Using Reflective Practice in Teaching Dance to Preservice Physical Education Teachers

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This article was downloaded by: [University of Kiel]On: 05 November 2014, At: 04:45Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UKEuropean Journal of Physical EducationPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: Reflective Practice in Teaching Dance toPreservice Physical Education TeachersAnn Carolyn McCormack aa University of Newcastle , AustraliaPublished online: 10 Aug 2006.To cite this article: Ann Carolyn McCormack (2001) Using Reflective Practice in Teaching Dance to Preservice PhysicalEducation Teachers, European Journal of Physical Education, 6:1, 5-15, DOI: 10.1080/1740898010060102To link to this article: SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLETaylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the Content) containedin the publications on our platform. 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Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at Journal of Physical Education, 2001, 6, 5-15Using Reflective Practice in TeachingDance to Preservice PhysicalEducation TeachersAnn Carolyn McCormackThe need for reflective pedagogical practices in teacher education to enhance pre-service teachers' understanding of teaching, and to assist the link between theoryand their own practice, has long been accepted. This study sought to investigatethe use of reflective strategies to develop attitudes and skills in teaching dance inphysical education by a group of first year preservice physical education teachers(N=90) undertaking an introductory course in dance in an Australian university.Monitoring occurred at regular intervals during the course to identify any longitudinal' developmental trends in attitudes. Inductive analysis of weekly journal responseswas undertaken to identify major themes or focus areas using the Reflective Frameworkfor Teaching in Physical Education (Tsangaridou and O'SulIivan, 1994). Attitudinaldata from questionnaire responses were analysed using SPSSPC and focus groupdiscussion data were transcribed and analysed for dominant themes using NVivosoftware. The results indicated an increase in the focus and level of complexity ofreflections and analytical responses in line with changes in attitudes and confidencein teaching dance experienced during the course. Significant gender differences inattitudes to teaching dance prior to undertaking the course and in the early journalentries were identified. Improvement in and value given to journal writing wasevident, however, some preservice teachers felt hindered by a lack of personalreflective writing skill.INTRODUCTIONIt is universally accepted that teaching is a complex activity occurring in a complexenvironment (Britzman, 1991; Doyle, 1986; Shulman, 1987). The ability to thinkabout why and what a teacher does is vital to the development of intelligent practice(Richert, 1991; Zeichner, 1987). To develop this ability teacher educators caneducate preservice. teachers to become effective decision makers who are able totranslate pedagogical knowledge into practice (Berliner, 1985; Siedentop, 1991).This approach has seen worldwide attention given to restructuring teacher education(Campbell-Evans, 1993) to focus on the challenge of providing a programme whichdevelops reflective practitioners capable of critically inquiring into their ownpractice (Clandinin, Davies, Hogan and Kennard, 1993; Knowles and Holt-Reynolds,1991; Zeichner, 1992, 1993). The need for reflection has also been argued on theAnn McCormack, University of Newcastle, Australia.5Downloaded by [University of Kiel] at 04:45 05 November 2014 grounds of facilitating the linking of theory and practice and enabling preserviceteachers to take an active role in their own credibility (Calderhead, 1989). Thedevelopment of the skills and habits of reflection may be seen both as a means ofimproving practice and as an end in itself, a valid outcome of reflective teachereducation (LaBoskey, 1993; Mclntyre, 1993).Reflective practice has been conceived of as a collection of strategies used as amechanism to encourage teacher growth. These strategies range from deliberationabout the practical aspects and content of teacher's work to critical appraisal of themeaning, in a moral or ethical context, of teaching activities (Redden, Frid andReading, 1997). Reflective practice presupposes that for teacher growth to occur, mereexperience is not sufficient. Teacher growth is a result of experience plus reflectionon that experience (Posner, 1993). LaBoskey (1993) developed a conceptual frame-work for reflective teacher education in which the act of reflection was viewed interms of the dimensions or aspects of content, processes, attitudes and teachingconditions. LaBoskey (1993) and Furlong and Maynard (1995) argued that thenecessary skills for reflective practice are not automatically available to beginningteachers and opportunities must be provided to develop these skills. Furlong andMaynard (1995) postulated that teachers move through a developmental pathcharacterised by a shift in focus of teacher concern. This concern begins withteaching behaviour and modelling themselves on others, moving onto concern aboutskills and content, then to focus on students and ends in a final stage of exploringattitudes and theoretical underpinnings of one's actions as an educator.Researchers in the physical education field have also called for attention toreflective teaching practice (Tsangaridou and O'Sullivan, 1994) with many propositionsand suggestions about the specific aspects of teaching needing reflection (Dodds,1989; Tinning, 1991). However, there is little empirical evidence in the physicaleducation literature to inform practice or to support these propositions (Gore, 1990)and that which does exist, tends to focus on practicum experiences and methodscourses rather than the practical areas of physical education. Maybe it is assumedthat teachers of physical education are skilled practitioners who readily adapt to thelearning and therefore teaching of different areas of study within the discipline.One of the traditional areas of preservice training for physical education teachersin Australia is dance education. Although dance has emerged as part of arts educationin recent curriculum statements physical education classes remain, for the majorityof students, their first introduction to dance education. Dance has remained animportant strand of study in school physical education programmes, however, forpreservice physical education teachers in their teacher education courses it oftencauses apprehension and a resulting lack of commitment to learning. These attitudesare commonly built upon beliefs preservice teachers bring from their own schoolexperiences and these have been seen to transfer into their inservice teaching (Clark,1988; Pajares, 1992). Holt-Reynolds (1992) suggested that the attitudes preserviceteachers form -about teaching as a student in schools over an extended period ofmany years acts as a "filter" through which they view and interpret the content oftheir teacher education.Learning to teach dance requires the ability to engage students in experiencesthat heighten perceptual abilities, prompt decision-making based upon criticallydeveloped values, encourage diverse responses and above all, provide enjoyment.As well as requiring the development of physical skills and techniques, teachingdance relies on the development of a set of artistic values and attitudes (Klenz, 1995)not as readily attainable in sports. For the individual, dance involves artistic, physical,6Downloaded by [University of Kiel] at 04:45 05 November 2014 mental and emotional functions. Dance is also often a co-operative endeavour, an artof socialisation for both the teacher and student and may carry with it gender, socialand cultural expectations. Again, these expectations are linked to personal valuesand attitudes (Klenz, 1995). Dance education in teacher education should thereforerequire preservice teachers to examine their values and attitudes as they developthe technical skills of creating, performing and appraising dance. Studies haveconfirmed that prior beliefs and images must be recognised, modified and recon-structed for professional growth to occur (Kagan, 1992). One method to encouragepreservice teachers to challenge, mitigate and reconstruct these attitudes is toprovide them with reflective strategies and tasks throughout their dance educationinstruction.Recently, teacher educators have developed and applied different instructionalstrategies in their programmes to prepare preservice teachers to reflect on theirteaching. Journal writing is one such technique which has been used extensively inuniversity contexts where reflection has been widely recognised as a crucial elementin the professional growth of preservice teachers (Calderhead and Gates, 1993).Evidence provided by preservice teachers' reports indicated that journals are highlyrated as a means of facilitating reflection (Walker, 1985), integrating theory andpractice (Ballantyne and Packer, 1995), developing personal theories about practice(Thornbury, 1991) and examining held beliefs and values (Wodlinger, 1990).Research has shown this is particularly applicable to contexts in which reflectivejournals are used as adjuncts to conventional learning methods (Ballantyne andPacker, 1995).Although journal writing has been lauded as an effective reflective practicestrategy in teacher education programmes, concerns have been expressed aboutits use with identification of the problems of overuse, lack of focus, emphasis ongrading, level of skill in writing and lack of preservice teachers' understanding of"reflection". In light of the increased popularity of reflective practice and the lack ofreported evidence from physical education teacher education programmes, furtherresearch evidence is required to substantiate the effectiveness of journal writing asa valuable learning tool for practical skills.Purpose of the StudyThis study sought to investigate how preservice teachers, during their first year ofteacher education, used reflective practices of journal writing, focus group discussionand questionnaires to reflect on their developing skills in and attitudes towardsthe teaching of dance in physical education. In addition, this study aimed toexamine two of LaBoskey's (1993) four dimensions of reflection, namely contentand attitudes, as a means of monitoring any change in attitudes and perceivedskills through participation in the dance subject. The purpose of this study wastherefore:1. To examine the impact of reflective practice on the attitudes of preservicephysical education teachers to teaching dance2. To examine the impact of reflective practices on the perceived dance skilldevelopment of preservice physical education teachers.3. To investigate if gender differences exist in attitudes towards teaching dance inphysical education.7Downloaded by [University of Kiel] at 04:45 05 November 2014 METHODSSampleA cohort of 90 first year Bachelor of Teaching/Bachelor of Health and PhysicalEducation preservice teachers were the focus for the study. These preservice teachershad completed one semester at university and had undertaken five micro-teachingsessions in primary school settings. The group consisted of 47 female and 43 malepreservice teachers ranging in age from 18 years to 35 years.The 90 preservice teachers participated in a two-hour dance class each weekover a 14-week semester. The content of these classes covered creative, folk, bushand line/individual dances with each lecture having a warm up, skill development,dance making/choreography, performance/appraisal and theory components. Thepreservice teachers were introduced to the concept of journal writing as a meansof recording and reflecting on their lecture experiences and skill development. Theformat and categories of the journals were explained with a weekly journal proformaprovided for the participants as a guide to their reflections with emphasis advised inthe three areas of skill development, choreography and general comments. Therewas no restriction on the length of writing required. A final free-response questionasked the preservice teachers to comment on the value of the journal writing.In addition, quantitative data was collected using an attitudinal measure in theform of a short questionnaire which was administered to the preservice teachersduring the first and last lecture of the semester course. Further data was collectedfrom focus group discussions conducted with ten randomly selected preserviceteachers from the group and held during Week 3 and at the completion of the course.This data served to allow further clarification and expansion of data collected fromthe questionnaires and journals.Inductive analysis of the participants' journal scripts was undertaken in Week 7and again at the completion of the course. This analysis identified major themes orfocus of the comments at the beginning, middle and end of the course to monitorany longitudinal developmental trends. The scripts were analysed using the ReflectiveFramework for Teaching in Physical Education (Tsangaridou and O'Sullivan, 1994).This framework identified three focus categories of reflection, namely, technicalwhich is concerned with the instructional technique of teaching; situational dealingwith the contextual and organisational aspects and finally the sensitising or evaluativeaspects which reflect on the moral and personal values and social aspects of the lessonand teaching. The pre and post-subject questionnaire attitudinal data were analysedusing SPSSPC with frequencies, descriptive means and standard deviations calculatedfor occasions and gender responses. Focus group interviews were recorded and thetranscripts analysed for dominant themes using the NVivo software program.RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONAnalysis of the journal entries (Table 1) indicated the technical issues to be a majorfocus of reflections during the first two weeks of the subject with very little timegiven to personal evaluative reflections, skill development or feelings related todance. The comments were mostly technical descriptions of the lecture content andsituational comments relating to class organisation such as:8Downloaded by [University of Kiel] at 04:45 05 November 2014 Today we were introduced to the basic elements of dance, such as timing, space,levels, quality, rhythm and relationships with locomotor and non-locomotormovements. We did walks, runs, leaps, curls and stretches and explored differentlevels and use of the entire studio space. Relationships in dance were exploredwith partner and group tasks involving contrast, mirror, and cannon movements.A warm up and cool down was given involving individual and partner activitiesto music (FS.34).Male students were very brief in their comments and had very few personal reflectionsor critiques of the first lectures. The participants were generally reserved with theirevaluative comments of the lectures and confined early evaluative journal commentsto those relating to personal feelings of inadequacy or lack of desire to undertake thecourse. An example of an evaluative journal comment from a male student in Week2 was:/ was really dreading this course and felt very self-conscious today. I hated thedance lessons at school as they were the same old dances every year (MS.20)Table 1: Journal analysis for each occasionOCCASIONWeek 1 and 2Week 7 and 8Week 13 and 14TECHNICAL72%38%21%SITUATIONAL20%45%40%SENSITISING8%17%39%These attitudes were further explored in the focus group interviews in Week 3 whenthe ten randomly selected participants were asked about their feelings towards dancein the early lectures. Students focused on their personal inadequacies, however,technical and situational aspects related to the lesson structure were considered.Two comments which highlighted these ideas were:At first I was reluctant to start moving especially in front of my peers but aftera while I tended to go with the flow and relaxed. The movement tasks were goodand something everyone could do. Changing the groups and allowing time fordiscussion and experimentation is important. I was surprised at how much I hadto think and concentrate to complete the task (Tim, discussion transcript,Week 3)And:/ was somewhat self-conscious and thought I look stupid doing the tasks but asthe lesson progressed I found I was actually enjoying myself. I found creativedance is an excellent way to allow students to express themselves and interpretthings in their own way. I am pleased we started with that dance style as itbroke the ice for me (Susie, discussion transcript, Week 3).9Downloaded by [University of Kiel] at 04:45 05 November 2014 As the course progressed the journal entries indicated a continued emphasis onthe technical aspects of dance with entries analysed in Week 7 showing an increasein the amount of reflective writing related to situational aspects of the choreographywith organisation issues and strategies being recognised and considered. Thefollowing journal entries from Week 7 indicated this attention to organisation anddeveloping skills:This week the first dance-making task involved creating a sequence to La Salutwith 4 steps and 4 changes of formation. With more people in our group we hadto listen, discuss, trial ideas and cooperate. We decided on our introduction,linking steps and final position. We kept it simple and elected one person to cuethe steps for our class performance. Our dance worked out well and we evensurprised ourselves with the great timing and skill level (MS. 22).And:This class enabled us to learn the folk dances and then use those steps to createour own folk dance based on the elements of dance composition. The grouptasks demonstrated how to give dance-making opportunities in a folk dancelesson and an opportunity for performance and appreciation of each group'sdance (FS.13).Analysis of the reflective writing from Week 13 and Week 14 of the course revealeda strong emphasis on situational reflection related to choreography which couldbe explained by students focussing on assessment requirements of the course whichrequired two group choreographed performances. However, the journal entriesalso revealed a significant increase in sensitising/evaluative writing with commentsindicating reactions and opinions on issues relating to teaching and choreographingdance as well as general feelings about dance. The following comments are examplesof journal reflections from Week 14:Even though it was too hot to dance today you could not hold the class back!We all enjoyed the dances and also liked the fact that they were Australian andfamiliar although I did not know the history associated to them. These dancesallowed us to clap and release stress yet still perform to a high standard. I cansee how important the teacher is as a motivator in teaching dance and the needto keep all students actively involved. I think the fun aspect is very importantand I will always try to encourage that in my own classes (FS.63).And:Although I enjoyed today's dance-making task in the groups and I now believethat dance should be taught in a co-educational class as it is both beneficialto gain everyone's ideas and develop a dance that the group members feelcomfortable with and own. I can see how our co-ordination and social skillscan be enhanced through dance in schools, as everyone in our group certainlyenjoyed themselves in this course. (FS.31).The final focus group discussion session in Week 14 allowed the participants toreflect on the entire course. The student's comments reflected the important value of10Downloaded by [University of Kiel] at 04:45 05 November 2014 the choreographic tasks and the opportunity to work with their peers. The followingcomments highlighted some of these reflections:One of the highlights of this course for me was choreographing all types ofdances ourselves. This was quite challenging and allowed us to use ourcreativity and design dances we were capable of performing. I think it helpedme understand what dance was really about and develop new skills rather thanjust repeating known dances or copying the lecturer (Pip, discussion transcript,Week 14)And:Making up our assessment dances and all of the practice sessions were, lookingback, the highlight for me. It took a lot of extra time and effort but was greatas we got to know each other, had heaps of fun, improved our dance skills andreally enjoyed the atmosphere of the big performance day (Ben, discussiontranscript, Week 14).At the completion of the course the participants were asked in the form of an open-ended question to evaluate the task of keeping a reflective journal. The responseswere mostly positive with advantages such as providing lesson summaries, forcingthe link between theory and practical, requiring thought and analysis of whathappened in the lecture highlighted by the participants. A common theme with themale students was their focus on their own individual lack of ability in knowing whatto write, how to write it and the extra time it required after the lectures to completethe journals. As this was not part of the course assessment criteria and voluntarythe amount written varied greatly amongst the cohort of students. However, it wasevident that as the course progressed the initial reluctance to write decreased as theinsecurities were overcome and students became more familiar and comfortablewith the class tasks and content. Some of these attitudes and feelings are illustratedby the following examples of responses from the open-ended question:/ found writing the journal was difficult. To begin with my ideas were veryfew but as time went on it forced me to think about my attitudes to dance andhighlighted the changes that have occurred during this course. I was verycautious at the beginning as I found dance very boring at high school, however,after the last 14 weeks I now look at dance as more enjoyable and feel I cancope with teaching it at my prac school (MS.25).And:The fact we had to keep a journal throughout the course made me go home eachweek and think about what we did, the teaching strategies used and styles taught.I found it quite difficult to write down my reflections but it did force me toanalyse the lesson to see what worked best and how to get the point across simplyand clearly. It made me think about how I might teach dance in schools (MS. 88).In addition to the journal entries and the focus group discussions measures ofattitudes towards teaching dance by the participants in the course were taken by thecompletion of a questionnaire at the beginning of the course and again fourteenweeks later at the completion of the course (Table 2).11Downloaded by [University of Kiel] at 04:45 05 November 2014 Table 2: Attitudes towards teaching danceSTATEMENTS1. I find dance enjoyable2. I feel confident in teaching dance3. I feel relaxed about teaching dance4. I feel adequately trained to teach dance in physical education5. I need regular inservicing to assist me to teach dance6. Dance is best taught by females7. I must have a hall and good sound system to teach dance8. Dance is best taught in single sex classes9. Dance is best taught in a team teach situation10. It is necessary to have a background in ballet to teach dancein physical education11. Dance should be part of the PE programme for Years 7-1012. Dance is best taught as a "fill in" on cold or rainy days13. The styles of dance currently taught in schools are notmotivating, for students14. The dance programme should offer a wide range of dance styles15. The best styles of dance to teach are those from adolescent'sown culture e.g. video clips, fad dances16. Dance should be taught as a separate subject in schoolsrather than part of physical educationPretestMEAN2.562.272.321.802.832.102.711.802.832.843.261.952.983.353.361.56SD0.630.760.750.710.800.630.710.630.710.660.720.620.710.570.610.49PosttestMEAN3.282.892.783.153.101.902.581.501.951.873.451.452.223.652.152.54SD0.540.610.480.640.610.520.820.410.650.580.340.480.710.350.430.391 - strongly disagree; 2 - disagree; 3 - agree; 4 - strongly agreeAnalysis of the quest ionnaire results indicated increased confidence in s tudents 'ability to teach dance al though most recognised the ongoing n e e d for professionaldeve lopment in this area. T h e pretest attitudes about who. and what is required toteach d a n c e were rather divided, however, the majority of part ic ipants agreed thatdance should be part of the physical education p rogramme in each year of secondaryschool ing and not jus t as a "filler" at various t imes. These at t i tudes were reinforcedand s t rengthened in the post-test results. The part icipants agreed on the need fora wide r ange of dance styles to be taught in schools, however , after complet ingthe subject they disagreed that dance from popular culture was the best dancestyle to teach in schools . These results indicated that after part icipat ion in the coursethe participant's enjoyment, confidence and feelings about teaching danceincreased. This supported the attitudes reflected in both the journals and focus groupdiscussions.12Downloaded by [University of Kiel] at 04:45 05 November 2014 CONCLUSIONThis study attempted to shed some light on the attitudes of preservice physicaleducation teachers to dance education and the impact reflection had when preserviceteachers were asked to analyse and examine their attitudes and experiences whilstcompleting a 14 week dance course. The reflection took the form of weekly journalwriting, focus group discussions held on two occasions and attitudinal measuresbefore and after undertaking the dance course. The study confirmed the preserviceteachers came to the course with a wide range of reflective skills and attitudestowards dance. Some, especially the mature age students, were able to engage insophisticated reasoning and analysis of events and issues in the form of sensitising/evaluative comments, whilst others struggled to progress beyond the level of simpletechnical and situational responses. LaBoskey (1993) suggested that students' initialreflective abilities and orientations have significant impact on how they participatein reflective activities and what they take away from them. However, the resultsof this study showed reflective skills can be a learned enterprise and given theopportunity to develop these they have value as a technique to assist professionalgrowth and development for beginning teachers. Results of analyses of participantresponses in this study also support the theory (Furlong and Maynard, 1995) thatpreservice teachers move through a developmental path which begins with aninitial emphasis or concern on technical reflection. As they gain experience andconfidence the focus shifts toward attitudinal and evaluative concerns exploringone's action as a teacher.The study identified gender differences in both the attitudes expressed towardsdance and the ability and willingness to use reflective writing. The male studentsfound greater difficulty in the reflective journal writing activities initially providingvery brief comments and few personal reflections or critiques of the early classes.In comparison the female students were eager to analyse their experiences and voicetheir own ideas and feelings. This response can be partly explained by the strongsport-orientated background of the male physical education preservice teachersand the traditional associated gender roles and attitudes that prevail in Australiansociety. The male students initially felt uncomfortable or were unwilling to enterinto the personal emotional expression required in the performing arts. However,towards the end of the course the male students' confidence, skills and enjoymentof the dance classes increased. This was not only evident from their increasedwillingness to participate and contribute to the group problem solving activities andchoreographic tasks, their journal entries also displayed a more relaxed attitude anda willingness to think about their actions and attitudes towards dance.This study sought to use a set of reflective skills and problem solving teachingstrategies to encourage a group of preservice physical education teachers to thinkabout dance education and what it involves. The preservice teachers were asked toclosely analyse and examine their experiences and attitudes in light of their devel-oping experiences over a period of time. This approach challenged the traditionalmethods of teaching dance in physical education preservice programmes which areoften characterised by teacher-centred instruction and demonstration. In comparisonthe classes these preservice teachers undertook were characterised by continualopportunities for and tasks which required reflection, discussion and group problemsolving. Teaching dance is not easy, particularly to those who do not come withan initial passion for the activity, and Klenz (1995) observed the importance ofexperience in learning to dance by stating:13Downloaded by [University of Kiel] at 04:45 05 November 2014 A person does not develop the desire to dance all of a sudden, but as a result ofmany experiences (p 18).The results of this study suggested the use of reflective teaching practices in theform of journals, discussions and identification of attitudes encouraged introspectionand assisted this group of prospective teachers to think about their experiencesand how they could improve and use those experiences in their future teaching.This study therefore supports reflective practice as a powerful tool in developingmore thoughtful, motivated and reflective physical education dance teachers for thefuture.CORRESPONDENCEPlease address all correspondence to: Dr Ann McCormack, Faculty of Education,University of Newcastle, University Drive, Callaghan NSW 2308, Australia.REFERENCESBallantyne, R., and Packer, J. 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