By Martha Ann Marie Harper
Let’s try that again . . .
“I’m not sure I understand; please repeat that.” (Hearing) “Maybe I better study the syllabus again.” (Reading) “Could you show me my part one more time?” (Visual) “Let’s try it in partner; I need to dance it for myself.” (Doing)
Most individuals have a primary learning process of which four examples are given above. While working on my Educational degree, a professor missed detailing one of his lecture points on the board. When I asked if he would write it out he commented, “Miss Harper, I forgot that one of your primary learning processes is visual.”
This motivated me to purpose when I teach to identify a student’s most effective learning process and structure my lessons accordingly. When I began ballroom dancing, I realized how often I asked my instructor to show me my part (visual). I also realized I needed the other three (hearing, reading, and doing) to maintain a progressive and balanced educational track. So whether you’re teaching an individual or a group, it is good to mix it up and use all four.
Some people can hear information once, process it and play it back with minimal error. As a student, I am learning to be more focused and disciplined in my listening skills. It is also a great help if the instructor is clear with their verbal description of pattern and technique. If there is a language difference or the instructor is a new professional, it might help if they studied a little more in advance of each lesson or asked another professional for input and clarity. It is also a plus if the instructor and student agree to question if there is a concern with the language exchange.
A major part of hearing is also the music. Teaching musicality is sometimes difficult, but listening to the music can provide understanding to the movement. It also provides a framework for the dance itself. To me it is like “connecting the dots” and getting a feel for how the many parts come together.
To see the choreography or technical description in print and reading through it provides an element of continuity and affirms the verbal. It clarifies the detail. Since syllabuses and instructional outlines are publicly available in most studios, on websites and on the general Internet, it is helpful if the instructor reviews the written instructions before a lesson. Ballroom and Latin dancing are frequent topics of discussion outside the studio, and most students compare information. More frequently students are taking from several instructors in different studios so they will be looking for consistency in their written material.
As a student becomes more committed and desires to improve, they may take notes after each lesson. This is another avenue of learning which assists the student by reading their personal references in their own handwriting.
When watching a lesson demonstration, I am looking for specific execution of feet interwoven with body movement. It helps me to see it several times, and I appreciate an instructor who will switch roles and show me my steps before bringing me into frame to dance it as partners. A person who is a visual learner takes mental notes of what they see, then plays it back in memory for improved understanding, practice, and retention. I really take note when I see an instructor preparing for a lesson and dancing their steps in front of a mirror. They need to see what the student sees when they verbalize and demonstrate the steps / choreography.
Clearly doing is a required element of learning as you need to actually practice what you have learned. In an eagerness to respond to the music, exemplify their knowledge or skill, or the sheer creative excitement of trying something new, a student may start doing before their process of learning has developed. On the other hand, the instructor sometimes has to encourage a student who is a little fearful of doing it wrong, to just step out and try it. This usually helps open them up to improve and advance their learning options.
Learning is fun and exciting ! I love Hearing a new idea, a new step. Then Reading about it increases my interest and understanding. Seeing it in motion brings it to a whole new reality and expectation. Then actually Doing it, and doing it right, is an ultimate pleasure and joy which both the student and the instructor share!