Teaching in different contexts: Dance and Science
Working in partnership with other practitioners’ raises awareness of areas where teaching and learning in one subject can benefit another. I teach Biology and Chemistry in addition to Dance and the evaluations of my students and myself show that teaching/learning in all my classes has been enhanced by my understanding of creative movement and study of effective dance teaching.
The Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) initiative in Scotland reformed the Science curriculum but the problem-solving, critical thinking and creative skills of learners remain restricted by overloaded syllabus, strict grading and competitive class climates focussed on attainment. This has discouraged learners. I have identified a juxtaposition with the technical content and creative movement achieved in a less restrictive and flexible CfE dance curriculum which nurtures creativity and self-expression. This shows the benefit of focussing on the learning experience when nurturing lifeskills.
Science taught in Secondary and further education uses predominantly command and practice teaching styles. Although this meets curricular demands it reduces active involvement. Creative skills like problem-solving and critical thinking which are nurtured in dance are imperative to progressing lab work and scientific research.
In my research proposal, I contrast command and practice teaching styles with guided-discovery and inclusive methods to teach skills in the warm-up. I consider the holistic and guided discovery methods I use in dance sessions on to teach research and scientific skills by involving students in measuring jump height, range of motion, balance, peak flow, temperature and pulse rate. Research skills are complex to teach as learners must generate a cognitive model. In pilot experiments, I have been surprised by immediate engagement of learners who underachieved in the read/write nature of science lessons and rekindled creativity lost in the science curriculum.
I have also incorporated dance teaching philosophies to augment Science teaching and learning.
- I used a movement based approach to recall biochemical pathways with 17-18 years and list sampling methods with 12-13 years. In both scenarios learners used a kinaesthetic mnemonic to embody the stages. Less interested learners became the driving force and enthusiastically recalled stages. This provided formative assessment of understanding in a kinaesthetic style.
- To embody a theoretical topic, I provided a kinaesthetic frame-work to understand DNA replication at age 17-18 and digestion at age 12-13. Initial instruction used pictures and verbal tuition to enable learners to write a list of the main stages. Group working enabled learners to problem-solve to create matching movements and then critically analyse peer performance. All learning styles were engaged and understood scientific processes as they had a relevant role in their group. Scientists reported ‘teaching approaches meant they could still recall these theories’.
- I developed this task in my dance class by encouraging learners to link four motifs assigned to one of four DNA bases in a set order. I then introduced mutation to the sequence or movement quality. This taught choreographic structure and allowed learners to access complex principles. The lesson evaluation revealed confident understanding of this process. This task also showed many of the problem-solving and life skills needed in dance are similar to those in Science.
- I explored ethical considerations of clinical trials. The Science class discussed and communicated scenarios then worked in groups to embody feelings experienced to topics like donating organs or needing treatment through movement. Learners stated they felt more involved in the emotion of the issue than in a sedentary lesson.
- My Biology class completed stations where they investigated the effect of plies on lactic acid build-up, impact of alignment on bone structure and breathing and heart rate during jumps. These activities linked the Biology: Body Systems Unit with Dance Science and investigation of how their body works appealed to learners.
The links I made between Dance and Science showed an introductory Dance-Science course can readily be organised to draw on most of learning styles in VARK’s model and Gardiner’s intelligences to engage learners in the physical practice of dance and science. Drawing a more diverse student group into dance and science will enrich learning/teaching experiences and bring new diversity to dance expertise.