A Dancing Education

Problem of Practice

How does incorporating student-to-student interaction in a graduate level online course affect students’ career readiness in Engineering?

Part 1

This week, I spent some time at a dance studio in my small town.  During my time spent here, I observed two dance classes taking place.  I am normally at this dance studio each Saturday with my daughter for her dance class, and so, it was interesting to take an observational approach this week rather than a participant approach.  Relating my observation to my problem of practice, I realized that students have the opportunity to learn career readiness skills in everything they do.  In dance, they are learning patience, listening skills, collaboration, and problem solving skills.

Part 2

Date:  October 26, 2019

Site:  Dance Studio

Observations

The first thing I noticed in the dance studio is that there was an employee sitting at the front desk.  She had a computer at her desk and would say “hello” as people walked into the studio.  In the entrance area, there were places to sit and trophies that dances had earned.

When we arrived, there was a private lesson going on.  The dancer and the teacher were working through a complicated dance.  They would play the music, the dancer would complete the steps, and the teacher would give feedback.  The cycle would start over again and again until the dancer felt confident with that section of the routine.

As more dancers and parents came into the dance studio, they all knew to sit on the bench until the teacher called them into the dance room.  The class I observed included the younger toddlers where the parents went into the class with them.  A good description of the class is an organized chaos.  It was obvious that the teacher had a specific song list (lesson) planned out for the students.  Since it was the weekend before Halloween, the students were wearing their Halloween costumes and the music was geared towards Halloween.  In addition, there were flyers around the dance studio about a local Halloween event.  When it was time to switch to gymnastics, the students knew to sit quietly and listen to directions before running to their first station.

From the two classes I observed, I figured out that the “curriculum” was geared towards the specific age range, with some consistencies:

  • Younger toddlers get to do their own thing with parents in the room.
  • Older children dance by themselves and are expected to follow the steps of the teacher.
  • All classes started with stretching.
  • All students were required to wear a leotard.
  • All students knew to wait until the teacher called them into the classroom to begin.
  • Students received a prize/sticker at the end of their class.

A Dance Studio as an Educational System

As I sat and thought about my definition of an education system, I realized that this dance studio is a good representation of an educational system.  For one, there are similar stakeholders (teachers, administration, students, parents), venues (classrooms, welcoming area), and expectations.  Another representation of it being an educational system is that learning is taking place.  Dancers are learning complicated dance steps, as well as soft skills that allow them to work together as a team to put on a show.

Community is built at the dance studio by allowing parents to sit and watch their dancers as the classroom is taking place.  In addition, the teacher would give feedback to the dancers and parents for improvement.  Finally, the flyers about the local event shows the dance studio trying to encompass a broader community population.

Part 3

Weick, K. E. (1976). Educational organizations as loosely coupled systems. Administrative science quarterly, 1-19.

Summary: 

  • Educational systems can be categorized as a mixture of tightly and loosely coupled systems.  A loosely coupled system is not effected as deeply when one of the components fails.  However, when a component fails in a tightly couple system, a domino effect is created.  Loosely coupled systems create an autonomous environment, but because everyone is doing something differently, there is no “same” ness to fall back on.  It becomes tougher to implement change in a loosely coupled system because every stakeholder is doing what they feel is the best.

Remember:

  • Examples of loosely coupled systems:
    • Inspection – how well the work is being done
    • Decentralized departments
  • Examples of tightly coupled systems
    • Certifications – who does the work
    • Centralized departments

Hargreaves, A., Lieberman, A., Fullan, M., & Hopkins, D. (Eds.). (2010). Introduction. In Second international handbook of educational change (Vol. 23). Springer Science & Business Media.

Summary:

Today’s education in America is a focus on teaching to the test and closing achievement gaps.  This has created a focus on improving math and literacy skills and less focus on creating a well-rounded student ready for their careers and futures.  This text introduces possible solutions to create a new community that incorporates inclusiveness, security, and prosperity.

  • New York District 2 used principals as coaches who worked with teachers to create best practices for their specific students.  They created a more tightly coupled system with walk-throughs and community discussions.
  • England created formative check-ins for both student progress and teacher evaluations.
  • Ontario hired more teachers to make smaller class sizes and increase professional development opportunities.
  • Singapore added areas in their curriculum for teachers to bring “individual initiative and creativity into their teaching.”
  • Create a community of educational professionals to learn from other schools of the same context.  Eliminate the silo mentality.
  • Many countries have begun creating community support mechanisms including extended days, full-service schools, etc. to support teachers and parents in creating a well-rounded student.

Remember:

There is a great quote in regards to the importance for schools to implement skills based on creativity, innovation, flexibility, problem-solving, and teamwork on page xv.

Bentley, T. (2009). Innovation and diffusion as a theory of change. In Second international handbook of educational change (pp. 29-46). Springer Netherlands.

Summary:

As the educational landscape changes at a very rapid pace, educational systems are feeling the pressure of implementing innovation quickly to keep up.  Unfortunately, there are many barriers to this system change because of deep rooted methods and routines in the bureaucratic paradigm.  Having a tri-level adaptive structure allows for adaptation within the system, but makes it difficult for innovation to occur.  Innovation has the best potential if it integrates with, or replaces, existing systems.  This means that innovation must be diffused into the system through imitation, iteration, improvisation, inspiration, immigration, and interpretation.

Remember:

Strategies for diffusion of innovation must come from the way people learn and adjust their own behavior.  These include imitation, iteration, improvisation, inspiration, immigration, and interpretation (p. 41).

Part 4

  • Innovation can occur, but we have to remember it can be slow.  Pay attention to the small steps occurring, which will make the larger system change.
  • It is extremely important to start seeing education as open rather than working in a silo.  This has caused a competitive and monopoly approach instead of improving society as a whole.
  • How does one take a decentralized unit and create a centralized unit without disrupting all of the systems in place?

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