Rotating groups through learning modules keeps students engaged while enhancing their skills development.
By Carrie Stebbins, CWE
If you teach practical lab classes and have not yet tried a lesson plan where you have students rotate through a number of modules, each teaching a specific skill, I encourage you to try!
This works especially well early in a class when you have several fundamental skills you want your students to practice. With a lab class of 20 students, I plan four modules with five students in each group. I give each of the groups a mise-en-place list.
Once everything is ready, demonstrate the skill to be practiced for each rotation. Give the students a timeframe for each rotation and make sure they know which station to move to when the changeover comes. Once students start to practice, visit each group in turn; you will most likely already know which skill is going to need the most supervision initially.
When developing your lesson plan for this style of class, the first thing is to identify which skills you want to incorporate. Next, estimate how much time it will take to demonstrate each skill and how much time to allot for mise en place. I find that this stage can take longer than estimated, so be prepared! You will then be able to designate a significant portion of class time, equally divided, for the students to practice each skill.
The success of the plan depends on planning modules that will take approximately the same length of time to perform. Estimates are only that; you may find that one module in practice takes more or less time than the others for each student in a group to complete. So, if on the first run through you find that one module takes more or less time for the students to complete, some adjustments will be needed. Assess whether it is the module itself that needs adjustment or whether it is the group size that is not working.
If it is the module that needs adjusting, one option is to simplify the work to be done. For example, I found in my freshman Dining Room class that my table-setting module took too long for each student in the group to complete. By simplifying the table setting, the time worked out well and I was able to emphasize alignment, the overall principle I wanted to convey.
If the issue is the group size and you find that not all students stay engaged, then adding an additional module answers nicely. I look for a skill normally taught a little later in the class, one that will benefit from additional practice.
In my Beverage Service class I added a rotation for the students to practice free pours for mixology. Not only did all the students have something to do, their pouring accuracy was improved when they started mixology the following week.
I find this type of lesson plan keeps the students busy and engaged. I also find the results in terms of the students learning those foundational skills to be excellent.
An associate instructor at Johnson & Wales University College of Culinary Arts, Denver, Carrie Stebbins is certified as a wine educator (CWE) by the Society of Wine Educators.