Friday, 15 February 2019

Allergies, Allergens- How serious, How severe, How significant?

*      How serious are we about allergies and allergens?
*      How much significance do we place on effective competent communication of allergens in products to customers?

*      How serious are allergies in terms of our health response as well as the amounts of people suffering from this condition?
*      What are the consequences when something goes wrong?

Recently, I have been looking back at the information we receive from FSA (Food Standard Agency) via updates and food alerts. They usually arrive by email, warning of potential dangers, what they are and what products have been affected. Food alerts can range from ‘salmonella in a product’ to ‘a missing ingredient on the label’.

Which one, do you think, sounds more daunting? Salmonella? For some certainly or perhaps for us all? Eating food contaminated with high levels of Salmonella could have catastrophic effects on us all. The fact that young children, the elderly or people with a weakened immune system are more at risk makes things even worse, even terrifying considering the consequences!


What about if an ingredient (possible allergen) in a product but missing from the label? Does it petrify us? What about the consequences of this potentially dangerous situation? Will it affect us all? Perhaps only those with an allergy to a particular ingredient will be affected?


So, how much weight do we put on these two potential dangers? Are they both of a similar significance? Do we approach them in the same way?

The consequences could be of a similar severity; however, the number of potential victims of one particular foodborne disease outbreak could surpass the victims of lacking allergen ingredient on a label. It does not mean, though, that the ‘label’ situation is less important or dangerous. Especially, if you consider that this affected person could be you or someone close to you or that you know and the effect is often life threatening.  

Only this year in January 2019, I received no less than 12 Updates from FSA. How many of these, do you think, were ‘Allergy alerts’?
There were 10 allergy alerts and two other food alerts

Think about this, plan to prevent this and act on this before it’s too late.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

♤Playing cards♧ in the classroom♢

Playing cards in the classroom
My greatest challenge while teaching is to engage learners, making the subject interesting and practical.
A training course in a classroom is slightly different from a traditional workplace, in that in the classroom people don’t necessarily know each other, so sometimes, communication hardly happens.
In the classroom people don’t always carry out tasks with confidence and the expertise of their “shop floor” activities. In the classroom people often learn things that they cannot relate to anything that they know, instead they do their best to memorize ‘stuff’ that everyone else considers “significant”. But, depending on the course and its level, this ‘stuff’ can grow and grow not only in size but difficulty or complexity too. For some individuals it can turn into a daunting experience, like pulling out a decayed tooth; it’s good once it is out but until it happens, the experience is not one to look forward to’. 
The idea of playing cards is to ease any discomfort and counteract any negative outcomes that could result from the above. ‘Definition cards’ for subjects such as Food Safety or HACCP (from HIGHFIELD Qualifications) at different levels appear to be quite a useful tool to meet the needs of the group and individuals.
Played at the beginning of the course, during the day, at the end of the day/course or at home, the cards start engaging people in conversation, cooperation, collaboration and even discussion. Played in pairs (that would change with each round) they encourage people to get to know each other, learn from each other as each person would have a slightly different set of experiences and knowledge so they would be able to answer different questions. People also realize that, actually, the content of what they are going to learn is not completely new to them. Learners are often familiar with parts of it from their work practice and while looking for matching answers they would suddenly realize how much they already know, and what they don’t know. Throughout the session/course they will discover ‘stuff’ for themselves and close the knowledge gaps within individual contexts, at their own pace, with another round of cards. The ‘card experience’ creates a more relaxed but focussed atmosphere of learning where learners challenge themselves and utilize each other’s knowledge and skills to move ahead.
By the time learners get to their exam, they are confident with the new learning that actually fits well within their existing system of knowledge and understanding.
What can be better than learning something that makes sense?  
It works in our classroom and our learners, perhaps it is worth giving it a go?

To find out more about the theories used in this article, have a look at the following books:
Hattie, J. & Yates, G. (2014) Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn. London: Routledge.
Petty, G. (2014) Teaching Today. 5th edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Friday, 11 January 2019

New Year’s resolutions

New Year’s resolutions

It’s January, the month of resolutions that are supposed to change our life. What are the reasons for these determinations of change? Perhaps, because we are not entirely happy with some aspects of our life, i.e. job or health we remain quite self-critical and often see things as difficulties or problems.
As ‘reflection’ has become more and more prevalent in teaching and learning, what about applying this to our life, especially in the way we think and perceive things? One of Carl Rogers’ concepts was that reflecting and learning engage the whole person, modifying and transforming our cognitive system, as well as our beliefs, feelings and self-concept.
 Instead of fixing something that we consider a fault, why don’t we start with reflecting on our perceptions and attitudes.
I am sure that it is more exciting to live up to our challenges rather than our difficulties.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

What do Csikszentmihalyi, learning and football all have in common?

What do Csikszentmihalyi, learning and football all have in common?

Do you remember when you were stressed last? Was it positive or negative stress? Was it stress that came on suddenly, like thunder? Or perhaps, it resulted from a number of stressful everyday worries that started creeping upon you, lingering in every corner of the day?
Some people, including me, would not even consider that stress could be ‘positive’ nor take much notice of the nature of their stress or anxiety.
Recently we noticed that there has been an increasing interest in stress and anxiety that are slowly decaying the quality of our lives.
As a result, I did some research into stress and anxiety in learning, trying to find out a bit more about their impact on the learner and the process. What surprised me the most is that it’s these small ‘creepers’ that we should be most aware of and avoid at all cost.
Why? Because they encourage the production of cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’ that appears in our system, as soon as our body recognises ‘something ‘as a threat (even the smallest ones). It’s alright if our body has a reason to do this, i.e. in an event of a real danger. But, what happens to our body, if the real danger doesn’t come, and our body keeps expecting it day after day? Well, the overproduced cortisol cannot deal properly with the situation that does not manifest now or in the future; because our worries constantly create the illusion of danger. As a result, the overproduced cortisol will take its toll on our own bodies, fighting ‘US’ instead of the ‘DANGER’.
A weakened immune system can wreak havoc, but if you think about teaching or learning, it contributes to a lack of concentration, or the ability to think. In addition, when we are stressed, the top part of our brain, the ‘Neocortex’, responsible for rational thinking, becomes dominated and deactivated by the lowest and oldest part of our brain, the  ‘Reptilian ‘part, responsible for our ‘instinctive actions’, including reactions to danger, primarily concerned with our survival rather than logical thinking.
So what is the solution? The easiest to propose but the most difficult to do; just don’t get stressed and upset! Otherwise, keep relaxing! How? You need to find the best way for yourself. Holiday season is upon us, the weather is already gorgeous, so use it to your benefit!
In the classroom, we can create something that Cain and Cain (1991) call ‘relaxed alertness’. In order to do it, we create an atmosphere that makes our learners confident and positive, almost relaxed. Then, we generate challenges for our learners. These need to correspond with learners’ skills and abilities. During the whole process, it’s essential to support our learners without answering the questions or solving problems for them. We need to develop and cherish positive communication, not only between learners and teachers but amongst learners. They must solve problems together and come up with mutually agreed solutions. We shall listen to their needs and appreciate the smallest contributions from each learner. We strive to make them feel valued and let them value each other.
Some people might think, its lots of empty talk, the reality around me is different. I do not deny that some solutions won’t work in some situations, but it is worth a try. Recently, we have been following the successes of the English football team, even though ‘football’ is not everyone’s cup of tea. The way that the English team is managed reminded us of Cain and Cain (1991) ‘relaxed alertness’ as well as Csikszentmihalyi and his ‘flow-experience’. Team collaboration and team relaxation techniques certainly have contributed to the TEAM (not individual) successes, and we are holding our thumbs and hope that the TEAM carry on with their ‘good practice’!

So, what do Csikszentmihalyi, learning and football all have in common? They all manage cortisol positively.

1.    Bergland, C. (2013) Cortisol: Why the “Stress Hormone” Is Public Enemy No.1. Available online:
2.    Caine, R.N. & Caine, G. (1991) Making Connections. Teaching and the Human Brain. Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
3.    Cottrell, S. (2008) The Study Skills. 3rd edition. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
4.    Flowskills (n.d.) The 8 Elements of Flow. Available online:
5.    Oxford University Press (2018) English Oxford Living Dictionaries. Available online:

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Meeting the needs of our learners

One aspect of teaching that we discuss during our teaching course, is ‘meeting the needs of our learners’. The word ‘needs’ may sound challenging and complex, but if we just consider that each person learns in a different way, we could come up with an accommodating solution for many of our learners’ needs. As some people learn when they see, others when they hear or do things; why don’t we ensure that our organized activities and resources address visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners? Furthermore, the way that we learn can differ depending on a range of factors, a topic or skill that we learn being one of them.
Pikes’ cline of retention shows learning retention over 3 days.
10% of what you read
20%of what you hear
30% of what you see
50% of what you see and hear
70% of what you say
90% of what you say and do is retained
Pike (1989)

Even though it is difficult to come up with learning that could be pictured, dressed in words and evidenced in action; I strive to include interesting, sometimes funny pictures in my sessions, let people discuss things through and encourage them to move around the room. It can sound a bit ‘odd’ but I noticed that ‘cards matching activities’ in different parts of the room can have a beneficial effect on my learners, including improved communication and peer cooperation. This leads me to ponder upon another aspect of teaching ‘peer cooperation’ that I would like to discuss next time J

Monday, 17 August 2015

Asda recalls Cooked and Peeled King Prawns as some packs contain raw prawns

Asda recalls Cooked and Peeled King Prawns as some packs contain raw prawns

Asda is recalling its 180g Cooked and Peeled King Prawns, with a 'use by' date of 7 June 2015, because some packs have been incorrectly produced with raw prawns

Firefly Lemon, Lime and Ginger Natural Drink from Asda stores

Purity Soft Drinks Ltd is recalling one batch of its Firefly Lemon, Lime and Ginger Natural Drink (330ml) with a ‘best before’ date of April 2016 and batch code 5029 because some bottles may contain broken glass on the rim of the bottle. This product was only distributed to Asda stores.