Monday, 3 October 2016

Making Connections...

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...






9 comments:

  1. Thank you Helen for this post. It give me a new way of thinking. This will be my aim to think, to read and to write like you. It lead me to the deepest area of thought.

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  3. Hi Helen, this is indeed ia nteresting and exciting journey that I´m starting. Reflection is quite a powerful tool which I´ve never realised can aid me in so many ways. Looking forward to getting more knowledge and opinions!

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  4. Hi Helen, this is indeed ia nteresting and exciting journey that I´m starting. Reflection is quite a powerful tool which I´ve never realised can aid me in so many ways. Looking forward to getting more knowledge and opinions!

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  5. Helen,

    If improvisation is a reflection of the past in the now, might it also be considered a formative part of the future? Through improvisation in dance we develop ideas and themes for phrases in class or dance works. Is this journey not an improvisational reflection not only on what we have learned through our own experiences but also developing the ability to understand through collection of research, interviews, and observations the improvisational process of further developing our own thoughts and processes? I strongly dislike improvisation and will continue to shout that to the world; however, as I delve further into academia I discover the evil necessity for improvisation and reflection. Perhaps my unwillingness to peruse into my inner being is a masculine affectation and perception I need to overcome. Culture and gender identity do have an impact on perspective.

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    1. Absolutely Davis!! Culture, heritage, gender, socio-political climate, location, all affect our perspectives and our perceptions, how we are in the world, if we believe (as we advocate through this MA) that we are in transaction with ourselves, our environment rather than isolated from it. Improvisation can be perceived and used in a number of ways. It is not a 'thing' after all, but a process. Uncertainty and ambiguity may be quite unsettling elements of improvisation, perhaps reflection can add to this mix a little stability, a thread through 'you' as the constant in an otherwise fluid environment?

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  6. We all learn is different ways and yet even as I say that and know it to be true there is something in me that says that we have to do well in our academic studies and that we have to study in a certain way to achieve this.I find myself wanting to tell my 15 year old that he has to do more study in a certain way if he's going to do well in his GCSE's. He has to do well in his GCSE's. WHY? I hear my other self cry! He's a rower and if he can do that to a high level does he have to do A-levels or is a BTEC better? Society makes us think certain ways and I feel my self fighting to allow myself the right to think and learn differently.

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  7. We all learn is different ways and yet even as I say that and know it to be true there is something in me that says that we have to do well in our academic studies and that we have to study in a certain way to achieve this.I find myself wanting to tell my 15 year old that he has to do more study in a certain way if he's going to do well in his GCSE's. He has to do well in his GCSE's. WHY? I hear my other self cry! He's a rower and if he can do that to a high level does he have to do A-levels or is a BTEC better? Society makes us think certain ways and I feel my self fighting to allow myself the right to think and learn differently.

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    1. Room for alternatives and multiplicity in thinking, perceiving and doing is essential in this world. It is important to recognise the 'systems' of our society and western values when it comes to talking about education and contextualise discussions accordingly. What can we learn from looking elsewhere, from alternative approaches, philosophies, ways of being?

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