Accepted abstract - Creative Tastebuds Symposium 2021


Teaching taste and design - A trend in food education concerning sustainability

Video abstract

By Jacob H. Christensen & Karen Wistoft, Danish School of Education, Aarhus University, Denmark

Over the past decade, there has been a trend in Danish food education where taste and design has become central elements in teaching activities. Concretely in the form of a movement from recipe-based teaching approaches, strongly characterized by direct instruction, toward a teaching taste approach based upon students’ taste experiments, with a high degree of collaboration in order to design and develop more sustainable dishes and meals (Wistoft & Qvortrup, 2017, 2018). This trend is especially prominent in food development projects (Christensen, Clark, & Wistoft, 2019), but the teaching taste approach is also finding its way into everyday school activities, such as home economics cooking classes all over Danish schools (Christensen, 2017).

We derive the above points from the work of our research unit, which focuses on food, taste and learning. In this research unit we have carried out follow up research upon a wide range of educational food development projects with topics such as children cookbooks (Wistoft & Qvortrup, 2018), food camps, cooking contests (Christensen & Wistoft, 2016), outdoor taste education related to school garden teaching (Wistoft, Nielsen, & Dyg, 2019), home economics teaching (Christensen, 2019) and school meal improvement (Stovgaard et al, 2017). All of these projects incorporate learning objectives, which relates to sustainability. Here the moral taste is essential and often refer to acceptable and non-acceptable eating (Wistoft & Qvortrup 2019) and new insights in food psychology are crucial (Schmidt & Mouritsen, 2019).

Across our research, we utilize mixed methods approaches designed to investigate the effectiveness of each educational programme. Hence, we have established a database consisting of survey-, test-, interview-, and observational data produced and gathered from more than 20,000 Danish students in primary and upper secondary schools. A pervasive approach in our research is to analyse statistical correlations between teaching methods and student outcomes, complemented by qualitative inquiries designed to derive plausible explanations for statistical results and gaining explorative knowledge before and after quantitative analysis.

Our data indicates that teaching taste approaches focusing on food design and sustainability are effective in regards of a wide range of student outcomes. For instance, when students experiment and collaborate in being innovative creating sustainable dishes it has the potential to raise students’: learning outcomes, motivation, engagement in sustainable cooking, and joy of food. In continuation, a very interesting finding is that the degree to which students activate different taste dimensions during such design-based teaching appears to be the didactical element with the highest impact (Christensen & Wistoft, 2016). Furthermore, using the sense of taste actively is often what guides students in their decision making in order to develop sustainable dishes in a way that the final food product matches their own preferences (Christensen, 2019).

Paradoxically, students’ taste experiences are very often pacified in food educational teaching activities, unless the teacher deliberately reflects didactically upon how to incorporate taste and tasting as part of the teaching.


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Christensen, H. J., Clark, A., & Wistoft, K. (2019). Vild mad - forskningsbaseret evaluering. DPU, Aarhus Universitet.

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