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I stand corrected! From correction to constructive feedback

Posted By Karine Rathle on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators' Committee, Monday, June 4, 2018
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Feedback is a process used by teachers, rehearsal directors and choreographers to provide information and guide dancers in skill acquisition, technique and movement quality. It is a powerful and necessary tool. Typically, teachers and choreographers have their own individual style of providing feedback. Their approach may come from their experience as dancers, their previous teachers and training, or their ingrained habits from working in dance.

 

 Feedback is usually given to dance students through verbal feedback or physical touch, or a combination of both. Krasnow and Wilmerding (2015) use the term, augmented feedback, referring to the corrections that teachers frequently give in class in order to enhance performance. The term augmented feedback is used when the feedback comes from outside the performer themselves. Students can perceive teachers’ feedback as positive or negative according to a variety of factors including language, gestures and touch, facial expression, tone of voice, proximity to the dancer, timing and intention.  In this blog post we will explore different types and styles of feedback including positive and negative, constructive and corrective, and verbal and tactile feedback. Ultimately, we want to help students optimize their performance by knowing more about the outcome of a movement, or about how it should be performed. Using constructive feedback appropriately helps dancers with skill acquisition and motor control. You can find out more about feedback and motor learning in dance teaching in our resource paper [1] .

 

 Reflect on your practice.  When you give feedback to your students, what is the intention within your words and touch? When you are thinking of ‘correcting’ your student, what is the main idea that crosses your mind? How are the students processing the information that you provide them? Do they know what to do with the feedback they receive?

 

Positive feedback versus negative feedback

 

 Positive feedback can be seen as positive statements from teachers and choreographers, for example when you say ‘beautiful turn’, or ‘well done on your balance’. Positive feedback can provide students with positive reinforcement of their behaviors.  It can also improve dancers’ motivation. For example, when your student achieves a jump or a turn that they have been working on for a long time, and it is the first time they manage it, it is important to notice it and let them know that they have done well. This approach can boost motivation.  Yet repeated and vague positive feedback can affect your students’ motivation negatively, too.  If you tell your students after every exercise, ‘very well done’, ‘good work’, ‘beautiful’, these generalized comments provide the students with information about your reaction to their general performance but not what they have done well to achieve the result. Furthermore, if they have not worked as hard or as well as the previous time they received such feedback, they feel that anything they do is good, and your positive feedback loses its value in enhancing learning.  Focusing your feedback on the reasons for specific achievements in performance is usually recommended.

 Negative feedback should be avoided. Generally, the intention of teachers and choreographers is not to use words that will be mean or harmful to dancers. Shouting, insulting, putting down and comparing students to their peers are all things that we need to avoid, as they create a negative motivational climate that hinders dancers in their learning potential and psychological well-being.  A negative environment can also be created through competition or uneven attention given to the dancers.  For example, when a certain student is always praised and taken as an example in front of their colleagues, it can create a competitive environment for everyone, including the person who is praised. You can create a positive learning context by ensuring dancers focus on self-improvement through a task-oriented environment; where dancers receive positive reinforcement for their efforts and hard work, for their achievements and for their cooperation with their peers. Dancers need to learn that mistakes are part of their learning process and that each dancer is equally important (Miulli & Nordin-Bates, 2011).  You can find out about positive motivational climates and how to create them in our Bulletin for Dancers and Teachers [2].

 

 Providing constructive information to dancers versus correcting them

 

When using corrections, the teacher is concentrating on what the dancer is doing ‘wrong’. For example, saying: ‘don’t lift your shoulders’ will bring the attention to the dancer’s action of lifting their shoulders. The words bring the student’s neuromuscular awareness to the action that is not desired in the movement being performed.  In contrast, teachers using constructive information bring attention to what the body could be doing instead. ‘Draw your shoulder blades down your back’, ‘find space between your shoulders and the earlobes’, and ‘let the shoulder blades expand like wings’ are cues which can develop new neuromuscular patterning, and should help the dancer to avoid lifting their shoulders.  To be effective, feedback has to serve as added information for the dancers, providing them with tools in order to feel, sense and understand what they can do in order to improve. We want to deflect away from what is ‘wrong’, to what can be achieved.

 

 Using imagery as a form of feedback

 Imagery is a very powerful feedback tool, it allows dancers to process very complex motor skills through a single image.  It can help improve the movement as well as its dynamics and it allows the dancer to focus on the intention of the movement rather than its execution.  IADMS has posted several blogs about imagery and its use; do consider these when reflecting on your own practice.

Using imagery to optimise dance training and performance

Imagery, Research, and Practice

Mental Imagery and Creativity

 

 

 Tactile feedback

 

 Dancers, choreographers and teachers can benefit from using touch (tactile feedback) in their practice as it often adds further clarity to verbal cues. Our proprioception allows us to sense the position and movement of our own body. It allows us to know where we are in space and provides feedback to aid in balance and coordination (Goldstein, 2002). You can find out more about proprioception in our resource paper [3] .  Through tactile feedback, dancers can improve their proprioception and in turn, improve their motor control and posture. (Krasnow & Wilmerding, 2015).

 

 Like the verbal feedback examples earlier, touch as a form of feedback can be helpful or detrimental, depending on how it is used. Every dancer can remember a teacher’s touch that has affected their performance, whether positive or negative. Sometimes, the memory of negative tactile feedback can have lasting effects.

 

 We can differentiate between a corrective touch and a constructive touch. When using touch in a dance setting, you can ask yourself some questions to ensure that your use of this feedback tool is helpful for the dancer.

     What is your intention?

     Where is your attention when touching?

     What information are you providing the dancer?

It’s always helpful to think anatomically when using touch, how does the body move and how can I guide that movement through proprioceptive awareness?

 

 Timing of the feedback

 

 How many times have you received feedback from a choreographer or teacher just before performing? Or just after a performance? How did it feel? Was it useful? Were you able to apply the feedback right away? Did you remember it? Did you have time to integrate the information? Emotionally, how did you feel after the feedback? Timing of feedback is important to ensure that information is retained and acted upon to enhance performance.

 

 Traditionally, choreographers and teachers tend to give notes to dancers up until the last minute before they go on stage or just after a performance. But is it helpful? At this point in the creative process, there is rarely time to adjust dance technique itself. Dancers might be able to process cues on spacing or ensuring that they know how to adapt the piece from the studio to the stage. But, it’s vital to consider that some dancers have a high level of performance anxiety.  Giving them corrections shortly before they go on stage may increase anxiety and decrease the ability to perform optimally. The type of feedback provided at this point is very important to consider to ensure dancers feel competent and can do their best on stage.  Prior to a performance, positive reinforcement and positive feedback can show your students that you believe in their abilities and that you trust that they will do their best.

 

 Typically, choreographers and teachers tend to give notes right after a performance. Dancers might not all be as receptive at that point, as their bodies and minds are on the ‘high’ of the performance.  Since their attention will often not be focused on the feedback provided, consider waiting until the next time you meet for class or rehearsal. It is important to leave dancers time and space to recover, breathe and cool down. If the performance did not go well for a dancer, they might need some encouragement and help to refocus their attention, so ensuring that they are in a positive mindset next time they perform the work.

 

 When providing verbal and tactile feedback you have a responsibility to your dancers. They are reliant on your words and touch in order to enjoy their dance experience, as well as to improve their abilities. Knowing more about how you cue and provide feedback to your dancers is an important aspect of teaching practice so find time to reflect on the impact of your feedback. Observe the reaction of your dancers. Ask a colleague to observe your classes or rehearsal; ask them for feedback on your feedback style. Observe other teachers and choreographers to get new ideas and improve on your transmission skills.  Feedback is important as we seek to optimize dancers’ performance and learning.

 

 Karine Rathle, MSc

Dancer, choreographer, dance educator and researcher, President of Healthy Dancer Canada (HDC).

 

 REFERENCES

  

Goldstein, B., 2002. Sensation and Perception. 6th ed. CA USA: Wadworth.

 

Krasnow, D.H & Wilmerding, M.V. (2015). Motor learning and control for dance. Principles and practices for performers and teachers. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

 

Krasnow, D.H & Wilmerding, M.V. (2017). Dancer Wellness. IADMS & Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

 

Miulli, M. & Nordin-Bates, S. M. (2011). Motivational Climates: What They Are, and Why They Matter. The IADMS Bulletin for Teachers, Volume 3, Number 2.

Quin, E., Rafferty, S. & Tomlinson, C. (2015). Safe Dance Practice. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

 

Taylor, J. & Estanol, E. (2015). Dance psychology for artistic and performance excellence. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

 


Tags:  feedback  motor learning  psychology 

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What Dancers and Dance Teachers Need to Know about Motor Development, Motor Control, and Motor Learning: Part III

Posted By Donna Krasnow, PhD, and Virginia Wilmerding, PhD, Monday, September 14, 2015

This is the third of three posts looking at the field of motor behavior and its impact on dance training. This post will deal with motor learning, which looks at the changes in motor skills caused by experience and practice, rather than development as described in a previous post. These changes can only be observed by changes in performance and are relatively permanent. This area of motor behavior is probably the most useful for dancers and teachers.


How dancers learn is strongly affected by instructional strategies and learning styles. The three main categories of instructional strategies are demonstration, verbal instructions/cueing, and feedback. Demonstration is very important to dancers, especially beginners, because we are so visual in our learning. What learners perceive when they watch the teacher or another dancer demonstrating is related directly to the coordination pattern of the skill. With verbal instructions, the important message is that dancers should not be overloaded with information when they are learning a new skill or combination. Instructions should be also be age-appropriate. Imagery can be highly useful in keeping instructions concise, stimulating, and suitable for the age group. Finally, feedback that expresses how the movement was done (knowledge of performance), rather than simply giving information about what occurred (knowledge of results), is far more useful.


The importance of motivation in dance training cannot be over-emphasized. Dancers need feedback that tells them what they need to improve, but the tone and message should always remain positive. Criticism does not imply negativity, and can be balanced with praise and support. It is important to set clear and reasonable goals for dancers, which sustains a motivational climate.


All dancers and teachers know that learning demands considerable practice. The issue is how to keep this interesting and progressive. Variability in practice is a key factor. While repetition is essential, variations can help with both developing the larger general motor plans as well as assisting in motivation. A movement or skill should only be repeated in the same way over and over when that particular form of the movement is going to be needed in choreography. Two other factors to consider are using random practice, that is, practicing a variety of skills alternately, and rest. Rest is crucial for muscle recovery as well as consolidating memory.


Dancers and teachers use several strategies to make learning easier. Segmentation means to practice sections of a phrase, before putting them altogether. Simplification involves doing a less complex version of a skill, such as a passé balance, before doing the complex version, such as a double pirouette in passé. Fractionization is for multi-limbed movements, and means practicing just the arms or just the legs before doing all the limbs at once.


Two other tools that dancers can use to assist in learning are mental practice and improvisation. Mental practice combined with physical practice can enhance learning, and even by itself, such as during times of injury, can help maintain skills. Improvisation allows dancers to explore movement concepts and focus their attention on fundamental ideas without worrying about choreographic detail.


With a firm understanding of motor development, motor control, and motor learning, dancers and teachers can make the most of the dance training environment.


Donna Krasnow, PhD, and Virginia Wilmerding, PhD, are IADMS members and co-authors of the newly released Human Kinetics text Motor Learning and Control for Dance: Principles and Practices for Performers and Teachers.

Tags:  dancers  motor control  motor learning  teachers 

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What Dancers and Dance Teachers Need to Know about Motor Development, Motor Control, and Motor Learning: Part II

Posted By Donna Krasnow, PhD, and Virginia Wilmerding, PhD, Monday, September 14, 2015

This is the second of three posts looking at the field of motor behavior and its impact on dance training. This post will deal with motor control. Motor control is the study of the nervous system, that is, the brain and all of the nerve cells communicating with the body, and how this system organizes and guides the muscles to create coordinate movement. It also explains how the senses such as vision and hearing, as well as information from the environment, are used to accomplish movement. The study of motor control can yield valuable tools for the dancer and the teacher.


Sometimes teachers suggest that dancers try to contract individual muscles consciously to create dance movement. However, once teachers and dancers understand how the brain functions to create movement patterns with multiple muscles, and the nonconscious processes that are ongoing, they will realize that what they are attempting to do is inefficient. They will be more effective using language that describes whole tasks.


One important aspect of motor control is attention, which simply put is concentrated mental activity. Today people think that it is possible to multi-task, but in truth, when two or more tasks demand the same type of attention, the brain must switch back and forth.  It cannot do the two activities at the same time.  This is why we can drive and listen to music, but we cannot drive and text safely at the same time, because both demand visual attention. If dancers are distracted in their attention in class or rehearsal, they will not be able to dance their best. Finally, levels of sleep and anxiety can greatly affect attention.


Motor control is a balance between movement that is primarily centrally controlled, and movement that is primarily responding to environmental factors. The simplest example of this balance is to consider an outdoors walk.  Walking is determined by what is called a central pattern generator (CPG).  CPGs are groups of nerve cells that can create rhythmic patterns, like walking, which can continue without sensory feedback once initiated. However, if the environment changes, such as approaching a stairway, the brain can respond to this feedback and alter the movement pattern. It may be possible that CPGs can be developed through dance training, such as continuous jumps in first position.


Another type of centrally controlled movement patterns is called a generalized motor program (GMP). By practicing variations of a given task, dancers can develop GMPs for movement categories. For example, dancers usually learn sissonne en avant first, and then learn versions to the back and to the side. They also learn finishing both open and closed, and many arm variations. This variety helps the dancer develop a GMP for sissonne, so that any new variation can be learned easily.


Dancers can also change movement while in progress if the movement is sufficiently slow. Otherwise dancers must wait for the next attempt to use environmental feedback, such as a correction from the teacher. Teachers and dancers also need to understand that as speed increases, accuracy diminishes. When teaching fast movements, it is best to work for accuracy first. However, the movement must not be slowed down so much that it becomes a different GMP. Walking is not simply a slow version of running!


Donna Krasnow, PhD, and Virginia Wilmerding, PhD, are IADMS members and co-authors of the newly released Human Kinetics text Motor Learning and Control for Dance: Principles and Practices for Performers and Teachers.

Tags:  dancers  motor control  motor learning  teachers 

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What Dancers and Dance Teachers Need to Know about Motor Development, Motor Control, and Motor Learning: Part I

Posted By Donna Krasnow, PhD, and Virginia Wilmerding, PhD, Monday, September 14, 2015

Dance training is at the heart of the art form of dance. All dancers can recall the teachers who had tremendous influence on their growth as young dancers and artists. The science known as motor behavior is having a stronger voice in helping teachers and dancers develop to the top level of their skills and artistry. Motor behavior is an umbrella term that represents three areas: motor development, motor control, and motor learning.  This is the first of three posts that will describe these areas of motor behavior, and explain how teachers and dancers can benefit from this knowledge. This post will cover motor development.


Motor development is the study of ongoing changes to movement abilities that are common to all people, and it looks at these changes through all the stages of life. These changes are both progressive, meaning that one skill builds on the next, and irreversible in a healthy population, so that once a stage of development is reached, it does not disappear.


It is important for teachers to understand the age-appropriate material for various groups of dancers, and establish their expectations accordingly. For example, balance has three components – the visual system, the vestibular system in the inner ear, and proprioception. These systems are all present in the young child of 3 or 4 years old, but they are not integrated until after age 7, and not fully developed until the late teens. This is why children can take the head off vertical, and they can turn while traveling across the floor, but they cannot do both at the same time until they reach a certain age, regardless of years of dancing. Postural control and balance are the foundations for success in almost all movement in dance, and it is essential to focus on these aspects of training in the early years.


Locomotor skills follow a particular developmental pattern: walking, running, jumping, galloping, hopping, and skipping. These skills must be presented in order, and at the right age. These are the general age milestones at which locomotor skills can be seen:

·         Walking at 10-15 months

·         Running with high level coordination at 2 years

·         Various forms of jumping at 2-3 years

·         Galloping between ages 2-3 years old, after having been able to run for 6 months

·         Hopping starting at about 3-1/2 years old, and continuing to develop past age 5

·         Skipping is the last to develop and occurs between ages 4-7 years old


It is also important to realize that the full coordination of use of arms, particularly in dance-specific patterns, can take even longer to develop. And as all teachers know, refinements such as straight legs and pointed feet in jumps can take years of practice. Finally, ballistic skills are some of the most difficult to develop, and include grand battement and leaps, which demand a sophisticated motor pattern, not just the strength to do those actions. Teachers’ effectiveness and dancers’ skills can be enhanced through a sound knowledge of motor development.


 

Donna Krasnow, PhD, and Virginia Wilmerding, PhD, are IADMS members and co-authors of the newly released Human Kinetics text Motor Learning and Control for Dance: Principles and Practices for Performers and Teachers.

Tags:  dancers  motor control  motor learning  teachers 

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