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Erna Goodier Wins 2024 IBSC Action Research Award

Congratulations to Erna Goodier, Educator Physical Science Department (Physics and Chemistry), Grade 9 Tutor Upper, Teacher in Charge Tennis, and Mentorship Program Lead at St. Andrew’s College (South Africa), for winning the 2024 IBSC Action Research Award for completing highly innovative action research projects that make a valuable contribution to the IBSC Action Research community.

Researching within the broad IBSC action research topic of Balanced Boys: Promoting Healthy Masculinity Beyond the Classroom, Erna’s action research project took a unique and refreshing approach to explore the impact of participation in a cooking club on boys’ perceptions of masculinity. Erna’s participants, in what she called, the Kitchen Chemistry Club, were ten Grade 11 Science students.

Erna’s research was driven by her thorough exploration of the contemporary discourse on masculinities and her desire for the young men at her boarding school to recognise and challenge deep-rooted hegemonic notions of masculinity and the persistence of gender stereotyping of roles.

Specifically, through the boys’ participation in the planning, preparation, cooking, serving, eating, and clearing of a weekly meal with their Kitchen Chemistry Club peers, Erna provided the boys with the opportunity to explore a role typically assigned to many women in the South African context. Her action, however, aimed to achieve far more than develop the boys’ culinary skills.

Through the act of collaborative cooking, the Kitchen Chemistry Club activities necessitated that the boys work together in all aspects of meal preparation and encouraged the boys to examine their understanding of, and foster closer relationships with, their peers. Furthermore, the act of sitting together to share a meal provided a safe and comfortable environment in which boys could share opinions and engage in meaningful conversations around masculinity.

Through the rigorous conduct of her action research and the articulate communication of its processes and findings in a well-written report, Erna’s research highlights the benefits of taking conversations about masculinity beyond the classroom. To this end, the following description provided by Erna paints a wonderful picture of young men venturing beyond the class room – and their comfort zones, having fun, forging relationships, and engaging in meaningful conversations about masculinity:

As culinary novices, these boys embarked on a journey, wielding spatulas as tools of empowerment and camaraderie. With pots bubbling and flavours mingling, the kitchen became more than a mere space for gastronomic experimentation; it evolved into a crucible where stereotypes were deconstructed, and discussions unfolded organically.

While Erna’s findings cannot be generalised to the unique and diverse contexts of each of our boys’ schools, there is much for us to take away from her review of the literature on masculinities and her creative action. Erna’s research project demonstrates the power of action research to identify the potential for change at the local level and to support the implementation of that change in a systematic and rigorous manner. Furthermore, her research findings illustrate the ability of a well-researched change in teachers’ pedagogy to positively impact teaching and learning, and the wellbeing of the boys in our schools.

While Erna’s project celebrates the positive impact of her action research on her students, the bearing of Erna’s research on her own professional development cannot be overlooked. In her reflection statement accompanying her research report, Erna notes:

As the boys became more comfortable within the group, and also seeing a different side to their Chemistry teacher, a remarkable transition occurred. The boys started showing more interest in each week’s menu, arriving with excitement and a sense of relief, as this weekly gathering became a space where they could relax, laugh and have fun with boys they would usually not have spent time with. Not only did the boys become strikingly more confident, I found that my relationship with them in class also shifted. The self-assurance they gained in a social environment trickled through to their work ethic and willingness to work hard academically. One of the most rewarding aspects was observing the boys learn to laugh at themselves and with each other. This was not just a sign of enjoyment but a powerful indicator of their growing relationship with one another.

As a female staff member at an all-boys school, it was incredible to witness their evolving perception of me. Initially, I was the teacher offering the club, but as we cooked and learned together, they began to see me as a mentor and a facilitator in their growth. My involvement at St Andrew’s College stretches over a variety of spheres and getting to know this group of boys better, allowed me to understand them better outside of the club or classroom. The success and enjoyment the boys experienced led them to express strong interest in a second seven-week course in 2024.

After the recent celebrated success of the Netflix series, Lessons in Chemistry, about a female scientist who also challenged gender stereotypes through the art of cooking, perhaps there’s a film deal in the wings for Erna and her Kitchen Chemistry Club. Congratulations Erna.

Check out Goodier's full report in the IBSC Member Center.  Watch for the remaining reports for the 2024 IBSC Action Research cohort in the coming weeks.