuss among themselves, and play around with using this approach to make their classrooms more enjoyable and interesting places.

The advantages of online cooking and baking courses using skills we learned by necessity caused by the pandemic are good reasons to apply this flipped classroom model in the post- pandemic years. We have talked about “self-directed learning” for years but relatively little has been done to change teacher directed instruction. True student empowerment means that students can take more ownership of their education. One of the most effective forms of motivation is student empowerment -- schooling that puts students at the center of their learning.

The most important advantage of this approach is that it gives teachers and students the license and opportunity to make what we do in our classrooms more interesting, interactive, and it creates a fertile ground for the development of higher-level thinking skills and creativity. And the teachers with whom I have talked about how their virtual enrichment clusters are working found that it makes teaching more fun. The pandemic opened the door to a new and effective way of promoting a better brand of learning, one based on engagement and interest, instead of a more traditional type of endelessly prescribed learning. Let’s keep the doorway to advanced learning more open, less repetitive, and more enjoyable rather than returning to the “sit and git” model of learning.   


Abeysekera, L., & Dawson, P. (2014). Motivation and cognitive load in the flipped classroom: Definition, rationale and a call for research. Higher Education Research & Development, 34(1), 1-14. doi:10.1080/07294360.2014.934336

Bergmann, J., & Sams, A. (2012). Flip your classroom: Reach every student in every class every day. Washington, DC: Internal Society for Technology in Education.

Renzulli, J. S., Gentry, M, & Reis, S. M. (2013). Enrichment clusters: A practical plan for real-world student driven learning (2nd ed.). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Joseph S. Renzulli, Ph.D., Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor at the Univeristy of Connecticut's NEAG School of Education. His work includes The Three Ring Conception of Giftedness, the Enrichment Triad Model, and Schoolwide Enrichment Model.


The views expressed here are not necessarily those of NAGC