Handle With Care: A Pedagogical Theory of Touch in Teaching Dance Technique Based on Four Case Studies
Collen, Robin Latshaw
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The purpose of this study was to investigate how human touch may be used within a modern dance technique class to facilitate effective teaching and learning. This inquiry was based on two initial assumptions: (a) touch is an effective teaching and learning tool for modern dance, and (b) a modern dance technique class defines its own culture within which pedagogical touch can be a natural and integral experience. Two qualitative traditions of inquiry were used: the phenomenological study and the multiple case study. Fieldwork took place at four different institutions of higher education. The primary methodological strategies centered on (a) interviews with four modern dance teachers and twenty-one of their students, (b) forty hours of participant observation of the teachers' classes, and (c) questionnaires from forty-six students. Memos were written from transcribed interviews, questionnaires, and videotaped observations. A list of relevant coding categories of emergent themes was developed. Nel Noddings' theory of care in moral education was used as an initial framework for a theory models approach to analysis and interpretation of the data. Laban Movement Analysis was also used as an analytical tool. Written documents—including articles and books on the topics of dance pedagogy, education, somatics, and touch—served to verify data gathered through interviews, observations, and questionnaires. A pedagogical theory of touch was developed. Three of the theory's core constructs are: (a) the inside/outside nature of dancing, and of learning movement, (b) the importance of student histories, and (c) the significance of intentional touch. The necessity for teachers to account for these foundational elements to insure the effective use of touch, was stressed. The findings supported the notion of "meta-dance practice"—a teaching and learning framework which resides within the paradigm of constructivist learning, and which is closely related to themes of moral education. "Meta-dance practice”—a term which the author created in this study—describes everything besides dance technique which can be learned through touch.