Dance Education: What makes learning relevant?

take your dance class home

This blog was first published 21st October 2016

Student engagement and motivation in the classroom are essential components in improving performance and skill and in making a successful dancer. But what is it that really drives children to want to learn?

dance education: what makes learning relevant?This thought provoking article about the drivers behind motivation and performance in children's learning is really interesting. The context is learning in an academic setting but you could apply the ideas to the dance environment also. 

The article highlights the need to make sure that what students are learning and the way they are learning is meaningful to them and that they are part of their own learning process. It highlights that for students there is no point doing something if it does not seem worth doing (no matter how hard they want to try). When 'trying hard' becomes a goal in itself, it is ineffective - you have to want to do what you are trying to do; it has to be relevant to you. 

This sounds obvious but there are some great points in the article and I like the broader perspective here. Often the research findings and learning/teaching themes that reach popular culture seem too simplistic. They may apply within a particular frame of reference but are too black and white in a complex real world and so don't always seem to fit, e.g., "are you goal-oriented or process-oriented?" - when we should really encourage a growth mind-set not a fixed mind-set...

Teachers are already super busy, but if we are wanting to improve student engagement and training outcomes, it seems we need to work to keep learning relevant. We should perhaps keep questioning how teaching is structured and exactly what we are teaching, as well as the student's motivation behind the learning taking place and how this might change they way we teach them. We need to look at the opportunities the learning provides to students as well as the reward system used (or not used) to help motivate them. We also need to be clear on the goals - which are sometimes short-term and sometimes long, and again will differ by student. Then train with these goals in mind. Easy huh?!

To achieve this teaching really needs to be as personalised as possible, which is no easy feat in a class-based situation. However, personalised learning is very effective and with digital technology is becoming more and more achievable with the right tools and structure (see Mark Zuckerberg's comments around his funding of personalised learning). I hope that dance teachers will be able to take advantage of digital technologies such as Movitae to able to create wonderfully personalised and relevant environments for their dance students.