Saturday, 28 December 2013

Let auld acquaintance (not) be forgot

It's nearly the end of 2013 and the end of my BAPP experience too. It's been hard work but in a good sense, and I really feel that I've changed for the better.

My report is nearly ready for submission and although I will never be completely happy with it - another aspect of my personality I'm working on (see Schwartz, 2004) - I believe I have found a voice and represented my students honestly and with respect. I have exercised restraint over what I have included and ruthless in what I have taken out and what is left is that which is of the greatest importance to me. I have taken time to improve on my shortcomings from the last module assignment and considered both the reader (in the flow and the structure) and myself (in the content) to produce what I feel speaks to my own practice and to others.

My artifact is also something I can honestly say would not have been possible for me 18 months ago. The thought of putting something of mine in the public arena and inviting people to comment and critique would have been unbearable. This shows me how much I  have grown. I won't deny it, I'm still concerned that it's not good enough or too simple or lame or... (insert childish taunt here) but I'm in a better place to discuss, reflect and address any problems I might encounter.

My students have been inspiring in their honesty and enthusiasm during my inquiry and I know I have taken on board some of the things they spoke (or wrote) about. They weren't at all selfish in their responses - I want, I want, etc. - they just spoke about what can go right or wrong in a dance class and how it makes them feel. I know that we cannot speak about truth as an absolute but in this case I will make an exception - I know that my teenagers are the best! They are bright, clever, generous, kind and supportive. And I know that my choices as a dance teacher should reflect this. My new mantra is now:

Those who can't, teach. Those who can, facilitate.

In other words I need to give my students the best opportunity for fulfilling their potential not by trying to push syllabus, technique, style, skills at them but by helping them to be able to take what they need, when they need it. Easy? No - it'd be much less effort to put on the music and go through the exercises. Worth it? Do you even need to ask! I'm not in it for the money, glory or status but to share something of the joy that dance has given me over the last 33 years. This course has woken me up, given me new energy and ideas and made me realise that, even when I'm at the end of my tether, I love what I do. 

Finally, the title of this blog reflects my wish to keep in contact with all the friends I have met and made on this journey. I don't think it would have been half the fun or half the learning experience without you. I'd also like to thank everyone who has supported me and given up their time to talk, debate, read, and give feedback. I am forever grateful and would like to wish you all a happy and successful New Year that contains as much happiness and love as you can possibly cram into 12 months.



Schwartz, B. 2004. The Paradox of Choice: why more is less. Harper Collins: London.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Summary of my project findings - a haiku (of sorts)

so much amazing
data to be analysed
where can I begin?

students shared thoughts,
experiences, ideas
on motivation

so many years spent,
so much time and commitment
and reasons to dance

some talked of passion
of challenge and achievement
some talked of status

four themes emerging
atmosphere, choice, belonging,
and feedback - my terms

theory added
autonomy, competence
relatedness too

my conclusion then?
the best gift a teacher gives:


P.S. I know it's a bit more than 100 words but that's what artistic license is all about!

Sunday, 15 December 2013


I've always been one for a good story, whether it's in visual, verbal or written form. Tales of humour, tragedy, love and life are important to me, they fuel my imagination, my sense of wonder and pique my interest.

This thought was inspired by a post on Facebook from Timeout:
Such beautiful images that all draw me in, wishing to find out more about the lives of the subjects and forming stories of what came before and after the image was capture.

It created a mental connection to something that I have been reflecting on during my (many) attempts to write up my analysis of findings - the need to tell my students story through my writing. It's not just words, it's peoples thoughts and experiences. I owe them honesty, respect and a degree of humility in the way I make my report.
As I said in my blog update yesterday, it's time to stop trying to be clever or smart or anything other than true to myself. The story is enough.


Saturday, 14 December 2013

Getting things done...slowly

It's been an interesting couple of weeks, not in a good way, but I've been doing able to get a bit more stuff done this week. Phew!

My professional artifact is up and running here:
I really want it to be a useful site so if there's anything you feel should, or shouldn't, be there please comment below.
There's a forum so please join and share thoughts, ideas or stuff you've read that others might be interested in. I've just posted about a silly Christmas idea I had for my last Grade 6 tap class of the year - rhythmic pass the parcel!
There's also a blog where I'm hoping to post about stuff to do with motivation. My first blog is a very potted summary of my inquiry!

My Critical Review needed a complete overhaul from the draft I sent Paula. She was very supportive and gave me lots of helpful notes but I think it was a bit of a chore for her to wade through. So, after much cutting, pasting, scrapping and rethinking I decided the following:

It seems to have worked because, although it's still very rough, I quite enjoyed reading it through and didn't yawn too many times or ask out loud "what are you talking about?!" I've got two days off work - tomorrow and Monday - so I'm planning to immerse myself in it and then hopefully get into the nitty-gritty of references, appendices, citations and the bibliography too.


Thursday, 5 December 2013

Professional *sigh ahhhhhhtifact

At long last I have weighed and measure, trialed and error'd, hum'd and ha'd and arrived at what I now consider to be my audience-appropriate, material-appropriate, and ethos-appropriate artifact! YIPPPPEEEEEEEE!

I have found a great free-website/ blog building site called, which I have been playing around with for the last few weeks. The website I built has mutated into a website/blog with forum and external links to existing research! It sounds busy and confusing but I think it will be exactly what I want, which is:
  • sharing my professional ideas/ thoughts/ inquiries,
  • collecting and sharing links to others work,
  • encouraging commenting and debate,
  • affording me control over content to ensure it is appropriate,
  • easily accessible through the web (and the bless site even has a mobile web application),
  • easily updated, and
  • has the potential to be linked to FB, Twitter, LinkdIn, etc. in the future.
The only problem I have with it is that I can't make it more accessible to people who find text a difficult medium, but as the artifact is not necessarily a definite answer but can be a work in progress then I am reasonably happy that I can spend more time in the future trying to develop this aspect.

I also need to get a little bit more clued up on what I can legally include and what would cause infringement of copyright as I would like to use my blog to post motivational memes as well as professional thoughts.
I hope to have it basically up and running in the next week or so (I'll blog about it and link to it from here) and would really love to people to start commenting and using the site - feedback about it here would be really appreciated.

I'm using a couple of blogs that I created earlier this month as my starting point on the site, as they are about my inquiry/ practice, so my apologies if you've read them on here.
I'd also love it if anyone has got things they would like to share on it (once you've assessed its use to you as practitioner) or even guest blogs...
OK so I'm getting a little carried away as it's not even a real site yet but I'm so a) happy and b) relieved to feel 'on the way' at last that you can't blame me for being bouncy!


Sunday, 1 December 2013

Playing devils advocate

So I'm looking at motivation in adolescents and rolling along with themes and ideas when I decided to start reading a book I picked up in the uni. library,
                             The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz
because it's not enough to be trying to formulate thoughts into words and words into flowing sentences all know what I'm saying!
So here's the basic premise of the book - too much choice is bad for you!
Well that got me thinking about one of the themes in my inquiry; that the quest for autonomy involves the individual 'choosing' rather than being controlled. An idea that I've been really trying to develop in my classes over the last few weeks.
But now I'm thinking, can I go to far and overload students with freedom and choice thus sabotaging my own plan for enhancing classes?
In his opening chapter Schwartz talks about a trip to buy jeans (usually for him a five minute trip) turning into a day of trying on and deliberating; the modern day consumer nightmare of having fifteen styles and cuts of jean instead of the one-size-doesn't-quite-fit-all pair of yesteryear!
Is this just a consumer problem, something that affects material choice, or does this spill over into other areas of life?
I can already hear myself, and other dance teacher friends, bemoaning that 'children today have too much choice' and so 'never really focus on one thing properly.' Does this also apply to those choices given within the class?
In other words, is there an 'autonomy spectrum' ranging from totally controlling to over-freedom? And if there is will it be possible to find that perfect balance point in the middle?
Definitely one for the next inquiry...

Thursday, 28 November 2013


It's been a tough week this week, both personally and professionally - although I'm pretty sure the one has affected the other too.

Teaching brought up some issues that have made me reflect on not just the immediate area of concern but in the wider picture.
The resulting thinking has given me a real insight into the personal too, and the following list of words have come to the forefront of my reflections:


In a nutshell I am even more aware now of the 'controlling' nature of my personality; I don't mean I wish to be 'top dog' but I don't cope very well with letting go. I see the successes and failures of my students as a direct reflection of my abilities and my own failings - a success is attributed to the ability of the student whereas a failure is because I haven't done my job properly.

So my inquiry has ended up giving me two lots of data to analyse; the words of my students and the reflections on my own motives, needs, drives, etc! It has opened my eyes to how my own personal development has not produced such 'well-being' or 'self-efficacy' and the literature has given me real insight into how I might go about moving forwards.

I know that this is a very personal post but it's all part of my (hopeful) development of 'me' - keeping things in, not asking for help, assuming responsibility, the list is (seemingly) endless.
If I am challenging my students to become more intrinsically motivated, more self-determining and more able to take risks and accept failure as part of learning then what kind of teacher would I be to refuse to do the same?

Honestly, I am slightly scared by the journey ahead. The 'unknown' and 'change' are not words that I find comforting, however there doesn't seem to be any other way of pushing forwards; as I found myself writing in my draft critical reflection earlier this week:
"my students and I are inextricably linked; if the former stops or stagnates then so will the latter."

Boy, oh boy, this reflecting lark can be quite emotional at times!


Monday, 25 November 2013

Professional (not quite such an) arrrrrrrrrrrrghtefact!

For anyone who read my earlier blog on the professional artifact (and a big thank-you to those people that left comments) I've been mulling it over all weekend (in between analysis and writing) and think that perhaps a blog format is indeed what I am looking for.
I think I was hung up on having something to show but can see now that my intention, which is for development and input from others, within the artifact means that static pages on a website are of little benefit.
Two things brought me to this current thinking,
  1. BAPP Module One knowledge, of Web2.0, that has developed over the last two modules, and 
  2. My discovery of the 'edublog' (description below from wikipedia):
"An edublog is a blog created for educational purposes. Edublogs archive and support student and teacher learning by facilitating reflection, questioning by self and others, collaboration[1] and by providing contexts for engaging in higher-order thinking.[2][3] Edublogs proliferated when blogging architecture became more simplified and teachers perceived the instructional potential of blogs as an online resource.[1] The use of blogs has become popular in education institutions including public schools and colleges.[4] Blogs can be useful tools for sharing information and tips among co-workers, providing information for students, or keeping in contact with parents. Common examples include blogs written by or for teachers, blogs maintained for the purpose of classroom instruction, or blogs written about educational policy. Educators who blog are sometimes called edubloggers."

Both talk about Web2.0, sharing information, collective input and reflection - words that sound pretty close to where I want to get!

So here's my next plan,
  1. wander around the Internet looking at the edublogging that is out there
  2. get a feel for the kind, type, style and content of such edublogs,
  3. find and trial an edublog building website, such as,
  4. reflect on the pro's and con's of this trial,
  5. develop it further, if I think it is worthwhile, and
  6. reflect on the artifact as 'work in progress,' or not a finished product, to create a rationale to go alongside the artifact when presented for assessment.
Watch this space!


Saturday, 23 November 2013

Update #4

So the last few days have been productive in terms of getting things out of my head and on to paper, or in the ear of anyone who asks me how my inquiry is going!

  • I'm seeing things begin to organise themselves a little better and have managed to start condensing and refining certain sections of my critical review.
  • I am still finding the format of the analysis of findings section is being problematic, although not because the data isn't useful or interesting - far from it - but because everything overlaps with everything else.
  • I'm also aware that my analysis is "quote heavy," which is something that I anticipated but that also makes it very wordy. I had considered using different colours for diary entries and interview quotes to not only break up the large amounts of text but to clearly separate data from analysis, however I am not sure whether this will make it look like a Year 3 homework assignment rather than a Level 6 document! Definitely more thought needed...
  • I have yet to start the final section of the written document but am planning to spend next week looking in more detail at things that I could, or should, include
  • The professional artifact is giving me a bit of a headache, although, after posting a blog to this effect, I received some really helpful feedback and comments from Betty Wells and Mimi Whitney (see blog post, Professional Arrrrrrrghtifact).
  • Finally I have realised by writing these little updates (this is the fourth) I not only give myself a reality check on what I have done but allow myself to see more clearly what I have left to do. It also encourages me to look back to the source of my inquiry to see whether I am still following the path I have laid out or whether I have deviated too far from it.
I really hope that everyone is enjoying their inquiry and moving forwards with all the writing and artifact-producing.
I really can't believe how close we are to the end of things! I don't mean in inquiring or developing professional practice, of course, as this will long carry on into the future, but in our BAPP journey. It's certainly been something I will never forget.


Thursday, 21 November 2013

Professional arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrghtefact!

Every time I think I've nailed it I discover something else!

My website idea is still something I'm really keen on but the free website creation sites I've tried (so far) offer templates that feel restricting or blank websites that, although freer to design, still (at the moment) seem very serious and important - the sort of website that says 'everything here is truth' rather than what I want to say, which is 'everything here is an idea or a thought for you to consider.'

In other words I want this:
                                                                           but I'm creating this:

I'm thinking this:
                                                                          but I'm getting this:
You get the idea.
I know my target audience was keen on the idea of a website, with links, and I had figured about the inclusion of a forum to keep ideas and discussions flowing - in keeping with the spirit of my inquiry, but I'm struggling with the reconciliation of my artifact being useful, providing opportunity to read further and still feel like a place where ideas can grow and information can be added and shared...
Then, today, this:
(incorrect link and I can't find the correct one now!)

Really interesting yet not over-loaded with data or information, has a quirky, friendly feel to both the look of the blog and the style of the writing, makes no claims to have all the answers (or indeed any answers) just helpful, supportive tips and can be easily shared with others or commented on.
So now I'm wondering about something similar - like a cross between a blog and a miniwebsite, or facebook-type page (like this: where people can add their own ideas and links to other websites...I think what I'm really aiming for is a giant web-based noticeboard on which I can start the ball rolling with my thoughts and ideas but from where others can add, embellish, widen, deepen, challenge and inspire other teachers.
Any thoughts?

Perspective and practice

It's been nearly a month since I collected in my data and time has flown by whilst looking through it all and trying to find themes, ideas, commonalities and uniqueness.

One of the main things that have come out of both the diaries and the interviews is how much of the participants lives have been spent dancing - most started at the age of three so have already been dancing for a decade!

Ten years! That's a long time! So long, in fact that it's almost all of their life up to this point! In fact it's probably all of their life as far as memory goes! And that's the thing, isn't it; we dance and it is part of who we are, like the colour of our hair or our style of clothing. It develops us as people not just through the physical act of dancing but the metaphysical act of 'being a dancer.'

So, for those who are lucky enough to experience positive, motivating, successful and beneficial dance training there is great gain, but for those who don't, what then?
(N.B. I'm not talking careers or fame or money but well-being, self-esteem, body image, etc.).

OK. So it could be said that dancing is not everything to my students, just a part of the bigger picture of school, family, hobbies, friends,etc.
I would say, yes, that may be - very few of my students wish to pursue a career in dance, but dancing requires you to expose more of yourself to the world than a lot of other things too; your mind, body, spirit, and self.

An example:
If I hand in my maths homework and it comes back with lots of crosses and corrections then I can take it home and think about it privately. If I make a mistake in dance it will be seen by the rest of the class, as will the corrections from the teacher. The way in which mistakes are seen by the teacher, class and individual will influence the degree to which the experience of 'failure' is experienced, with the same holding true of the correction.
This, put in the perspective of dance being a part of the self, means a great responsibility on the teacher to approach every student with respect, understanding, empathy, kindness and support.

As one inquiry participant said,
"doing dance since I was two I’d like to think that I’m just at least a little bit talented at it, just like a little bit good at least because if I’m not then, like, just been wasting my life, kind of" (P008, 2013)

When put like that, how can you deny the importance, as dance teacher, of understanding how, in practice, to provide lessons that uphold the ethics of providing safe, nurturing environments for children and young people.
In essence, considering the person and the dance student as one in the same; what affects the dance student in class, affects the person as well.
But more than than, even.

It's no good seeing a student and approaching them in a certain way unless your perception is in-line with their view of self, is it. I can't assume a student is moody and unco-operative or stroppy just from their actions or reactions as that is an assumption based on the physical alone. I must think, 'does this seem like their normal reaction' or 'how might the student perceive what I have said or done' or ask the student for their thoughts to explain behaviour (although I realise that this might not be something that they know either!).
As another inquiry participant said,
"Cos I can either be really open with my emotions  or really inside so often teachers...and when I’m getting angry they often think I’m just being, like, attitude-y or sulky but it’s not that it’s just, like, my frustration"
                                                                                                              (P003, 2013)

It is this fact that has really stuck with me over the last few weeks and affected me perhaps more than anything else I have discovered. It has affected my practice too, making me hyper-aware of my approach to every situation and altering the way I think about the long-term acquisition of skills within the framework of the syllabus classes I teach.
However, it's not going to be an easy ride - the last few weeks have taught me that!
What with the hormones, the stresses of exams and mocks, falling out with friends, arguing with parents, bus not turning up, rain, cold weather and masses of homework there are so many different 'needs' in the class. Is it possible to motivate everyone? All the time? Is it even possible to find one thing that can motivate everyone at the same time? And still cover syllabus? In the short terms of the dancing school?

Well, only time will tell but I think, given the amazing students I teach, I owe it to them all to keep trying...



Participant 003. 2013. BAPP inquiry. Interviewed by Sarah Robinson [in person]

Participant 009. 2013. BAPP inquiry. Interviewed by Sarah Robinson [in person]

Friday, 15 November 2013

Update #3

Looking back over documents from Module 2 I have realised that although the design and manner of conduct of my inquiry have not changed much, I have!

It was when reading through my document Task 5d that I realised just how much my research and reading have altered and developed my thinking since before the summer.

My original title was only a proposed one due, to the shifting nature of an inquiry involving student perspectives and experiences, and has since become coloured by the literature that I have found to be most appropriate to my data. I am now suggesting the following (and even then it's still a working title):

A question of control: adolescent experience of motivation in the dance class
The quest for control: adolescent experiences of motivation in the dance class
The 'control' in the title referring to the theoretical concept of perceived control that is prevalent in many motivation theories, see, for example, self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000), particularly those associated with dance, sport and education.
It also refers to the notion of the teacher as controller or facilitator, and his/ her influence on the type of environment created in the dance studio (Miulli & Nordin-Bates, 2011; Nordin-Bates et al, 2012).
The fact that my title has altered also shows how, in my 'youth' of module 2 I was still broadly considering the topic of motivation, something that the 'older, wiser' module 3 me realises is beyond the scope of this inquiry. However, I can still see how much benefit there is for my practice in carrying on and developing a wider knowledge of motivation in dance, regardless of what I can present in my last assignment.
So, this inquiry definitely is just that - a work in progress; an opportunity to understand better to inform practice. And then? Well, there are so many thoughts keep cropping up:
  • Motivation through appropriate teaching styles, or the need to engage all types of learning so that no-one is de-motivated through misunderstanding, and how to adapt classes?
  • Teaching 'free work' for examinations - doesn't the verbal style of the examiner put visual or kinaesthetic learners at a serious disadvantage?
  • How, as teacher, do you balance the expectation of parents and employers with what you believe is the best approach to student development? Can this be done when working to a syllabus/ examination structure.
  • Can you be 'facilitator' with younger children or is there a need for a more controlling environment, or can you be too young to be self-motivated?
I'm so pleased that the topic area I chose, through careful reflection on journal entries and personal values or perhaps that just chose me, is continuing to open new avenues of thinking and opportunities for professional development. 
The future looks interesting...
Miulli, M., & Nordin-Bates, S. M. (2011). Motivational Climates: What they are, and why they matter. The IADMS bulletin for teachers (The International Association for Dance Medicine and Science), 3(2), 5-8.
Nordin-Bates, S. M., Quested, E., Walker, I. J., & Redding, E. (2012). Climate change in the dance studio: Findings from the UK centres for advanced training. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 1(1), 3.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American psychologist, 55(1), 68.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Literature - a gathering together of ideas

So today I'm reflecting on the literature that has influenced my thinking for inquiry (and in no uncertain terms my professional practice too), which was inspired by reading mimi's blog yesterday, and thought I'd put it in a blog so that I have to make it coherent and to the point!

Literature review

The topic of motivation is both relatively new and incredibly broad so my first steps were to identify that which was most relevant to my inquiry.

Literature on dance motivation is growing in number but there is still a lot more research available that is non-dance related - sports, education, child-development, etc. This is both interesting to me, as it allows me to see if motivation theory can be applied to multiple settings, and gives my inquiry a sense of place and potential interest to others.

Two authors that have had a major influence are Susan Stinson and Julia Buckroyd; their research, on aspects of dance and dance motivation, have been vital to nearly every aspect of my inquiry - design, methodology, approach to analysis, and presentation.

Julia Buckroyd's findings in the Student Dancer (2000), although about students in full-time vocational training, identified both ideas and issues of relevance to my inquiry, thus directing my search for further literature, and allowed me to understand how difficult a phenomena motivation is to understand and how much interpretation there is on the part of the researcher,
'I have found while I have been writing that many of the issues I discuss overlap and are interrelated. I have referred the reader to other parts of the book throughout the text, but, in the interests of dealing with each issue in a fairly complete way, I have also included some repetition of key ideas and issues.' (p.x)
Susan Stinson's approach is very 'voice-centric' and her research devotes space and attributes great importance to the voices of the students she collaborates with. Her chapter on Postpositivist Research in Dance (Green and Stinson, 1999) gave me insight into multiple-perspectives, interpretation, and that research on experience, although partial by nature, has value too.

From these beginnings I have gathered more specific literature that focuses on the notion of control (Dawson et al, 2001; Reeve, 2005), vital to my students development from child to adolescent, and how this over-arcing concept is found in many of the motivation theories.

Self-determination theory, which focuses on the psychological needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness (Ryan and Deci, 2000; Reeve, 2005; Quested & Duda, 2011), research on motivational climates (Miullia & Nordin-Bates, 2011; Nordin-Bates et al, 2012) and a broader understanding of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators and how they can be developed or diminished (Reeve, 2005; Mainwaring & Kresnow, 2010; Buckroyd, 2000; Stinson,1997; Bond & Stinson, 2007) have encouraged me further in the importance of recognising the need for educating holistically and with regard to the student-self.

All the literature clearly shows how important it is for teachers to understand that all three aspects of student motivation - development of self, perception of external events, and effect on motivation - are inherently linked; a guiding factor in my approach to this inquiry.

(N.B. this is mainly a review of topic literature, there will also need to be a section added about approaching research with children but I've run out of time!)


Bond, K. & Stinson, S.W. (2007). "It's work, work, work, work": Young people's experiences of effort and engagement in dance. Research in Dance Education, 8 (2), 155-183.
Buckroyd, J. 2000. The student dancer. London: Dance.
Dawson, K., Gyurcsik, N., Culos-Reed, N. and Brawley, L. 2001. Perceived Control: A Construct That Bridges Theories of Motivated Behavior. In: Roberts, G. eds. 2001. Advances in Motivation in Sport and Exercise. USA: Human Kinetics, pp. 321-356.
Green, J. and Stinson, S. 1999. Postpositivist Research in Dance. In: Horton, S. and Hanstein, P. eds. 1999. Researching Dance. London: Dance Books, pp. 91-123.
Mainwaring, L. and Krasnow, D. 2010. Teaching the dance class: Strategies to enhance skill acquisition, mastery and positive self-image. Journal of Dance Education, 10 (1), pp. 14--21.

Miulli, M., & Nordin-Bates, S. M. (2011). Motivational Climates: What they are, and why they matter. The IADMS bulletin for teachers (The International Association for Dance Medicine and Science), 3(2), 5-8.
Nordin-Bates, S. M., Quested, E., Walker, I. J., & Redding, E. (2012). Climate change in the dance studio: Findings from the UK centres for advanced training. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 1(1), 3.
Quested, E. and Duda, J. 2011. Perceived autonomy support, motivation regulations and the self-evaluative tendencies of student dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 15 (1), p. 3.
Reeve, J. 2005. Understanding Motivation and Emotion. 4th ed. USA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc..
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American psychologist, 55(1), 68.
Stinson, S.W. (1997). A question of fun: Adolescent engagement in dance education. Dance Research Journal, 29 (2), 49-69.

Time out

A link on a friends facebook status took me to something that really makes me happy:
Not the price tag, that's a whole different debate, but the artist - Francis Bacon.

I've been a huge admirer of his work for many, many years as there is something in his paintings that really connects with me. He created works that are not only visually arresting to my eyes but that don't just sit on the canvas,
                                                                  just to be looked at briefly before moving on

There is a tension to his work that, when I am in the same room, makes real time stop and 'Bacon time' start. His beauty comes from distortion, his aesthetic from the ill-at-ease and out-of-place. There is emotion in the blankness of expression and context from the abstract.

Visiting his home in Dublin and the studio space he worked in - left as was, chaotic but somehow with everything in the right place, his inspiration strewn around the walls and floor - was such an insight into the man yet somehow you already knew exactly how it would be.

                                         (image taken from

Seeing his triptych up for sale reminded me of all that I love about Francis Bacon but also about how much of life I see reflected in his art; the tension of,

where I am now and where I want to be,
                               what I am doing and what I need to do,

                                                                 what I can control and what is beyond me,

who I am, who I want to be, who others think I am...


BBC News. 2013. Bacon painting fetches record price. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 13 Nov 2013

Hebden, L. 2009. The Man Who Painted Those Dreadful Pictures. Diary of a Painter & Compulsive Doodler, [blog] 3 November 2009, Available at: [Accessed: 13 Nov 2013].

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Just when you think it's safe, something comes along to rattle the cage!

So the point of inquiry is not to answer but to gain better understanding and develop further questions, yeah? OK. I get that. But it would be nice, just for a few minutes, to enjoy the things that you've been thinking before finding yet more question pop into your mind to muddle the issue again!

So what's brought this on? Well, let me tell you!

My reflections on the professional artifact over the past few weeks have been many and produced a variety of different ideas and methods for presentation,
  • something tangible
  • something accessible
  • something that targets my audiences professional needs
  • something that considers my audiences personal needs
  • something that represents my students
  • something appropriate to what I am trying to present
So, after a survey to discover how my audience would prefer to see material presented and comments from my various networks on such things as web-based ideas being more in keeping with current trends and providing links to theory as well as practical ideas I had begun to lean more towards a (mini) website that included a forum to encourage the reader to share and discuss.
Difficult to progress any further until completion of data analysis but a step in the right direction, I felt.
Then I read this from Steve Anderson's blog:

Books, you say?
Physical and digital copies available?
Concise, to the point and easy to read?
Full of great ideas and suggestions?

Now what do I do? OK. Breath! Step away from the artifact!

So it's back to the data tomorrow and the next stage of analysis, giving time to subconsciously absorb this new information before reflecting on the artifact again.
I know this is the process through which everyone goes but it doesn't make it feel any less daunting...


Reflections on 'developing artistry' lecture

Today I attended a lecture given at the London Tap and Modern Group (of which I am a member). It was lead by Cathy Stevens (I.S.T.D. examiner and teacher) and was intended as to support and give ideas for how to develop the artistic development of students in conjunction with the syllabus work.

The lecture took the form of an observed class involving six students and was developed by Cathy Stevens from the ideas of Eric Fanklin (see Franklin, 2013).

The lecture itself was interesting and, for me, quite challenging in terms of realising how I would be able to put the exercises and concepts to use in my own classes. The reflective train journey home suggested that there were indeed aspects and exercises that could be very helpful in practice, particularly in developing emotional responses to movement and developing greater spatial awareness.

However, this is not what really struck me about what I observed.
It seems that my focus at the moment is so firmly fixed on my inquiry that I am looking at everything through the lens of motivation!

The really stand-out aspects of Cathy's class for me, was the way she approached, talked, encouraged and challenged the students (two of whom she knew but the rest who had never met her before), all of whom sat firmly in the adolescent age-range that I am currently researching.

Here are some of my observations, in bullet point form:
  • Before she brought the students in Cathy asked us, as audience, to smile throughout the class to encourage the students and support their efforts,
  • She talked about feeling comfortable in your own body,
  • She told us, and the girls, that she would not be asking anyone to do anything solo so as to maintain the feeling of being safe,
  • Before, during and after exercises there was an explanation of why they were being asked to do those things,
  • Music was chosen to provide words to attribute dance meaning to, for example, the track Slow me down (Rossum, 2007) was used for a sequence expressing that feeling of not being able to keep up with life,
  • Imagery was given that was relevant to the students world, for example, in the sequence mentioned above it was suggested 'you know that feeling when you've got too much homework and exams coming up and everything just feels too much,'
  • Individual attention was given in both support and praise, with appreciation given for effort and stepping outside comfort zones, and
  • Things that might be awkward or something challenging were noted and accepted, i.e. this one you're probably going to hate...
All of the above have given me a real sense of 'being relevant' with my inquiry topic and analysis - both in terms of the literature I have found and incorporated and in the types of categories that I have seen emerging from the data.

It has also given me a great opportunity to see holistic practice relative to the dance class; the teacher considering the needs of the student alongside the development of skills (in this case: artistry).

It's odd to think that, as little as a year ago, I might not have seen any of that aspect of the class! Evidence, indeed, if any were needed, of the importance of continuing inquiry in professional practice



Franklin, E. N. (1996). Dance Imagery: for technique and performance. Human Kinetics: USA
Rossum, E. 2007. Music video for Slow Me Down. [video online] Available at: [Accessed: 10 Nov 2013].

Thursday, 7 November 2013

'firing electrons'

I've just had a Skype tutorial with Paula Nottingham and, as always, find that mix of talking things through, listening to others and getting feedback a winning combination.
During the tutorial my brain allowed me to iterate exactly where I am in this inquiry process, which up until then it had decided to keep to itself. It's so nice to realise that I subconsciously know where I'm going even if  I'm not consciously aware of it!

My brain seems to be working a lot at the moment without my knowledge! It woke me up at 5a.m. this morning to inform me of five categories, that it had been reflecting on, for possible themes developing in my data. The great thing was that it had not gone for the obvious ones that I had tentatively started jotting down, ones that were theory-laden and formal, but much more user-friendly, inclusive themes that, at this point in time, feel more representative of the individual participants data.

I now have my next stage laid out clearly; to look at my data as a whole and see if these themes are accurate. I also hope this will allow me to identify the unique data, or anomalies, too as I'm very aware of not fitting my students into neat little theoretical boxes; if I've learnt one thing in my years of teaching it's that assumptions about students and 'pigeon-holing' lead to very bad practice.

This links to a revelation I had earlier in this module, where I was struggling to reconcile the two aspects of my inquiry - literature and data. Having hit a metaphorical wall I took a step back and reflected on things and have now realised that literature and data have to be approached through internal assimilation, i.e. I can't start with one and add the other in but that both need to co-exist in order to develop.
This is something that I think Hollie Smith is also finding as she posted a blog yesterday about a similar issue she was having. She puts it brilliantly when she says,
In having a tendancy of wanting to finish one aspect before starting another I am loosing time. I need to accept that different elements can work alongside each other and I can still be in control.                     (Smith, 2013)

Exactly! Great blog, Hollie!

So off I go, into the afternoon, with a clear idea of how I want to proceed. And, let me tell you, that feels good.


Thank-you Paula for your support, feedback, infectious enthusiasm (and providing the title for this blog), and thank-you brain for being there when I need you (N.B. I promise to trust you a bit more)!


Smith, H. 2013. 5,4,3,2,1 kissing has finished it's time for elephant!. Hollie Victoria Smith, [blog] 6 November 2013, Available at: [Accessed: 7 Nov 2013].

Wednesday, 6 November 2013


Really quickie today but two nice things happened again today, both in the form of comments about my inquiry and both from people who I've only just reached out to in my extended network,

A second email from Susan Stinson, which I won't post publicly as it was written in a private email to me, that really brought home to me how much passion she has and how much I could learn from her about handling my data with, to use her wonderful word, humility.

A comment left on my post on the Teachers of Classical Dance page, which I will post below as it is on a public page, reads:
Done! The very best of luck with your final studies. If you have any more queries or would like to extend the survey to include more questions just let send them on:)
It is a very tricky time when your students become adolescents. We have our own methods of keeping the class challenging and rewarding to keep them interested but a practical study on this would be extremely beneficial. I can safely say that we would all profit from the results of your studies :)
                                                                       (Shinners, 2013)
So, so supportive and so encouraging to know that people who I have never met, and probably never will, can take the time to provide such positive and helpful comments. I hope that in the course of my life I will be able to provide the same for others, in both a professional and personal capacity.

As my students would probably put it: #feelinghappy


Shinners, A. (2013). Comment on post. Available here: [Accessed 6th November 2013]

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Just a quickie!

Two great things have spurred me on this morning, which I felt warranted a quick blog!

Last week I opened up to a new area of my network, namely the Teachers of Classical Ballet group on LinkedIn, to ask for their help and ideas on the professional artifact through completion of my brief survey (on surveymonkey here). The response was so positive and the kind words and supportive comments received have been really inspiring.
I have also received 38 responses (including those from BAPPers and my more immediate network), which means I feel that I am getting a broader view of what my 'audience' would find useful in my professional artifact.
(If I reflect on it, I realise that I only gave limited choices in my survey but then I also feel quite happy that I did so given the limited time I have to create the artifact.)

I contacted a professional outside of my network, who I admire and whose research and writing I really connect with, to ask for any insight she might be able to share.
This morning I received an email back from Susan Stinson, which was so supportive and helpful - she provided a reference for a book on action research that she felt might help solve my issues of presentation and coherence, and also offered to give advice on any other questions I might have.
Susan Stinson has been an inspiration to me from the very beginning, and the fact that I found her through Adesola's blog really proves (if proof were necessary) that reaching out and creating professional networks is vital to challenge, engage and develop critical thinking.

That's all.
I'm off to find myself an online version of that book!


Friday, 1 November 2013

My Dictaphone and I - a narrative

My Dictaphone and I have become quite good friends. What initially started off as a professional relationship, with strict working conditions and regular working hours, has now become so much more.

We hang out together.
A lot.

In fact he goes everywhere with me.
He’s there when I need him - for support, for sharing ideas, and for those moments when I just need a good listener, which he is - a very good listener.

I suppose, if I'm honest,he can be a little cold at times; I mean a bit of discourse every now and then would be nice, but I can't complain, he has so many other wonderful qualities,

There’s no judgement and he certainly isn’t condescending, he just gives me the space and time I need to say what's on my mind. 
He's trustworthy, too, and reliable, but most importantly of all he doesn’t twist my words or make me out to have said something I didn’t.

Oh yeah, and he has such a great memory.

In fact this story wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for him.

A silly story, perhaps, but for me it's another trial/ reflection about how findings can be presented or constructed from inquiry data. In this case:
I originally bought my Dictaphone for the sole purpose of recording interviews
Between interviews it stayed in the bag with all the other interview paraphernalia
On a drive home after an interview one night (a couple of weeks ago) I had a thought that I didn't want to lose yet couldn't write down. So I dived into my interview bag, grabbed my voice recorder and captured my idea.
I then started to use him around the house if I wanted to jot down a quick idea that may or may not be of use.
Then yesterday and today he found his way into my handbag and I think that's where he'll stay. Yet another thing I can't leave the house without!

A practical form of data presentation? Not for me, this time. Too little time, too much data and an awareness of presenting student voices as individuals, and verbatim, not crafted into one tale of motivation.

However, it was definitely a fun little experiment!



Talking in code

So coding.


What can I say?

OK. So it perhaps wasn't the positive, inspiring and analytically magic wand that I hoped it would be. Not that it wasn't interesting or that it won't have a place in my analysis but...


OK. So I think the problem was this. In diving into two books - one on coding (Saldana, 2013) and the other discussing qualitative data analysis - and trialing out three possible 'styles' of coding I think I just panicked!
  1. It felt really difficult to decide what was important or not, what was useful or not, etc.  - although In Vivo coding did allow me to see some nice verbatim words/ quotes.
  2. My brain kept looking for words, in the data, that applied to a particular theory or article that I had read, rather than the data showing me the important words itself.
  3. Analytic memo writing with the coding at least allowed me to see why I was choosing the things I was but all it flagged up was the fact that I couldn't think what to call the code!
So I stopped; I completed one diary and walked away.

Walking back to it, albeit reluctantly, some time later I began to realise that I was feeling overloaded with the possible ways and means of looking at my data and, perhaps more importantly, that I wasn't really convinced by the literature I was reading. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's incorrect nor that it wouldn't prove useful in someone else's (more skillful) hands but just that it didn't feel right for me.
This could be me not giving it a chance, or being tired, or a million and one other possible reasons so I'm not discounting it completely seemed to take away all my fun and enthusiasm!

So instead I've gone back to a book by Judith Riley (1996) that I got out of the library ages ago. It just feels a much calmer, more accessible text and one that suggests trying things and feels supportive of any efforts rather than shouting at me about right ways and wrong ways and...
It also contains what feels like more easily achievable methods that will allow me to achieve a good level of analysis in the time rather than getting bogged down in code after code after code after...

So, on the advice of the lovely Judith Riley (I picture her as a really caring, kind person) I am printing out a copy of another diary's contents (yesterday's diary is still too raw to revisit this soon after) and armed with a cup of tea and a highlighter pen I am about to begin my initial analysis of the data...


Riley, J. 1996. Getting the most from your data. 2nd ed. Bristol, England: Technical and Educational Services.

Saldaña, J. 2013. The coding manual for qualitative researchers. Los Angeles: SAGE.

Silverman, D. 2011. Interpreting qualitative data. London: SAGE.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Update #2

My second update is intended to not only motivate myself with the progress since the last update (blog post here) but to keep putting my current thoughts, ideas and discoveries into a coherent form.

I've managed to re-arrange my 11th interview (of twelve) for tomorrow morning. It is the only interview that will take place outside of the dance school environment so I have spent today reflecting (in my journal) about any extra ethical considerations that might be raised from this new location.

The campus session yesterday with Peter Thomas was invaluable in thinking about issues regarding my professional artifact - namely how I could include my students voices within it whilst maintaining anonymity/ confidentiality and reconcile this with the audience my artifact is aimed at - (dance) teachers. It has left me with such a renewed optimism of how these aims might be achieved that I spent most of last night trialing a template from a free website-producing company ( in an attempt to see how feasible it might be to produce what I want in the time-frame I have.
N.B. I am still not decided on the artifact, as I want the data/ analysis to come forward before I limit its direction/ format, but I know that time is going to be a major factor with an inquiry of this kind, hence trialing possible methods in a study of feasibility.

Transcribing my interviews as I have gathered them has worked really well as I feel that I haven't lost any of the nuances of the individual events - both mine and the participants. I am also glad that I 1) chose interview as a method and 2) decided to transcribe by hand, rather than let software take the strain, as I feel closer to the data already, and, given the sheer amount of what I have, it has already begun to suggest potential codes, categories and themes.

Moving forward in this, the fifth, week I am looking to begin analysis in earnest. Three things have happened in the last 24 hours to start me off:
  1. I was particularly interested in delving a little deeper into coding after reading Jessica Hay's blog post Provisional codes with initial and in vivo codes, which looked so alien to me that I felt I needed to take time to understand the concept.
  2. I took the opportunity yesterday, whilst on campus, to seek out some books in the Sheppard Library and that I thought might help me in my analysis.
  3. Having read a little deeper into the 'how to' of analysing qualitative data I took my first steps forward this afternoon with a trial of several different techniques to see whether they are appropriate to my data. I hope to blog about these techniques when I have had a little longer to reflect on them.
I have begun throwing thoughts down into a word document that may develop into the Introduction for my Critical Review. Initially I found myself drying up after less than a couple of paragraphs but, using a technique, which was suggested by Peter Thomas (and borrowed from Peter Elbow) of generative writing (see description here). I just kept forcing myself to come up with more words. It worked! However, whether any of it makes it to the final edit I don't know but I feel that just by starting the ball rolling I am more likely to continue with it over the coming weeks.

I am still on track with my original schedule but I know that the next three or four weeks are going to require a lot of self-discipline and focus to keep up with not just the data analysis but the development of the Critical Review and the Professional Artifact. I'm sure Paula Nottingham had a visual image about 'coping' - I think I might need that to be blown up, printed out and posted above my work space!


Sunday, 27 October 2013

Clearing the cobwebs away

I've decided to take today to get out and about, enjoy the sunshine while it was still around and not get dragged down by the fact that the clocks went back yesterday. As my friends will tell you, I am not a fan of the darker months and tend to go into hibernation/ dormant mode when it comes to socialising and even leaving the house becomes something I try hard to limit!

So, as suggested by Paula's blog about enjoying the Autumn (Nottingham, 2013) and after reading Emily Hunt's blog about how Autumn is probably her favourite season (Hunt, 2013), I thought I'd post a couple of photos I took today:

Burnham Beeches, Slough
27th October 2013

Having cleared away the cobwebs from my brain I'm looking forward to starting week six with a renewed energy.
I'm really looking forward to the campus session on Tuesday as I always find them really helpful, as well as being a nice way to connect with people on the BAPP course.
I am planning to spend tomorrow doing my latest  interview transcript (two of my participants have had to be rearranged for after the half term due to illness and indisposition) so that I am on track with my proposed schedule. Then, after the session on Tuesday, I will begin the process of analysing the data that I have.

I feel pleased that I have been thinking of ideas for my professional artifact before doing any analysis as I'm hoping that the data will then push one idea to the forefront as being the most suitable for what it is saying.
I will also need to spend some time considering things like 1) the time scale I have in which to create the artifact, 2) the cost of creating the artifact and 3) the potential audience - although this has already been on my radar (see my blog: Some early thoughts on the professional artifact)


Hunt, E. 2013. another campus session catch up.... BA (Hons) Professional Practice (Arts) blog, [blog] 27 October 2013, Available at: [Accessed: 27 Oct 2013].

Nottingham, P. 2013. Paula Nottingham. [blog] Available at: [Accessed: 25 Oct 2013]

Friday, 25 October 2013

Blog #112, or why I should probably take the bus!

Well, it looks like this week is a week for unplanned car-based thinking!

I was on my way home from an interview this evening and decided to listen to a podcast instead of the radio to while away the journey time.
It was a live recording of a Kevin Smith Q&A at Star Wars Celebration VI (OK, it's finally out - I'm a sci-fi geek and all-round slacker film fan) and I was happily smirking along until a comment at the end made my brain kick into gear. Mr Smith, a podcast devotee himself, was urging people to set up their own podcasts because he believes that everyone has something unique to share (Smith, 2012, closing comments)
For some reason this is what my brain did with that sentiment:
  1. Podcast, hmmmmm....professional artifact?
  2. Kevin Smiths podcasts are ongoing...
  3. Is my current thinking about the professional artifact limited by my idea of producing 'a thing,' i.e. a finished item to present?
  4. Does a finished 'thing' have any benefit to my practice or my audience? Short term, perhaps, but for future development...?
  5. Should I widen my scope to thinking about perhaps podcast, forum, blog, website that allows people to connect and share...
  6. By placing a full stop around my professional artifact am I, in fact, saying 'that's it, all done'? 
  7. Do I mean that? No. This inquiry is only the first step towards creating a more motivational environment for my students, at present and in the future.
Then I arrived home!

So, the up shot of all this is that I am going to consider an ongoing artifact that it may, or may not, be possible to create within the limited time frame for this inquiry. However, what I do know for sure, now, is that it would be more representative of the topic and it's application to practice - the need for continual interaction, understanding, reflection, and development - than a static artifact that presents a fait accomplie when it comes to motivating students.

Oh lordy! I've just thought...I've got a long drive to, and from, work, tomorrow. My apologies in advance for any blogging that might occur.


Be advised - sexual content and strong language in this podcast may cause offence
Smith, K. 2012. Smodcast #221: Orlando Calrissian. Smodcast. [podcast] August 29 2012. Available at: [Accessed: 25 Oct 2013].