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Taste-experience is a valuable tool in teaching and learning


Article According to Liselotte Hedegaard, researcher at University College Lillebaelt, we learn through experience. Sensory experience can stimulate our senses and make us curious, something that is indispensable in the context of learning. And while taste has been largely overlooked in this context, it is a valuable tool. Perhaps an even stronger tool than sight and touch that have traditionally been regarded as sources of knowledge-acquisition.

One of the most influential philosophers in the context of experiental learning, John Dewey (1859-1952) described the employment of experience in education as more than enjoyable distractions. He said that when using experience as a tool for learning, the teacher must select types of experience that provide opportunities for the pupils to explore hitherto unacknowledged perspectives and to acquire new knowledge.

With this in mind – and with reference to several other philosophers – Liselotte Hedegaard, PhD, senior lecturer at University College Lillebaelt and member of the steering-committee of Taste-for Life, points out that taste-experience seems to be a particularly relevant tool for learning. 

“Taste is a sensory encounter with the world that offers opportunities for learning – not only about taste, but also about numerous other subjects through taste. Taste is a complex interplay between all our senses, and it constitutes a relationship between recollection and anticipation. Meaning that a former taste-experience is at the same time a vehicle for connecting past events or places visited with taste and the basis of expectations regarding future taste-experience. The corporal, intellectual and emotional perspectives of taste indicate that taste might constitute a privileged access to knowledge-acquisition”, says Liselotte Hedegaard who has published her phenomenological investigation of taste and learning in the paper “Educated Tastes” in the journal Studies in Pedagogical Philosophy.

Read the paper here

Learning about and trough taste

In terms of recollection, it seems that taste brings forward the recollection of former encounters in a more forceful way than any of the other senses do. Recollections from our childhood emerge when we taste the meatballs, not when we see them. This indicates that taste can play a distinct role in the context of learning: 

“There are reasons to believe that taste forms a particularly strong gateway to learning. On one hand, because taste-experiences stimulate all our senses and, on the other, because taste-experiences bridge the past and the future – recollection and anticipation”, says Liselotte Hedegaard.

Taste-experiences are formed through interplay between all our senses. In daily life, we do not consider this, but when turning our attention towards the complexity of taste, each of our senses provides us with specific perspectives of the full experience of taste: colour, form, texture, seasoning, crispness etc.

“There is a striking perspective to taste that sets it apart from the other senses. Namely that we frequently swallow what we taste. This particular process provides us with a type of experience that differs from other sensory impressions – we incorporate the sensory object, meaning that we make it part of ourselves”, says Liselotte Hedegaard.

Even if John Dewey makes no mention of taste in his work on experiental learning, taste can be employed in the classroom as a means to capture the attention of the pupils. When integrated methodically, taste makes up a tool for learning – it provides experience that opens up subjects for the pupils, triggers their curiosity and supports the processes of embedding the new knowledge.

Mentioned in the article

Senior lecturer and researcher, PhD.

Liselotte Hedegaard is a member of Taste for Life’s management. She works as a senior lecturer and senior researcher at the UCL University College. She is the project manager of the work carried out by UCL in the context of Taste for Life.

Liselotte Hedegaard’s academic background is in Philosophy. Her research interests focus on sensory experience, primarily within the framework of phenomenological investigation. In the practice-related field she examines how sensory experience, in particular taste, might be integrated into a pedagogical and didactic framework.