When I began teaching I predominantly used command teaching styles where learners observed and copied my movements. I appreciated from observing other practitioners that this style is useful in a beginners’ class or to introduce a new technique as learners improve motor skills by passive interpretation of examples of good practice. I have learned through my practice that the quest of a dance teacher is not only to communicate a skill but to actively involve learners to embody proficient movement quality. I consequently only use command teaching styles in the warmup/cool down as it allows me to demonstrate sequences and set the pace. My observations of professional dance teachers show that watching and responding are predominant teaching strategies used in dance and are backed up by verbal instruction. I feel at the start of the lesson command styles require the attention and perception needed to initiate motor learning and prepare learners mentally and physically for dance.
I regularly use practice teaching styles following command and guided discovery in both technical and creative sections. Research shows, after acquisition of a dance skill, that continuous practice will improve motor response and neurological pattern. I realise from my dance teaching that rehearsing without feedback will instil poor technique and retraining may be difficult and frustrating. I feel it is my responsibility as a dance teacher to provide feedback in the four learning styles to ensure all learners identify and embody corrections. During practice it is essential that my feedback provides praise and is positive to encourage learners.
I use repetition to allow learners to recall new information and to build on movements to progress skill. Learners especially children have limited attention and few remember sequences in the long-term. Practicing short sequences with one correction at a time allows them to be recalled and embodied more readily during the learning process. I realise my descriptions of visual, kinaesthetic and verbal cues need to be specific and short to be understood by dancers during practice. I regularly repeat feedback that corrects alignment, placement and speed during the process to guide discovery of effective movement.
I encourage practice by splitting the class into groups to observe peers, changing musical accompaniment to provide alternative stimuli and videoing the last repeat. The latter provides final encouragement to incorporate all changes and to work at their best. I practice the same skill in different settings in a lesson plan; warmup, set exercise, travelling and creative work. In each stage the same feedback applies but skills are progressed by adding armlines, travelling steps or partners. To progress learners, I provide enough practice of travelling sequences to organise weight transfer, use of space and coordination. I recognise that fundamental movements like turnout, arm and leg lines may diminish as learners focus on new movement type and my feedback ensures these are recovered. Most learners perform sequences and turns on the right-side and I find by beginning sequences on the left-side, learners can reverse the sequence more easily.
I use guided discovery in my planning and lessons to actively involve students in the learning process. I feel this allows them to develop their own experiences and build on prior knowledge and understanding. I find that learners’ interest is gained more quickly when they are provided with either kinaesthetic experience of an action that initiates a movement, uses a visual stimulus to identify the movement quality or verbal/musical description to achieve the action needed as the movements are completed. Examples used in lesson planning include the gliding of a ghost balloon, copying the relaxation of skeleton bones and embodying scary rhythms.
By problem-solving to interpret the stimuli and the process of discovering the essence of the movement learners’ recollection of sequences are improved. Learners must realise the rationale behind choosing a body position or positioning requirement to meet a new situation and this provides the basic skills which can then be transferred to progressive tasks within a lesson plan or series. Learners practiced galloping wolves in lesson-2 but adapted this to provide zig-zag pathways and dynamics in lesson-3. Although when lesson planning I provide tasks which initiate movement I must guide the process of discovery to achieve the outcome. This requires me to design logically ordered questions or tasks which when performed in sequence will lead learner to the next outcome to enable them to realise a predetermined concept. When guiding learners I can incorporate questions and tasks which require them to consider, acquire and develop movement qualities and select and adapt skills to suit the task. Exploring movement based on a theme additionally allows exploration of ethical, health and fitness issues which benefit the wellbeing and citizenship of learners in the longer term.
I must provide praise and demonstrations from students who embody the movement quality to allow other to find their way to achieving the same convergent outcome. I guide learners’ participation by differentiating lessons. Without the benefit of the learning process only copying the outcome will not provide the skills and qualities which are transferrable to new situations and tasks.
I incorporate creative tasks in the second part of lessons to allow learners to use previously learnt knowledge to creatively interpret a movement brief. Learners enjoy interpreting the music, description, use of voice or theme to investigate the feeling and interpretation of movement. I provide a specific scenario (for example moving under a tree in a scary forest) and adapt the guidance I provide to encourage problem-solving to find different combinations and solutions based on learners’ experiences. This develops a body awareness and investigation of effort actions which can then be applied in different styles and sequences. Learners require time to discover the best solutions. I find guiding discovery with divergent outcomes gives the students confidence and motivation because the solutions they come up are never totally incorrect.
When working in pairs or groups, learners develop social skills and are provided with peer support. I have found working in pairs during creative work inspires and visually supports learners’ movement and thy gain immediate informal verbal feedback. In my lessons, I support group work to ensure learners are included and on task and to support outcomes. For example, I adjusted group shape in lesson-2 to provide angular rather than curved response. Social interaction also creates opportunity to critically analyse peer performance. This benefits both performer and observer, as the performer receives constant feedback and the observer learns by observation. I feel learners can reflect on the standard of their practice and feedback suggestions for improvement of peers. I use reciprocal style where tasks are simple and therefore peer feedback is most likely to be correct. The reciprocal style provides me with more time to circulate in the class and provide personalised feedback whilst other students receive continuous peer feedback.
To enable learners to independently direct their learning and identify their skill progression, I utilise learning logs and self-evaluations. Learning logs have progressed learners as they can identify their skills against lesson objectives to gauge performance. Self-evaluations require learners to break down their performance in a task. In both self-check activities learners have become responsible for directing learning and they have asked me questions which specifically developed their skills. I only use self-check when students have basic proficiency and where skills can be broken down into effort actions or subsequent parts.
There is a wide range of abilities and learning needs in my community classes. I use a holistic approach that incorporates a range of teaching/learning styles and differentiates to meet different abilities. In each task, I provide additional technical qualities for more able and simplified sequences for less-able. This allows learners to work at their own level with maximum participation and improvement. More-able in technical tasks may be less creative and vice versa. I must ensure that learners have feedback which allows them to identify the skills they need to develop and where safe or effective practice is compromised I will provide them with changes appropriate to their skill level.