Last weekend, I was at the ‘Move It’ Dance exhibition at Olympia in London and had the pleasure of meeting some very inspiring dance professionals. Among them were the teachers and choreographers leading the dance workshops I attended. The teachers who inspired me the most were those who made eye-contact, were welcoming, explained the moves, demonstrated their knowledge and encouraged feedback. These teaching techniques got me thinking about how people learn and how this can be applied to dance. Did you know we each have different learning styles? Do you know what your learning style is? More importantly, do you know what your students’ learning styles are?
No matter what or whom you’re teaching, knowing about and catering for different learning styles within your class will enhance the learning experience that you provide for your dancers.
There are 3 main types of learners: Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic (VAK)
What VISUAL learners need…
1. To see the teacher and watch how they move; 2. To be at the front of the class for the best view; 3. Visual displays; 4. To take notes
What AUDITORY learners need…
1. Verbal commands to listen to; 2. Opportunities for discussion; 3. Opportunities to describe actions out loud; 4. Descriptions/explanations of steps and movements to listen to
What KINESTHETIC learners need…
1. To have a hands-on approach; 2. To actively explore ideas; 3. To keep moving and active; 4. To try things out first
Some learners have one dominant learning style and some are a mix of 2 or all 3. I think it’s fair to say that as dance teachers, we must all have an element of kinesthetic learning going on! But let’s say not everyone in your class is a natural dancer or let’s say you have special needs within your group – this is when VAK provision can become a very worthwhile teaching and learning tool within your dance sessions.
Going back to my experience at ‘Move It’, I have one particular dance teacher in mind, whose forward thinking approach to teaching was not for everyone but resonated with me in terms of their use of VAK provision for a mixed age, mixed ability class of dancers. The teacher’s use of eye contact, facial expression, demonstration and movement around the room would have appealed to the visual learners within the class. Their use of vocabulary, discussion, explanation, questioning and asking participants to relay words back to them would have been fantastic for auditory learners, for whom just ‘seeing’ and ‘doing’ in a dance class is simply not enough! Then of course the kinesthetic learners had plenty of practice time and opportunities to experiment with moves before learning the combinations and routines. Through incorporating these elements into the dance lesson, the teacher was catering for all 3 learning styles, thus including every single dancer in the busy workshop, despite their age, ability or dancing background, by giving everyone equal access to what he was actually teaching.
Of course, for those of you who, like myself, are teaching between 15 and 25 classes a week, it may not be practical for you to find out the learning style of each and every one of your students and therefore it is a good idea to simply take some of the above on board and think about ways in which you could cater for every learning style within your classes. It may only involve a few simple tweaks to your teaching approach, such as (for example) use of talking through the warm up, writing up dance vocab on a flip chart, providing a diagram of body movements in a hand-out or giving students more practical exploration time before teaching them the moves or choreography. Or maybe you’ve already been catering for all these learning styles with a varied approach to teaching without even realising it!
If you’re interested in finding out what learning style you have, there are plenty of online questionnaires out there – some are better than others…..being a partly kinesthetic, partly visual learner, I liked this one because of it’s use of colours and pictures! http://www.brainboxx.co.uk/a3_aspects/pages/vak_quest.htm Or for a more in-depth questionnaire, go to http://teachertools.londongt.org/?page=VAK
Feel free to leave me a comment about this and let me know what you think