Monday, 9 October 2017

A change in perception

Through my research, interviewing and field data I had not anticipated a change in my own thoughts and mind. With my focus being primarily on whether dancers require exams and competitions to help them towards a professional route, my eyes have been opened through conversing with other like minded professionals. I was aware of the benefits of exams; qualifications, technique, accuracy, structure, precision the list goes on...Competitions however contain so much more than I had ever considered. Yes, performance experience which is essential for auditions and professional work. I had not however thought about learning to take criticism, learning that you may not be liked by everybody and this all depends on that particular judge (as in auditions!), coping backstage with last minute changes, costume malfunctions, nervousness, mind blanks, vocabulary and terminology, being 'on the road' and travelling, working together as a team or coping individually, all are skills that are preparing you for an industry that requires all of these necessities to cope and succeed. They challenge the fight or flight mode within us where essentially we sink or swim and competitions and these types of performances challenge these aspects within our character. Therefore competitions allow for character building as well as performing in front of an audience and coping with this pressure. This journey has allowed me to consider the benefits of competitions in much more detail and I can say that I have learnt so much off my interviewees that has changed my perspective.

Via the Skype chat on Friday evening, I realised through conversing how many students are 'spoon fed' with material, choreography, ideas and thoughts to help them develop their own skills. It is now a challenge of mine to help my students move forwards in this area, to help them develop their  exploration of movement and creativity to produce more rounded individuals as opposed to those that need to be given choreography (again, in an industry where freestyle is frequently required, this will help assist in a professional pathway). Again this also allows for opportunities to experiment with movements that perhaps we did not know they were capable of, it allows opportunity for them to demonstrate their ideas and what they feel they would be good at, enhancing enjoyment as well as encouraging our minds to think and work together to produce. I have perhaps been guilty of 'spoon feeding' due to time constraints and working under pressure for competitions and shows, but at the same time, I think it is important to help tomorrow's future of dancers to yes be good at what they do, but also to not be afraid of creativity and difference.

Monday, 8 May 2017

How does feedback feed forwards in assessment?

After a very interesting Skype conversation yesterday, I feel I have a lot to consider in terms of the future of learning for my students and how they can progress through their current practice.

At the moment, my students compete...a lot!! I often read the comments on reports from adjudicators and of course these are useful, however, I have started to wonder whether this feedback is ever actually used as a tool to feed forward for improvement? I'll admit, in my dance competition days, I would read my comments and move on, probably forget they ever existed let alone be able to describe what was said. These comments however, are very valuable, they come from another outsider, someone who has not seen the routine or choreography before and perhaps picks up on ideas that have been missed. So what do competitions offer these learners? Taking away the idea of winning or getting placed, they offer a chance for individuals to compete against themselves. Once again, this came as a result of yesterday's Skype conversation. Do learners ever look at competing against themselves and then furthermore use this idea of 'competition' as a way to feed forwards into improvement?

Throughout my dance career, as I became older and a lot more experienced, I then grasped this idea of competing against myself to help me to improve, so following a perhaps unsuccessful audition, or a class that didn't go so well, I would analyse my performance...What could I do better? Where could I improve? And this helped me - and my self esteem!! So it has just clicked and resonated with me that this is a great tool to offer my learners. Encourage them to not just to want to compete against their peers, but themselves also. Film and record their dances where possible, self analyse and self critique to help hone skills, technique and performance. This certainly requires a level of maturity but once grasped I think is an invaluable means to learning.

This has led me to use these ideas for questioning in my qualitative interviews. I will question why my learners compete? What do they feel they get out of competing? How do they improve individually from competing? I am very interested in the range of answers that I will get.
I feel I am now offering them so much from this research proposal that essentially can continue to help them move forwards in their careers and when they have moved on from the dance establishment where I currently work that I honestly wish someone would have pointed out for me when I was younger, however just too naive to realise.

As a teacher, I always give feedback through discussion and correcting what isn't quite right. This idea however of using any kind of feedback whether it be exams, competitions or from teachers to feed forwards, create an action plan and self reflect and analyse is something that I feel I can offer my students at this moment that will prove useful and beneficial to their development. Time to get experimenting with new ideas...

Sunday, 23 April 2017


It is thought that ‘natural knowledge begins with experience and remains in experience’ (Husserl, 1931).

The phenomenology of Husserl has really made me realise that this ideology is most suited to my research plan. Mostly because it reflects my research project and my learners that will be interviewed, after all, I will be interviewing those learners of varying experiences, all of whom will carry a different insight and thought. Husserl believes that we ‘behold the living experiences of others through the perception of their bodily behaviour.’ After observing the learners across my different classes, I have hand picked a small selection of individuals that are at different points in their career; those approaching A Level, those approaching University and an adult learner, all offering a different perspective to the research. 

My research will adopt a non - positivist approach, echoed via the thoughts of Husserl as this enables me to get to grips with the experience of my learners, learning from and through them. It will be interesting to hear a range of responses that may possibly link to ideas and suggestions that I hadn't thought about. I also wonder whether this research project will enable my learners to take their summative feedback (from exams and competitions) a little more seriously as a mark of progression and to use this feedback to improve and progress.

Ethics is an area that I had to understand in further detail, I have handed out forms for my principal and parents to sign to consent to their children being part of this project. I have to take into consideration presenting my learners as subjects in order to protect their identity, and I have also read the Data Protection Act (1998) to make sure I understand how long it is appropriate to store details for. There is definitely more to be considered and learnt about ethics in qualitative research...the reading continues.

Data Protection Act, 1998.

Husserl, E, 1931. Husserl Ideas. Oxford: Routledge.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Literature Review and Key Texts

Across this weekend my literature review is mostly falling into place (I think) after receiving some feedback. I have identified four key texts that help support my research project in terms of whether dancers benefit fundamentally in regards to their progress and career when participating in examinations and competitions. Three of which key texts will be discussed in this blog...

Kleiman (2007) discusses how creativity and assessment are not mutually exclusive terms and therefore when assessing creativity, the assessment process must be fair, valid and reliable and also experienced and perceived to be so. When training for exams (as the place where I teach have just started to do this), I believe it would be fairly reliable to say that via the board, all examiners are highly regarded and well trained. Learners will be assessed fairly according to the guidelines of the syllabus and the marking criteria. Learners receive their grades, certificates and feedback that is individually tailored to that individual learner. As much as this process seems fairly straightforward and a 'no brainer' in terms of 'this would definitely suit my learners' unfortunately there is lack of interest in exams. These learners are competitive dancers and have been educated in a school that learn choreography at speed for up and coming competitions. They win a a lot or get placed a lot. They are successful across various competitions and therefore individual talent is recognised through a different route - one that brings medals and that feeling of 'success' bringing out the competitive edge in these learners. They are used to working for that short term goal and are successful in this approach. 

Kolb's learning cycle (1974) learning involves four stages; concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation and active experimentation. As learners recognise they are good at something it instills that self belief, the self actualisation that enables them to confirm they are good at something. As much as this may very well be true, can we bank on the opinion of an adjudicator on that particular day to confirm that this is fact? With so much more to take into consideration such as; the other competitors on the day, level of talent and ability, the amount of people who have entered the competition and of course the adjudicators personal choice. Therefore does winning and getting placed necessarily stand for anything? Or is it more beneficial to a dancers career to have those qualifications that essentially 'prove' something has been worked for and achieved?

Examinations require a lot more study, a longer time to improve and progress and therefore this requires more from the human character; determination, motivation, hard work, repetition, motivation, rehearsal etc etc's more of a long term goal and process. As thought by Dewey (1916) education is dominated by specific goals encouraging a static educational process that creates a separation between the activity, the student and the goal itself, where education should be a continuous process as opposed to goal-directed activity. Therefore, this contradicts that period of exam study and perhaps short term goals are better for the individual learner? Perhaps short term success is something that increases self esteem and progress and therefore continually encourages the learner to keep going developing motivation?