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SPOTLIGHT:
INSTRUCTIONAL CRITIQUES
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The "Do's" of Dance Instruction

by Sima Shapiro
January 1, 2007
Sturbridge Host Hotel and Conference Center
366 Main Street
Sturbridge, MA 01566
508.347.7393
New Year's Eve Dance Extravaganza
organized by
Bill Cameron and colleagues
www.dancepros.net

New Year's Dance Extravaganza 2006 - Part 1
New Year's Dance Extravaganza 2006 - Part 2
The "Do's" of Dance Instruction
New Year's Dance Extravaganza 2006 - More Photos
While taking several dance workshops this weekend at the New Year's Eve Dance Extravaganza in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, I found myself critiquing the teaching techniques of the various instructors. As a former computer instructor, it was interesting for me to be on the other side of the looking glass, that is, to be a student. Reviewing and analyzing my workshop experiences as a whole, I have created a list of "Do's" for dance instructors below, which, in a broader context, may be applied to most adult instructional situations.

    1) Workshop Description- The description of the workshop should be clear, or the prepared lesson may not be applicable. If a catchy title is desired, then ensure that the skill level of the class is stated. A workshop is unlikely to be successful if the prepared lesson is too difficult or too easy for the students who attend it.

    2) Student Skill Level- At the beginning of each class, the instructor should ask questions to determine the median skill level of the students. If the skill level of the class appears to be of a different level than the level anticipated, adjust the lesson accordingly. Often, the instructor will not be able to please everyone, but he/she should be able to please a majority of the class.

    3) Workshop Goal- After the skill level of the students is determined, the instructor should state or demonstrate the goal of the workshop. Most students will feel more comfortable and be more equipped to follow the lesson if they have some understanding of the result they are attempting to accomplish.

    4) Instructor Focus- Establishing the focus of the workshop will create greater class cohesiveness. At some point(s) during the lesson, the instructor may notice several students paying attention to different aspects of the instructions causing these students to be less engaged with each other. If the instructor has introduced a focus to the class, then the instructor may remind students of this focus, channeling their attention.

    5) Respect Students- Students attending these workshops are adults that have chosen to learn the proffered lesson. They deserve an instructor's respect for taking time out of their busy schedules and spending money to attend the workshop. There is no need for an instructor to establish his/her leadership role through intimidation. Intimidation, humiliation, and other forms of negative attention will only alienate students.

    6) Be Patient- Students may ask the instructor to repeat him/herself, either directly or by asking a question whose answer has already been given. This should be expected. People's minds are not sponges, absorbing information effortlessly. It takes time and repetition for people to remember instructions. Also, different people process information differently. For example, some are better visually, some aurally and others linguistically. Therefore, if possible, it is best to instruct in a variety of formats addressing different sensory perceptions.

    7) Lesson Breakdown- Lessons should be broken down several levels and then slowly put back together during the course of a workshop. Often, an instruction is actually a combination of instructions. If instructions are not separated into their individual elements properly, most students will not be able to learn them.

    8) Workshop Flow- The Instructor should establish a steady pace for the workshop. The pace should be based on the skill level of the workshop and adjusted for the attending students' median skill level. If the pace is too slow, students may become bored. If the pace is too fast, students are likely to become frustrated.

    9) Equal Student Contact- The Instructor should ensure that all students can hear and see him/her equally. If students are at different vantage points from the Instructor, the Instructor may need to repeat a demonstration (visually and aurally) in different places. Otherwise, those students who continually cannot see and/or hear will not learn the lesson.

Thankfully, the workshops I attended this weekend were successful and enjoyable because the instructors utilized most of these Do's.
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