Two interesting Skype conversations yesterday and great to hear many voices coming through to recognise, give space for, and begin to find our way collectively through some shared observations...
In the morning conversation I was drawn to people's thoughts on navigation essentially, how we work things out, patterns of teaching and learning. A few of you spoke about different teaching strategies for different learners. How we approach the teaching of dance; be it through 'technique' as the building blocks, or seeing the 'dance' and working backwards to unpack what it is and how it can be learnt.
In the evening conversation the discussions were largely centred around reflection; as a mode of learning, a process, a thing in its own right. We spoke about different methods for reflection, questioned what it is and why we engage in it and talked about the act of looking back to move forwards (reading your feedback from the previous module as you move into starting the next). I am interested in the notion of patterns and feel both conversations yesterday spoke to me in terms of the way in which patterns once revealed may become useful in connecting our learning and development, both within us and within the wider context of our professional communities and the world.
For me, it is important to recognise that learning doesn't have a 'one size fits all' pattern. As teachers we can usually understand that in our teaching of others, knowing that we need to adjust, re-think, deliver differently in order to engage the different learners to our classes. But we tend, I think, to seek a clearer pattern, something more known, in our own learning. This possibly is tied up with patience and our own expectations of ourselves, but I would like to suggest that rather than the drive to look forwards, to see results, achievement, progress we begin to look all around us...seeing ourselves in a pond rather than on a road perhaps.
Gary Peters (musician/improviser/philosopher) speaks of the practice of improvisation as a way of marking (time). He suggests that when we improvise, we mark the past in the present. Acknowledging the 'nowness' of improvisation, happening in the present moment, Peters suggests that far from being a spontaneous act only deriving from the present, we are, through our improvised performances (teaching for me being just that), drawing on our past. Our backgrounds, cultural heritage, own training, experiences are given a voice in some way through our actions in the present moment. In my own research, analysing the conversations I see revealed between the practice and performance of improvisation in dance, I see improvisation as a mode of reflection. Not as a process of getting somewhere else as such (not travelling on a linear road) but swimming in a pond, aware of what has come before (my past) what is all around me (my present practice, students, colleagues) and how these things affect my present understanding of me as I am in relationship with them.
Finding different methods for doing something, be it baking a cake or teaching a dance class, needs to embrace trial and error in our learning. Making adjustments, looking at what we know in order to contextualise what we do not know. Something I adore about improvisation in dance is the not knowing, and with that not looking (for answers, for the correct movement, timing, aesthetic...) but accepting and enjoying the movement between what has come before (recognising and validating past) and what may come next (future) whilst being in the moment of consciousness (present).
The conversations amongst us as a community of learners at the start of a new term yesterday evoked in me these musings on improvisation. How improvisation can be a mode of reflection, can be a way of getting into something, offers the essence of trial and error and an acceptance of process as product. It allows us to be open to possibilities.
Being open to what the experiences of the MA might offer is key to its value. Whether engaging in reflective practice as a mode of articulating your past learning in the present in module one, planning your research inquiry in module two or conducting interviews and gathering data in module three, it is important not to shut off possibilities for what might be there, instead we encourage you to swim around, notice, acknowledge, question, re-think in order to (re)locate yourself in transaction with the flux of your environment (your practice, your research, your community) acknowledging the fluidity of process rather than seeking the fixity of product perhaps.
Love to hear your thoughts, please do comment... and look forward to reading your own blogs this week...