Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Stretching and Consolidating - The Best Of Both Worlds

What constitutes a 'stretch' session, and what constitutes a 'consolidation' session?
At Solares last night, we spent the workshop: performing the Caribbean sway; partnered in Caribbean hold; with atiempo embodiment rhythm; mentally articulating on-and-off the boogaloo back-beats; and changing partners.

This was where we'd left off the week before.

Would this be considered a consolidation session?
On the face of it, "yes". I consider consolidation to encompass naturalisation, as per the lower tiers of Bloom's taxonomy. In neurophysiological terms, it constitutes locating the motor engram out of the pyramidal system into the extra-pyramidal system (for an introduction, see 'Brain and Learning a Motor Skill' by Paul Roper).

But what about the level of challenge each participant faces in improving the quality of execution?

Should this be considered a stretch session?
All the refinements to movement; the personal reflexion engendered through comparison by juxtaposition with changing dance partners; the interpretation of increasingly fine musical nuances, should these not be regarded as legitimate learning challenges which stretch the participant?

The detailed attention and effort required to modify an extra-pyramidal motor engram is immense. That's why articulation and precision are qualities of skills located in the upper tiers of Bloom's taxonomy.

Are we privileging the quantitative over the qualitative?
Is a 'stretch' session that which has quantitatively new material e.g. a new move, a new rhythm?
Is a 'consolidation' session that which has qualitatively new material e.g. neater execution of a dance basic, a clearer articulation of a musical expression?

They are both new. It's just that 'stretch' is sexier because quantitative newness is overt. The covertness of 'consolidation's qualitative newness is an understatedly elegant grey suit. The brain is stimulated by the novel (see 'Multitasking: The Brain Seeks Novelty') to such an extent that we even learn better when stimulated by novelty (see 'Learning By Surprise'): I ensure that every workshop is designed around at least one novel element.

My concern is with the labels of 'stretch' and 'consolidation' which are unhelpful, even misleading, to the detriment of qualitative progression; such that I'm inclined apriori to reject them in favour of an as-yet-to-be-determined something else. I've flagged an investigation into them and and their meaning as a matter of priority.

In the meantime, I will continue to execute sessions of qualitative and quantitative advancement, through the introduction of new content and use of novel approaches.

Loo Yeo

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