Learning and Remembering Strategies of Novice and Advanced Jazz Dancers for Skill Level Appropriate Dance Routines

Article excerpt

This study examined the influence of the challenge level of to-be-learned stimulus on learning strategies in novice and advanced dancers. In Study 1, skill-level appropriate dance routines were developed for novice and advanced jazz dancers. In Study 2, 8 novice and 9 advanced female jazz dancers attempted to learn and remember the two routines in mixed model factorial design, with one between-participants factor: skill level (novice or advanced) and two within-participants factors: routine (easy or difficult) and performance (immediate or delayed). Participants were interviewed regarding the strategies used to learn and remember the routines. Results indicated that advanced performers used atypical learning strategies for insufficiently challenging stimuli, which may reflect characteristics of the stimuli rather than the performer. The qualitative data indicate a clear preference of novice and advanced performers for spatial compatibility of stimuli and response.

Key words: expertise, imagery, spatial compatibility

Empirical studies (e.g., Abernethy, 1987; Starkes & Deakin, 1984; Starkes, Deakin, Lindley, & Crisp, 1987) of motor expertise have clearly indicated the presence of expert-novice differences in performance, with situation or domain-specific stimuli as opposed to slight differences found with nontask-specific stimuli. These differences have been observed in chess (Chase & Simon, 1973), music (Chase & Ericsson, 1981; Sloboda, 1991), and dance (Starkes et al., 1987; Starkes, Caicco, Boutilier, & Sevek, 1990; Smyth & Pendleton, 1994). Traditionally, within motor expertise research, the same sequences or tasks have been presented to both expert and novice learners. Given the more advanced knowledge and skill level experts possess, it is reasonable to infer that a manageable task for novices is not a challenging one for experts (Abernethy, Thomas, & Thomas, 1993).

It is possible that the experts are insufficiently challenged by overly simplistic or contrived tasks, resulting in alternative strategies from those they would use for more challenging tasks. To allow both expert and novice groups to demonstrate the processes they typically use in learning dance sequences, it is important to develop ecologically valid dance routines and present different yet equally challenging, choreographed dance routines to each dancer. It is also necessary, therefore, to consider domain-specific task characteristics in determining elements (Starkes, 1993) as well as considering the challenge level of the dance routines. In the present research, we examined the strategies used by novice and advanced jazz dancers in learning and performing novel, appropriately challenging dance routines.

Expertise paradigms have stemmed, by and large, from the theoretical and methodological framework of cognitive psychology. The pattern-recognition paradigm has been used in chess studies (e.g., Chase & Simon, 1973) to highlight the expert advantage with familiar and domain-specific structured information. This advantage disappeared when domain-specific characteristics were removed. Therefore, it suggested that "expertise is a product of encoding strategies rather than overall memory capacity" (Abernethy et al., 1993). Yet, past Literature did not focus on exploring what these strategies are and how they distinguish experts and novices.

Starkes et al. (1987) conducted a pivotal study in dance and learning dance movement by examining motor versus verbal recall by expert and novice ballet dancers. Videos of 10 choreographed, structured sequences, and 5 unstructured sequences were presented. Each sequence comprised eight elements. The structured sequences were professionally choreographed, while the unstructured sequences were constructed randomly from the eight elements within the structured sequences. Both expert and novice groups were matched for age and experience. Participants were asked to recall the sequence under three conditions: motor and verbal recall of structured sequences, and motor recall of unstructured sequences. …