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Professional Practice

Teaching food and nutrition can be a fun, engaging and interactive way to achieve outcomes across a number of different learning areas including Design and Technologies, Health and Physical Education, Science, English and Mathematics. Simultaneously, students gain knowledge and skills in nutrition, healthy eating and related food literacy and an understanding of how this impacts an individual’s health and wellbeing.

However, teaching food and nutrition is not without its challenges. A clear understanding of what constitutes effective nutrition education needs to be gained, along with insight into how evidence- based pedagogical best practices can be used to engage students in nutrition learning.

Nutrition Education

Food habits and behaviours are complex in nature with multiple personal, interpersonal and environmental factors interacting in their development (Birch & Fisher 1998; Davidson & Birch, 2001).  Consequently, to motivate and facilitate healthy eating habits, nutrition education at classroom level needs to acknowledge the influences on children’s eating habits and provide students with understanding of why and how healthy food and nutrition is important (Contento, 2008).

The ‘why’ component can be addressed through delivery of content such as the nature of foods, why people eat different foods, and the effects of foods on growth, activity, nutrition and health. The ‘how’ component relates to delivering content which helps student to develop skills and confidence in choosing and safely preparing healthy foods as well the skills and confidence to resist pressures to adopt unhealthy eating habits.

Along with providing classroom nutrition education, the complexity of influences on food habits and behaviours means a whole-school approach and parent and community engagement is also strongly encouraged to support healthy eating.

Pedagogy Best Practice

Despite variations in schools, classrooms, teachers and students as well as resources available, teacher understanding and prior student learning of food and nutrition, consistent nutrition learning outcomes can be achieved with sound pedagogical practices. To this end, the NSW Model of Pedagogy was incorporated into Refresh.ED materials. This model is based on research understanding of how teaching and school improvement can promote improved student learning outcomes and can be applied to Kindergarten through to Year 12, across all learning areas. Further, it recognises pedagogy needs to be flexible and creative, reflecting resources and student needs.

At the core of the NSW model of Pedagogy are three key dimensions which link classroom practices with improved student outcomes. These dimensions are intellectual quality, quality learning environment and significance.  Within each of these dimensions there are a number of elements able to act as indicators for their dimension.

Dimensions and elements of the NSW model of pedagogy

Elements Intellectual quality Quality learning environment Significance
Deep knowledge Explicit quality criteria Background knowledge
Deep understanding Engagement Cultural knowledge
Problematic knowledge High expectations Knowledge integration
Higher-order thinking Social support Inclusivity
Metalanguage Students’ self-regulation Connectedness
Substantive communication Student direction Narrative

Intellectual quality refers to use of pedagogical practices which produce deep understanding among students of important, substantive concepts, skills and ideas. Research has shown that pedagogy with a focus on high levels of intellectual quality benefits students whether they are high or low achievers and regardless of their backgrounds.

Quality learning environment refers to pedagogical practices where students and teachers work productively in an environment clearly focused on learning. Research looking at effective teaching, teacher expectations, student time on task and student engagement has repeatedly indicated classrooms with a strong focus on positive and supportive learning environments correlate with improved student outcomes.

Significance refers to the importance of teachers making learning meaningful and important to students, both as individuals and as members of their community and social groups.