If life is what happens to our plans, then dance is what happens to our steps.
ideas sometimes when you wait they come to you.

Preparation for starting with BAPP

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Step Gently: On-line 'Campus' session with a focus on Module Two - but read it even if you are not in Module Two!!

On-line ‘Campus’ session with a focus on Module Two was on Tuesday. We were talking about Planning Ethical Practice.

First point we made was to look at what is ethics: I have described ethics as reflecting on what you are experience as. Thinking about what is the effect, affect, feeling, event that is created by your actions. This is not to say that you can control how people have a ‘good time’ with you because you can’t know what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’ for them. But you can think about what impact you are having on the people and things around you and reflect on whether the impact you are having is the same as your intension for doing things.

NOTE: This is about using reflection: Module Ones old and new –  developing reflection is a kind of tool for thinking about a wider picture and making sure you are not narrowing your ability to engage with events to what you expect to find.  – also ties in with Module Three: using reflection to support yourself not having to know the ending of the inquiry at the beginning! (see my last post) – its all connected.

Ethics: Impact on others
So having established that when thinking about ethics we are looking at our place, effect, impact on people and things I asked the group what do you think of doing a research project which will result in giving advise to people about a topic. – bearing in mind you have about 3 months, you are at BA level, and some people have been looking at the field you are looking at all their lives. Alan was just saying to me he was listening to a TED lecture where the person said for the first 30 years of the research we thought X but know we have come to see it in terms of Y today!!!!!

So what do you think of you doing a research project that will give people the answer to something? What are the ethics (impact of you) in this?? I would not want to try to do that. It seems a little rude to people who already study the area to think I can come up with the ‘answer’ in 3 months when they might have been looking at it for years and years. And what is the ‘answer’ in terms of them, the answer is really just my thing, my issues?  Who am I?

NOTE: Module One is about asking yourself who am I – through looking at your networks, your presence on-line your reflections. I am the experiences I have – unique experiences because only ‘I’ live MY life.

Who am I – after Module One – I am someone with unique experiences and (and therefore) my ideas and thoughts matter because only ‘I’ have my perspective.

So I am someone who does not have to feel I am going to save the world in three months and come up with the ‘answer’ to this important question. But I am also someone with a unique set of experiences and what I think matters ….so  (ethically I could say) my inquiry is about finding out more about my question and giving some informed comments and ideas about what I think of what I found out.

NOTE: This what you do in Module Three – a reflective report and some ‘thing’ people in my industry can relate to (see blog post On-line Campus Three session below for ‘thing’ reference)

OK so what does this ethical perspective do to our inquiry questions? Remember:
1)    We don’t have to ‘find’ and answer to the question (and possibly can’t) we need to find out more
2)    We don’t have to assume we need to save the world and that nobody else thought of saving the world before us and just didn’t try
3)    The goal is to ask better more informed questions

We looked at our questions and reworded them. For example

Save the world version:
What are the different methods for developing performance skills for excellence in performers, so I can teach this to my students?
Find out more version:
What do different people consider excellence in performance is (asking dancers, director, choreographers and audience members)
I feel Pat Smith, Blair Teller and Fran Jones are excellent performers so I will talk to each of them to find out what in their training helped them in their performance work.

Save the world version:
Blindness and Dance: why is their so much training lacking? I’ve noticed there is no training for dance teachers in this.
Find out more version:
What is out there in terms of dance projects that involve blind children. (world wide and locally)
What do parents of blind children feel is a benefit from doing dance class and are these benefits to do with they way the classes are taught?
How are the arts positioned in training for working with blind children? Looking at training programmes in general and seeing how much of this involves arts educational training.

Save the world version:
Culture in dance: what are opportunities for people to study musical theatre in India (but I don’t live in India).
Find out more version:
Is musical theatre a culture in itself (as it could be argued ballet is) having its own language, and expectation for behaviour?
Starting to mapping musical theatre training from different places by comparing the narratives of three performers who have trained in different countries.

Ethics –  Questioning Assumptions
We noticed the find out more versions allowed us to notice our assumptions and question them.
Noticing the assumptions we are making is like taking a step back to look get a wider look at what we are thinking about. Very often the assumptions we make are the best place to start inquiring into. Why we make that assumption and what other ways are there to look at things. In the performance skills inquiry area there are assumptions in the original save the world questions that need to be noticed and in fact could be the inquiry its self.

For example: What are the different methods for developing performance skills for excellence in performers, so I can teach this to my students?
This has the following assumptions and possible inquiry areas:

Everyone thinks the same things are performance skills and excellence
What do different people think makes excellence in performance (get opinions from different people in different roles to do with performance)
Performance skills remain the same regardless of the performance setting
Find out if people who perform if different performance events and venues seem to access the same skills each time (Watch great performance in different setting, what do I think? What has been written about this.)
It is possible to teacher people to be better performers its just nobody does it
Talk to people I think are great performers and find out what they do and think.
There are methods to get people to perform it can be broken down in to steps or stages or points and then learnt in the classroom.
Talk to teachers/director/dance captains I have had, who I respect, and find out what they do and think and why.

You can see that all the example inquiry questions that are raised from my assumptions can all still be useful in my end goal of being better at teaching performance skills to my students.

The conclusion we came to is:

We help people (save the world) by being better informed, inspired etc… ourselves. Not by going out and ‘helping’ people. Being better yourself helps other people.

Joke: Old lady (much like myself!) standing at the edge of the road you help her across. And on the other side she says she didn’t want to cross the road and now she has missed her bus!!! (The irony was you wanted that bus too but you sacrificed missing it to ‘help’ her.)

The practice under ethics of looking at your assumptions is really valuable. In the session we all looked at the assumptions in our questions so far. This is about how looking at ethics will help you shape your inquiry. (Its not about a right /wrong question). You can see from my example table above that the inquiry questions that come out of looking at my assumptions also indicate inquiry tools – like I would need to interview people, or observe performances. So looking at my questions through a focus on ethics gives me ideas about the focus of the questions, the tools I would need and where informative information about the question might be.

Ethics – Nuts and Bolts
In a session about ethics we cannot miss out having a quick look at ethics 101. Make sure you don’t hurt people.  As the handbook points out some research has been at the cost of harm to people mentally or physically.
Some of the assumptions we make can be offensive and hurtful to people. Assuming I need help across the road is pretty annoying when I can ask if I do! In the summer I was standing next to someone much older than me waiting to cross the road in Liverpool street station and as the light changed for us to walk across she took my arm. When we got to the other side she let go and realised I was me. She said sorry. I said it was really nice to walk across the road together like that I haven’t done that since I was child. For a moment I was what she needed (some remembered friend or relative) and then I was not.

Nuts and bolts
1)    Plan to use pseudonyms for people you interview. Yes, so they have some anonymity but beyond that because (see Pips blog post from last week – my skype chat post below) because it is hard to really explain what you will be doing in your inquiry as in some ways you don’t know where it will take you either.
2)    Same with informed consent and the ability to drop out of the research at anytime. You can’t really say what will happen minute by minute in your inquiry or where it will go so let people know they can get off the ride when ever they want to. But this is more than just the rhetoric of the consent form you give them. It is about planning an inquiry that understands not all the data is coming from people you interview. What if they all dropped out??? The data is also the literature, and your feelings and thoughts (see recent on-line ‘Campus’ session Module Three blog post below).
3)    The power of the researcher – you think you are stressed about your project! The people you approach also have stress about the idea of research and they are not in control of the project like you are. Think about the impact of being asked to be interviewed or not being one of the people asked to be interviewed will have on people. Think about the relationship you already have with people involved in the inquiry. There is not a right person to ask. You just need to have thought about the impact you will have and maybe tried to make sure it is as gentle as possible. Where possible ask yourself do I really need to involved people they way I am planning, would it be more gentle to change how I engage with them. Like changing planning to interview your students to observing your students. Knowing the power relationship between student (them) and teacher (you) is quite stressful and can be manipulated.

All right this is long enough. I think it would be best now if you have a look at some of the post other people in the session wrote up.

Also I would love to carry on the conversation in the comments below…what do you think?



  1. Hi Adesola, i was unable to make this session but thanks so much for this blog. It has made me question my line of inquiry as i followed it due to what my assumptions were - and there is no answer to my question as i think it will depend on an individuals feeling (assumption) as the question itself is an ethical one. But i can become more informed and therefore better my own teaching skills.

  2. Hi , Adesola ! On the last days I have being focusing on the interviews. The last Skype Session was very helpful to think about the ethical considerations that should be taken when doing them. Your post caused even more reflection, especially when thinking about the relationship I have with the ones involved on my inquiry , not only on interviews but on focus groups and observations as well!

  3. This has really helped me to think about the wording of my possible line of inquiry which is currently too broad. I have now thought about the environments I will be using to research and find out more about what I want to know!

  4. I have just been searching across blogs and doing some extra reading and this blog post has been brilliant in cementing my understanding, clarifying the process and developing my ideas! Thank you :)

  5. Reading this has given me courage to takeoff. My initial line of inquiry was of all over the place; in fact I had more than one question. Not knowing on what to focus I bought a couple of books regarding the topic to help me piece together my thoughts, or rather help me ask the right question. I will be rewording my line of inquiry, thank you!