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Developing Observation Strategies to Enhance Teaching Effectiveness in the Dance Class

By Clark, Dawn | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, November-December 2003 | Go to article overview

Developing Observation Strategies to Enhance Teaching Effectiveness in the Dance Class


Clark, Dawn, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


The dance class is a dynamic environment for both the student and the teacher. Because students are moving at all times, the task of observing them is especially challenging. It is only through observation that educators can really know what students are doing (Nickell & Wilson, 1999; Romance, 1985; Stinson, 1979; Worthham, 1984). Thus, dance educators constantly need to be aware of every student, and for effective observation they need to incorporate a variety of perceptual and mobility strategies. In addition, dance educators must be active and reflective observers to be effective.

In order to enhance the teaching effectiveness of dance educators, this article recommends specific activities for the training and practice of observation skills, as well as discusses a variety of observation strategies to use while teaching dance. These activities and strategies take into account the visual and auditory perceptual skills needed for observation, the teacher placement and mobility within the class in order to enhance observation, the various ways in which dance language is used for effective observation, and the issue of teacher bias in observation.

Sensory Awareness

Becoming fully aware of one's surroundings is a necessary first step in developing effective observation strategies, and it requires perceptual skills and some training. The first two activities are designed to enhance sensory perception.

Enhancing Visual Awareness. The objective of this activity is to become visually hypersensitive to your surroundings. As the activity progresses, it is important to develop a sense of "quiet" within yourself in order to focus on the environment. In an environment of your choice, take some time to notice your surroundings. Allow your gaze to move from low to high and from side to side, while asking yourself the following questions and reflecting on what you observe:

1. What are the visibly dominant textures (e.g., smooth, rough)?

2. What shapes and patterns are discerned? What shapes and patterns draw or repel attention?

3. What colors are predominant? What colors draw attention?

4. What is the organization of the objects in the space?

Enhancing Auditory Awareness. This activity requires only that you find a comfortable position in which to relax. Keeping your eyes closed may help you concentrate. In this activity, listen to the sounds in the environment and ask yourself the following questions:

1. What are the dominant sounds?

2. What is the quality, of the sound (e.g., loud, scuffling, humming)?

3. What are the discernable tempos, patterns, or particular rhythms of sound?

4. Where are the sounds occurring and what is creating them?

These two activities prepare the senses for observation and allow dance educators to practice their visual and auditory perception and discrimination. These activities can be practiced in any environment.

Observation Skills During Teacher Mobility

Many dance educators regularly demonstrate the movement content for their classes. However, continuing to demonstrate for their students as they dance or practice inhibits effective observation. Too often, by participating in the dance class as the demonstrator, dance educators completely miss what their students are doing. If the teacher is dancing, she or he is not able to observe with 100 percent effectiveness. Having the students be the only ones dancing is very difficult for dance educators, but it is time for the students to become the dancers and the teachers to become the observers.

The next activity will help dance educators pay attention to their students while moving around the dance class. It is vital for the teacher to move around the class as much as possible. This gives access to all areas of the dance space as well as proximity to all students. Thus, the next activity develops observation skills while moving throughout the students in the class.

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