Search the site

Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation

huffington
foxfriendslogo-thumb

One Magical Idea to Increase Student Engagement This Fall

By: Tim Elmore

Building off of an earlier patent by John Duff, General Mills’ created its first Betty Crocker instant cake mix in 1947. Since the Great Depression and World War 2 were over, people were spending money again. Folks at Betty Crocker assumed that because they made baking easier sales would take off. But they didn’t. Executives were baffled that consumers in a society that was progressing toward speed and convenience would not want this foolproof, instant cake. But folks just weren’t buying it. So, they hired psychologist Ernest Dechter to interview customers in focus groups and ask them why they didn’t purchase the cake mix. He returned to say, “I think you’ve made the process of making a cake too simple; you’ve removed the customer from the process; they don’t feel their baking experience is real.” Dechter suggested they remove one ingredient from the cake mix and force the customers to come up with at least one item on their own. Believe it or not, when Betty Crocker removed the egg from their cake mix, sales took off. Cake mix sales tripled from January 1947 to August 1948.

It wasn’t what they added but what they took away that helped everyone win.

The Lesson for Educators Today

Sometimes I wonder if too many of us educators have turned our classrooms into our own instant cake mix. We don’t require students to own the process of learning. They don’t have to come up with any ingredients. We provide it all for them. They might as well call us Betty Crocker. My big question is: Why do we do this?

Do we feel such a pressure to “teach to the test” that we dare not let them learn from scratch? We believe we must create a cake mix, that we must make the process quicker, simpler, and much less messy. Just add water and stir.

Do we feel the pressure to get through so much curriculum so quickly that we dare not make our students practice metacognition and figure out answers on their own? We don’t have time for them to curiously explore and genuinely experiment.

Do we feel tangible pressure from parents to help their children find the answers or to give them the answers and not add to their already high stress levels? Too many moms and dads are into the product but not the process of a good education.

We’ve Got the Answers

In 1954, Betty Crocker debuted the Answer Cake—a cake and frosting mix pre-packaged in a pan—and marketed it to small families. What a name—Answer Cake. Betty Crocker was saying: “We will do it all for you, Mr. and Mrs. Customer. Just leave it to us.”

Sound familiar?

I wonder if that’s what we’ve done. The Answer Class. The cake and the frosting are all in here. It’s all pre-packaged. Students will hardly have to work at all. We’ve done it for them. In our ambition to get test scores and graduation rates higher, we’ve created a foolproof mix. God forbid we risk students learning something on their own—from scratch.

I have been guilty of this as an educational leader.

I love explaining my subject so much I feel better about myself when I do. I love answering their questions more than asking them questions. It’s about me and my need, not the students and their needs to discover. But that’s not education at its best. Just like the caterpillar gains its strength to become a butterfly through the struggle to break out of the cocoon, so students need the work of learning, often on their own. They won’t be ready for college or a career if we do it for them. We’re like a personal trainer in a gym that says to the customer: “Now I want to make sure you learn health and fitness, so stand back and watch as I lift all the weights for you.”

Truth be told, the answer to a quality education is not about answers. It’s all about ownership on the part of the students. When we offer the questions rather than the answers, we invite them to own the learning process and to choose what ingredients are necessary to make their cakes.  This means we must:

  • Change the students’ role from being consumers to being creators.
  • Change our role from commanders to consultants in the classroom.

Learning from Scratch 

Let me offer some ideas for creating a classroom pedagogy that helps students learn from scratch instead of needing an instant cake mix:

  1. Once a day, refuse to answer a student’s question. Turn that student loose to look up answers and debate them until the best solution surfaces. 
  2. Instead of a traditional grading of papers or tests, communicate how many mistakes were made and turn students loose to find each one.
  3. Pose questions and create disequilibrium. Allow for some awkward silence in the classroom as students figure out their next steps in the process. 
  4. Choose a day and let the students plan the entire class period. In fact, let them record themselves teaching their lesson and evaluate themselves afterward. 
  5. On your next exam, fill in the wrong answers on the blanksthe very ones students gave in class. Let students grade the test and find the proper answers. 
  6. Give an assignment and allow students to collaborate on Google Docs, each one asking questions and providing help to classmates reach an outcome.
  7. Introduce a real-life dilemma in the world. Ask students: If you were in charge of solving this problem what would you do? Turn them loose to figure it out.

There is one more lesson we can learn from Betty Crocker back in 1947.

Unlike other convenience foods, for many women, cakes symbolized femininity and satisfaction. Women felt pressured to perfect the homemade cake. A 1953 Gallup poll ranked cake the second “real test of a woman’s ability to cook,” behind apple pie. Domestic ideals split American women; some accepted mixes while others clung to recipes. In the end, it was all about how consumers “felt about the process.” Feeling ownership over the cake was what satisfied them. 

Let’s work to make sure our students feel they own the learning process. Generation Z loves to learn from scratch, with the help of smart technology. It makes sense. We all enjoy a cake more when it’s made from scratch, right? So, your textbook can be the cookbook. You can be Rachel Ray—but let those students bake from scratch.

In our Habitudes® for Social and Emotional Learning curriculum, we have character-developing lessons as engaging as the story you read above to help your students build the life skills they need to succeed. For more information on our Habitudes® for Social and Emotional Learning Middle School and High School Editions, click HERE.

 

16 Comments

  1. Kelly on August 18, 2021 at 6:50 am

    An important principle of active learning is an individual approach and personalization of learning tasks. There are many ways to implement this strategy: small group assignments, one-to-one talks. The main idea of such work is to give the student the opportunity to find something close and understandable to him personally in a specific subject area. College essay writing can be commissioned – https://essay-service.net/application-essay-writing-service/.

  2. Edna Weber on August 20, 2021 at 4:10 am

    You also need to participate in social work to share your talents and assets with society. Relationships are important, it’s like a big library. When you need something, you will find cookie clicker that library compartment and open it, you will find a way to solve your problems and questions.

  3. Renma Tom on August 27, 2021 at 9:37 am

    There are so many students who are suffering from their studies problem, some of them memorizes problem, which is not remember so many things on their mind. Also offering Online Dissertation Help USA because I am living in Chicago and serving academic paper writing services.

  4. Jacob2020 on September 26, 2021 at 3:55 pm

    I have recently seen this effects of stress on learning research paper. There is also info on how we in-take new information from the outside.
    https://essaygoose.com/essay-samples/impactful-outcomes-stress-essay-example

  5. Abigail Holland on October 8, 2021 at 6:48 am

    Reading various Young Again dry cat food reviews, I got a bit confused. However, I decided to give it a try and never regretted my choice.
    https://topratedcatfoods.com/young-again-cat-food

  6. Jon on October 11, 2021 at 9:49 am

    Great article. I got to hear Dr Elmore speak on this a couple weeks ago. PS. You might need a spam filter.

  7. Oliver Branson on October 11, 2021 at 3:44 pm

    When I have no enthusiasm to cope with challenging academic tasks, I always reach the best writing service via this link – https://speedypaper.com.

  8. cookie clicker on October 14, 2021 at 12:38 am

    You have great tutorials and recipes, I’ll try to do it your way, I’m not sure I will succeed but I’ll try. Wish you a happy new day!

  9. Tebello on October 14, 2021 at 3:50 pm

    I have just found my solution after ages being a teacher

  10. Violet Roden on October 20, 2021 at 2:23 pm

    I was so tired of my assignments, so I turned to https://writeanessayfor.me/ for help. Its support agent was very friendly, and the writer made great efforts to write my paper. I’ll come back next week.

    • Clopal Electric on December 23, 2021 at 1:32 am

      I was trying to make things better, I have better products and a website called https://www.clopal.com/ which is top on the list.

  11. enney Beverly on November 8, 2021 at 3:25 pm

    Erstens hat die Website eine separate Seite, die vollständig dem Esport gewidmet ist. Wenn Sie darauf klicken, erhalten Sie eine praktische Liste aktueller und anstehender Veranstaltungen http://meinewetten24.de/wettanbieter-ohne-anmeldung/ mit einem zufällig ausgewählten Live-Stream oben auf der Seite.Die Seite hat auch Esports-Listen auf der linken Seite der Seite, die Links enthalten, die nach Sport oder Veranstaltung sortiert sind.

  12. Donna Wyman on November 17, 2021 at 10:29 am

    I have written an article on investments when I was a student. It includes Investing in gold is not a bad idea at all because some will invest in share once the share market is down the value for gold rise as per https://www.skymetweather.com/content/lifestyle-and-culture/pros-and-cons-of-using-essay-writer-service/ blog articles. Gold is ever green metal which has value any time so, investor like to invest their money gold.

  13. Jack on December 15, 2021 at 4:46 am

    This blog is amazing and informative. I would like to tell you that I sell mens leather jacket black and other jackets for women and kids too of best quality.

  14. IlForno on January 16, 2022 at 5:28 am

    I feel strongly that love and read more on this topic.I really appreciate this wonderful post that you have provided for us. I have spent a lot of my spare time reading your content. Thank you a lot. Best Italian restaurant in UAE

  15. Greg Williams on February 16, 2022 at 5:43 am

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful post with us. This is more helpful for finding the best quality Kevin Costner Cotton Jacket

Leave a Comment





One Magical Idea to Increase Student Engagement This Fall