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Transformational Teaching in Dance
- Julianna Gaillard Hane

August 17, 2015

Our society is now experiencing the affects of information overload. Notifications and blinking lights bombard us 24/7. Anyone with a smart phone can find out just about anything they could ever want to know via the Internet.

If our students can access information anytime, then why even have school? What does a teacher offer that no other system can?

The answer is meaning or purpose (Rosebrough and Leverett, 2011).

Only a teacher can show students how to think for themselves and use information for a greater purpose. Only mentorship can inspire meaning in life.

Mentorship contains a very important ingredient that no form of technology will ever reach - the human element.

The education process is not a dumping of information into an empty vessel, but the nurturing of transformation, as in peeling away the layers of an onion to reach its core. This process is also known as transformational teaching.

What is transformational teaching?
It is a holistic model of teaching where goals for student learning are academic, social, and spiritual in nature. The teacher acts as part scholar, part relater, and part practitioner modeling ways of thinking, feeling, and discerning a life purpose (Rosebrough and Leverett, 2011).

In the dance studio, transformational teaching involves two primary processes:
* Solving a problem (thinking), and
* Reflecting on its meaning (feeling).

Take a look at this dance choreography unit on gossip and bullying.

Gossip and bullying stem from the human desire to belong. Each dancer will create a still tableau of 4-5 students "on stage" emphasizing various groupings and facings. Ask students not to use shapes yet, but to have dancers stand in a neutral position to emphasize the spatial arrangement of the dancers. After viewing each tableau, what was communicated? Was there a tableau showing one person separated from the rest? If not, the teacher can create one to demonstrate this point.

Students will then work in groups of 4-5 to create a short dance based on gossip/bullying (complete with beginning, middle, and end), and share their dances with the class. What groupings did you see, and how did they change? What did each dance communicate about the desire to belong? Were any solutions presented to solve the "gossip" problem?

To instill greater understanding and skill development, use the "Foundation Structures" teaching charts found in Toolkit #2 (Creating Dance-Processes for Choreographing) to ensure students include a strong beginning, middle, and end. Increase dance literacy skills by using the "Four-Step Critique Process" teaching posters from Toolkit #1 (Viewing Dance-Vocabularies for Critiquing) to discuss how dances communicate meaning. Emphasize the first two steps to prepare for stronger interpretation and critique.

How can dance educators learn more about transformational teaching?

At Dance Curriculum Designs, we are launching an exciting new venture called Transformational Teaching Workshops for Educators. These workshops reinforce inquiry and reflection through the holistic model's six defining characteristics (6DC Model of dance education). The workshops incorporate teaching materials from tour toolkits and instructional posters for deeper learning.

Julianna Gaillard Hane, MFA, CLMA is program assistant at Dance Curriculum Designs. She is also adjunct dance faculty at College of Charleston (SC) and is involved on many levels with aerial dance.

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