Dance Home Page Dance Curriculum Dance Articles

Ballroom Dance

J M (Mike) Nelson
Phone: 612-810-0157



Learning. The most widely accepted definition: learning is a change in behavior or behavioral potential that can be retained and is not ascribable to growth. Teaching changes student behavior; if there is no learning, there is no teaching. The extent to which the teacher states precise objectives and plans their lessons to accomplish those objectives is a measure of their integrity as a teacher. The extent to which they accomplish their objectives is a measure of their success. The extend to which they assess their results and adjust their lesson plans accordingly is a measure of their professionalism.

Behaviorism. Behaviorists assume that learning is a result of responses to external events and is composed of connections between stimuli and responses (S-R). Intelligence is determined by the number of connections.

Behaviorist Principles. Research by Pavlov, Skinner, and others seemed to confirm principles elucidated by Thorndike years earlier, namely:
Law of effect - responses followed by a reward will be strengthened.
Law of readiness - responses can be chained together to satisfy an objective.
Law of exercise - responses become strengthened with, and weakened without, practice.

Cognitive Learning. Cognitive theories describe learning as a complex process that utilizes problem-solving and insightful thinking in addition to a stimulus-response chain. A primary link between behaviorism and cognitive theory was elucidated by George A. Miller, in 1956 in his reporting that short-term memory can only hold five to nine chunks (meaningful units) of information. A "chunk" might be thought of as a "S-R connection" or a short "S-R chain." The limited capacity of short term memory became a basic element of subsequent theories of memory and has been verified at all levels of cognitive processing.

Cognitive Principles.
Short term memory is limited to seven chunks of information.
Planning is a fundamental cognitive process; we inherently plan.
Behavior is hierarchically organized; we inherently prioritize.

Sensory-Motor Learning. This category is central to dance, as well as other sports. The combination of both mental and physical responses associated with sensory-motor learning seem to give rise to phenomena not encountered in predominantly cognitive processes.

Sensory-Motor Principles.

Slow the rate at which information is presented.
Reduce the amount of information that needs to be processed.
Guided learning seems most appropriate for high proficiency.
Problem-solving promotes recall and transfer to a new situation.
Repetition after proficiency is achieved will increase retention.
Learning appears to be the same under massed and spaced practice.

If, in the process of planning a lesson, each of these principles is applied in conjunction with other, related principles, the result will be a highly defensible design that will likely be much more effective than a lesson based on intuition, which can be highly subjective. Dance Home Page Dance Curriculum Dance Articles

Copyright (c) 2006, J. M. Nelson. All rights reserved. Reproduction of contents prohibited without prior permission from the author.