Monday, 18 December 2017

Exploring rather than persuading - moving through your research

It is this time of the year where everybody is busy working on his own inquiry and where it is difficult to find time to comment or post... This is why it is important to remind ourselves that we are exploring rather than persuading. To explore, we need exchange, time, courage, curiosity, passion, a community, listening and obersvation skills, relfective practice, patience, openness, etc. 

'Engage writing as an exploration; consider narrative as a form of movement in time and space.' (Olsen, 2014) 

Exploration enables movement, fluidity, continuity and freedom. If you try to persuade someone during your research, the process of researching and writing, and the inquiry, lose those qualities. It becomes something fixed and generalised. 

I keep moving through my text, my literature, my stories and hope that everyone is doing fine.

Monday, 6 November 2017

When we listen, do we clearly hear?

As teachers, we know that students are not always ready to hear what we say. Therefore, we explain things over and over again, trying to use different words each time in order to give everybody a chance to hear and understand what we are explaining. During my last interview, the teacher I interviewed said: "I always give several images because everyone has his own image to the image I give. We need to allow space."
So, not everybody hears and sees the same way we hear and see. But during our research, how can we help ourselves to clearly hear and see? How do I make sure that I listen AND hear? 
I noticed that those past weeks, I hear things related to my topic all the time. I didn't hear them before, because I wasn't looking for it. But I also noticed that now, I only hear what I am looking for. 
This morning, I did some reading about 'listening skills', and I guess what I do is called 'filtered listening' or 'evaluative listening'. And I believe we all do it. 
When I introduced my topic yesterday evening during our monthly skype chat, somebody responded straight away, but changed the topic. My concern was listened to, but not really heard. My fellow student filtered my concern because she has wanted to address a similar concern. The result: we didn't really talk about the topic I introduced. I wasn't upset or disappointed because the event itself gave me a lot of information about the issue of listening and hearing and helped me understand something important: Listening is a skill. But how do we train this skill? 
E.C.L. Goh writes in her article 'Integrating Mindfulness and Reflection in the Teaching and Learning of Listening Skills for Undergraduate Social Work Students in Singapore' that if we really wanna hear, or listen actively, we must put aside our own concerns. In order to do so, it is important to first listen to ourselves. When we hear somebody talk, we have an inner dialogue that we can listen to in order to identify possible thoughts that hinder us to really hear the other. 
I believe that by doing so, we could have more profound discussions about a topic and it would help us stay connected and open.


Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Moving in the questions

I started with the interpretation process of my data this week and I feel lost. Lost because there are so much information. Lost because I feel very little and humble. Lost because I don't really know where I am going, what I am supposed to do. I have difficulties to see the bigger picture and to not deviate from my route.  A few days ago I heard a song that talked me out of the soul and that I want to share:

"I sense so much and what I can give back is so little. But I can ask the questions: 

How do we begin to know the unknown?
How do we come to see clearly (...)? (...)

There are still so many more questions - I am moving in them - they are my feet and my hands and they are what I give back."

Integral Silence - Jun Miyake

I think the lyrics speak fot themselves. When we collect data, we sense so much, there is so much information coming in. And I do feel like I can give back so little. What can you do in only 12 weeks of research? I guess all we can do is ask questions. Those questions will help us know the unknown and share it. Those questions will help us shed some light on our topic. We are moving with those questions, dancing with them and breathing them. And we can only give back even more questions. And for me, that still is the most difficult part. The desire to find fix answers obscured the view and misleads me.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Theory and practice - A rhizom

My previous post was about the relation between theory and practice and how to theorize something you experienced with the tool of reflection. Having said that I would think about tools needed to turn theory into practice I have mainly thought about reflection... again. 

I was reading a chapter about self-learning from Kelly Ferris Lester from the book 'Moving consciously' (a collection of essays edited by Sondra Fraleigh). Lester quotes Paolo Freire, a brasilian pedagogue who said that "reflection - true reflection - leads to action." I am completely taking this phrase out of its context and try to use it with the aim to better understand how theory can lead to practice. 

For teacher students and teachers it can be difficult to transform their theoretical knowledge into practice. As a dance teacher student you learn teaching methods, you learn the development of a child, you learn common faults and how to correct them, ... but as soon as you stand in front of your class, it is not easy to implement this knowledge. What I have found most useful is to take time to listen to the students and to what is happening in your class and then reflect and respond, act or react to the situation. So, yes, "relfection - true relfection - leads to action." But it is easier said than done. 
There are numeruous articles where the link between theory and practice has been researched, but mainly with a focus on 'reflective practice' - or the process of turning experiences in practice into theoretical knowledge. 
So for now, all I can think of in terms of tools to turn theory in practice is to be a reflective practitioner.  

Knowledge is an enormuous rhizom. This rhizom grows with elements we learn from practice and with elements we learn from theory (books, conferences, conversations, ...). All the roots and shoots are interconnected and reflection helps us see those connections and apply or theorise them. While we practice our art or teach, we let our actions be nurtured by this rhizom and therefore we have to be attentive to what is happening in front of us and react. Reflection helps us in this process. 


Monday, 9 October 2017

The theory-practice relationship


On Friday we had some interesting discussions about dance competition and exams and its impact on the students and the place of culture in dance. During the chat, Agata asked some questions about the relation of theory and practice and Adesola tried to encourage us to start theorising a topic (see her blog post Noticing to Wondering: passive to proactive). Because of Adesola’s request, I tried to look at the conversation through a different pair of glasses. I reflected less on the content of the discussion but more on the nature of it. Today, I will write down some thoughts about the process of theorising a subject: 

I think it was Chelsie who talked about an experience in Japan where she had a performance with dancers from all over the world. She stated that if they all would have had a better understanding of the culture of the country they were working in and the style they were working with, their performance would have been better. She experienced something, reflected on it and started theorising. As we all talked about it, gathered similar experiences, noticed and reflected, I started to wonder how this discussion could interlink with Agata’s question about practice and theory.

In fact, I see reflection as the first tool needed to combine practice with theory. We do something, we experience it and we reflect on it. During the process of reflection, as J. A. Moon suggests, we think about something we already know. ‘It is a process of re-organizing knowledge and emotional orientations in order to achieve further insights.’(1) After reflecting on something and maybe learning something new out of a practical experience, we can, in a second step, then start theorising around this reorganised knowledge. To do so, we need additional tools like using already existing literature, interviewing practitioners or even theorists, collecting more experience, etc. This is the process of collecting data and this is where I am today in my research project. I am starting to write down thoughts in my reflective journal, reflecting on what I experience during my practice, I have confirmed two interview appointments and I have sent out an email with a task to people I want a response from so I can collect different stories around my inquiry.The third step would then be the writing process where we explain what how we understand this topic after careful consideration in critical review.

A last thought: this relation between theory and practice is reciprocal. I will think about the tools needed to turn theory into practice and post it at a later date. Feel free to already comment with ideas. 

(1) Moon, JA, 2004, A handbook of reflective and experiential learning. Theory and practice, London/New York: Routledge Falmer, p. 82.







Wednesday, 27 September 2017

"Exchange is the teacher of many things"

I recently had a situation at work which left me with a feeling of deep disappointment and frustration. This is why I want to write a short post about exchange. I believe that the subject fits very well in this programme, especially at the beginning of a new term.

I'm not sure if it is because I'm doing this programme and meeting so many people who are keen to exchange ideas, or if it is a character trait.... but I am wondering why are people not willing to open up and to pass on their knowledge and experience? Why do people fear that someone would steal ideas and copy their classes if they let them into their studio? Don't we all have one main goal in common as teachers, namely to provide the best possible training for our students? 
I guess in this programme, we all are convinced that the learning process is never over and that there is always more to discover. Yesterday, Samantha commented my previous post by saying that she is excited to "learn" from her students and determined to open up. Having this platform for exchange gives me a feeling of not being alone in my job and being surrounded by people who believe that it is important to stay connected. We accept our weaknesses, or we know where we could learn more, and we are aware of our strengths and willing to share them. 
My previous post was about responding to stories and letting experiences converse with each other. If we close the door to our studio, how can someone respond to our story, how can we start a conversation? 
In dance, exchange is vital. Exchange occurs in the breathing, between the dancers in many different ways, within the body, between the dancer and the environment... dancing, we constantly exchange movement. In fact, "(...) exchange is a tool for engaging, communicating and responding spontaneously with the world around us; it is how we experience life and is the teacher of many things (...)." Even though Karin Rugman wrote this in her article about 'Contact Unwinding' in order to talk about a specific technique which focuses on partners bodywork, this citation nicely expresses what I believe should happen between us teachers. I wish that we all would use exchange as a tool for engaging in our profession, communicating between practitioners and responding to our environment in order evolve and learn or teach. In order to do so, I cannot think of another way than by simply opening our doors.

I'm excited to exchange with you this term, and hope that I will continue to do so in the MAPP Alumni group and I'm looking forward to reading and listening to your stories. 

Monday, 25 September 2017

A response to my feedback

This time a year ago I wrote a blog post about everything that was new to me. I wrote: "Right now, ‘new’ seems to be my guideline, my companion". At the same time, I was discovering the process of reflection as a tool to question my practice, to challenge my views, to progress as a practitioner... Today, there is still so much that is new to me and I am still discovering new dance schools, new students, new classes, a new home, a new chapter in my life, a new module... more and more to reflect on, to process, to question, to challenge... And it really does help to progress. 
In this context I will talk today about my feedback from module 2. 

The feedback I received offered me a valuable overview of my work so far. It enabled me to see how someone who reads my proposal understands my proposal. Reading through my feedback was like listening to someone talking about what I am planning to do but in a different voice. This was very useful to deepen my own intentions but also to illustrate the main critique I got, namely finding a more flowing and consistent voice. 
Writing on my blog, I am slowly finding my own writing style, my own voice. However, it is difficult to keep this voice while gathering stories of the people around me. It is difficult to continue in my own style while reading articles from different authors. My style shifts and mirrors the texts I am reading. I get carried away, get inspired by the authors' voices and let it 'bleed into' my own voice. 
In a slightly different context I received a similar critique. It was suggested to me to respond to the stories I receive through my interviews rather than 're-writing' or 're-telling' their stories. 
From today on, I want to try to respond to the authors' voices just as I will respond to another person's story. I do want to discover something new and unknown. I don't want to re-tell and risk generalising their stories by turning them into a single story. I see my research project more like a conversation between different experiences, stories and storytellers. So, in order to find a consistent voice, I will try to proceed in a similar way. I will consider my authors' writings as stories I need to respond to rather than re-tell. This will help me discover more and new things. This way, my understanding of original ideas will be greater and my study more complete because I will have to truly deal with the subject. I will converse with the texts I am reading just as I converse with my interviewees.

Today, I realise that the new is still my companion and will always be so. It isn't really a matter of starting a new programme or teaching in a new school. It is more of an approach that contributes to openness which helps constantly progressing in my understanding of the world around me. 

I am excited to start this last term and hope that we all find some time to respond to each others' stories.