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Conceptual Change Model(ing) the way for future food safety education

Culturally-targeted Messages and Methods: the Next Generation of Food Safety Education Strategies–one of the final sessions of IAFP 2018–heard several food safety pioneers discuss working programs for increasing the knowledge and practice to span cultural differences.

Dr. Julie Albrecht, University of Nebraska, and Dr. Sinley, Metropolitan State University, discussed the role of a conceptual change in the teaching method for food safety educational intervention; reiterating the utilization of the conceptual change teaching method in reaching diverse audiences with food safety.

Albrecht began her discussion with the justification of the program, which began with a grant looking at food safety within families. The focus groups pulled from the general population of Nebraska with children 10 years old and under. She noted that there were not a lot of Hispanics in the focus groups, however, when this group was separated out and looked at their food safety knowledge scores, they noticed there were some lower food safety scores.

This was something unique that came from looking at diverse groups, giving way to a second grant for diverse families with children 10 years old and under. Focus on Hispanic and Native Americans. When these groups of people were with others of their Hispanic culture, they were more likely to be more open about their traditional folk beliefs.

Albrecht referred to the example of the hot and cold theory, which the audience learned has nothing to do with the temperature of food, but rather how that food makes one’s body feel. She explained that it’s hard to find a definition of hot foods or cold foods, but many cultures will not mix and feel very strongly about not mixing, these certain hot and cold foods together for consumption because it goes against their cultural practices.

Another concept Albrecht briefly discussed was ‘Susto’, referring to the fear of certain foods. She also added that there are two distinct groups of Hispanics in Nebraska, that are important to recognize. Looking back to the 1940’s, there is a distinguished group of migrant workers that worked at that time in sugar beet fields in Nebraska. More recently, immigrants from Puerto Rico and Guatemala have moved to Nebraska and work in food processing plants. This was the group that Dr. Albrecht’s work focussed on, as the information would focus on these recent immigrants.

Albrecht also referred to several differences of this population, such as traditionally going to the market every day in order to get food that would be prepared and consumed during a meal that same day. In the United States, it’s more common that grocery shopping is done on weekly basis. In this scenario, countries getting food on a daily basis for consumption on that same day didn’t necessarily need to prioritize storing it or knowing about properly storing foods.

An issue in the United States that Dr. Albrecht offered was the example of a Hispanic mother who gave her children egg yolk with sugar, believing it would make their immune system stronger. Although this may be a traditional custom for this mother, it is also a Salmonella risk. Dr. Albrecht reiterated that Hispanics helped welcome her food safety study, and the interest for it, into their communities.

The same was true with Native Americans. In addition to low knowledge scores, there was also a notable confusion of foodborne illness with allergies and diet modifications for chronic diseases like diabetes. Additionally, improper food safety practices were found, such as the excessive use, or misuse, of chlorine or bleach.

Self-efficacy was the essential piece to this food safety puzzle, as these groups were very confident in their ability to prepare food safely, despite stating improper practices in focus groups and knowledge scores.

Albrecht noted that, for the purpose of the study, it was important to understand that Native American and Hispanic cultures come from an ‘oral culture’ tradition. She referred to the concept of an elder in Native American cultures, Grandmothers often being caregivers in Hispanic cultures, giving way to her belief in the need of a teaching and learning style that would be appropriate for the culture. In other words, the oral aspect was very important for successful work and education.

For the educational component, Hispanic and Native American focus groups were asked how they would you to receive food safety education. The overwhelming response was that a class or workshop similar to the focus group was desired. As Albrecht referred to, “sitting around a table, having a nice discussion!”

This meant an interactive learning style, in which a professor working on the reservation could share a Conceptual Change model; a student-centered process. Students could bring their own experiences to the table; “They have had experiences, and we come in and help change their concepts for those things.”

Albrecht described how within this model, the educator is in the background, facilitating the process. As people are visiting, the facilitator learns about their preconceived notions of how the world works, which helps uncover things as a way of the educational process. Dr. Albrecht explained that “there are things that come up aside from what you prepare,” and this is a good thing. Ultimately, efforts work to reveal student preconceptions, discuss and evaluate preconceptions, create conceptual conflict with those preconceptions, and encourage and guide conceptual reconstructing.

Sinley added that using the student-centered teaching style allows us to see how the audience has experiences handling food that shaped what their exact food safety conceptions are. It is with this teaching style that we can help them come to the conclusion that there may be gaps in their current way of thinking; “They are in the front seat, driving what they want to talk about.”

Sinley outlined the steps of the educational program, first, starting with a commitment to a solution or outcome; “Students become aware of their own thinking by responding to a question or attempting to solve a problem.” Next, the exploration of beliefs in which, “students share and discuss their ideas and reasoning with the group.” Third, confrontation of beliefs in a positive way in which “students confront their existing ideas through collaborative experiences that challenge their preconceptions.” She reiterated that when these groups feel comfortable, and when they disagree, “the change happens within them, and it does so without you.” Fourth, accommodation of the new concept occurs. Fifth, expansion of the concept occurs, and sixth “Go beyond; students pose and pursue new questions and ideas and problems on their own.”

Albrecht and Sinley wrapped up their thoughts for the afternoon with the belief that “programs that are participant-centered have the potential to increase knowledge of safe food handling practices, and improve food safety-related attitudes and behavior skills”

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