Tango Argentino > Why Floundering is Good

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by AndaBien, May 1, 2012.

  1. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    Here's an intriguing idea about teaching.

    "...providing lots of structure and guidance early on, until the students or workers show that they can do it on their own — makes intuitive sense, it may not be the best way to promote learning."


    I had good success teaching my first tango class ever, when I knew almost nothing about the dance and could provide little guidance. (I was the only teacher around, so the job was mine). As I began to know more about the dance, my students had less success learning it.
  2. It more depends on how the student learns. I learn more by example, by first being shown very precisely how everything is done so I have a basis to work from. I absolutely HATE the floundering method since for me it simply doesn't work and I just get totally frustrated.

  3. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Not so intriguing - it makes perfect sense, especially for an activity
    like dance, best learned by actually dancing.

    Unfortunately too many people are prescriptive - they want to be told,
    and teachers are only too happy to be paid to tell them. It's very contrary
    to acquiring sufficient independence & confidence to improvise in the moment.
  4. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    I understand what you mean, but the study was not about student preferences. I've had students who I called "engineering types", who wanted to know every blueprint detail of how a movement worked, before throwing themselves into it. The study didn't seem to address dance, especially leaders, who might just walk out the door in frustration if they couldn't demonstrate expertise immediately.

    I did decide in my later years of teaching to try to reduce talking about a step as much as possible and encourage students to learn the step without possessing left-brain knowledge of it. Plenty of leaders struggled with that approach.
  5. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    No its not; any dancer has to acquire the skills themselves, in their own body; You can teach yourself a musical instrument and to improvise with it and play jazz.No-one can do it for you, but being shown possibilities, given exercises to explore, explaining that there are different ways of doing the same thing. I can teach myself how to do something I havent seen before by watching youtube, but most people without a quite a few tango flying hours would struggle. I can work with someone and change their quality of movement; they do it because they can feel what it is. Lots of ways to skin this tango cat.

    There are also cultural differences and attitudes.

    I quite like this floundering approach. Shall try it at my next class.
  6. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    For once we don't disagree so I'm not sure what it is you are disagreeing with.
    But most teachers teach steps, sequences - even, it has to be said,
    those teachers who write, and I've heard say, that they don't.

    Rarely are people given exercises to practise, though I have heard teachers
    express their frustration that students do not attend their practicas.
    But new students have a mental block caused by a wish to not look/feel
    stupid or embarrassed or just plain inadequate & incompetent.

    Yes, and you are rightly hinting at personal attention, even coaching, and
    then trial and error by dancing. All far and away better than prescriptive
    classes to a set programme which inevitably ignores the individual
    variation in ability of the students.
    I wish you good luck but your students might find it a shock!
    As for me I have floundered quite a lot in the past.
  7. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I think you have to touch on all the methods in which people might learn. Some people need a detailed explanation (preferably with diagrams). Some people just want to watch it with little to no verbal explanation, and some want a minimal explanation and then want to just do it and figure it out for themselves.

    Another challenge to all this is when the two people in the couple have difference preferences (one want to just try stuff and figure it out, while the other one wants to wait for the teacher to come by and provide more details).
  8. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    I agree there are many ways to learn, and they should all be used as far as they are useful.

    Some people definitely feel comfortable with detailed information, but I often think it actually impedes their learning process.

    Teachers absolutely must satisfy their students wishes, or else they won't be teaching for long. But most experienced teachers know they are not permitted to teach what they think would be best for their students. Therefore, we have fancy sequences.
  9. Yes, I'm a total engineer, probably more extreme than most. I've taken lots of dance classes (not only tango but a number of other dances) and have been presented with both types of teaching. No matter what dance it is, I can never learn as quickly by the flounder method. I'm not talking about full patterns, but individual moves.

  10. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member

    Read the article again guys. This isn't about personal floundering, this is about learning in a group setting with collaboration.

    A better metaphor for tango would be learning in a friendly practica vs learning in a group class.
  11. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    So you don't think the process would be similar for individuals?

    Practicas are less structured, but a person could still choose to just try something until they learned how to do it, or they could choose to work analytically.

    Babies learn to walk just by floundering until they get it. Children and adults learn to ride bicycles by cranking the pedals until they learn how - no analysis required, or even possible.
  12. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    There is a wide range of natural learning styles among any group of students, and one of the tasks of a teacher is to present material (regardless of the style of presentation) that will appeal across the range of learning styles and make the information/knowledge/skills accessible to all (or at least the great majority).

    I find that order does come from chaos, but slowly, and several people, each time, just can't cope, and they disappear from class pretty quickly. In introducing key tango concepts such as connecting with music and a partner my classes don't prescribe even the direction or timing of a couple's first steps. I just aim to convey some simple concepts of how, mechanically, a movement may be suggested or invited, and how to feel for an acceptance of the invitation before commitment to the movement, and the converse of that process for followers.

    I aim for the class to discover that certain ways of moving, and certain typical rhythmic patterns are very common, and form the bedrock of a simple dance, based entirely on what the music suggests. Of course, the music we use has been carefully chosen, but that is a key part of the scaffolding process. I can't, directly, teach my students anything using this approach: but I can help them to discover this dance, because I have already been there, ahead of them. I don't want them to dance like me (you'd understand that if you saw me dance); and I want them to discover their own tango, but of course one that is within the broad range of the style of dancing seen socially in this area.

    If they want patterns, and structure, I direct them to one of my other classes, and I even have a dance studio-based tango lite (or pastiche) class, based on the Basic 8 & its variations for those that are looking for that sort of thing, but delivered in a completely different way, and not even pretending to be the real thing.
  13. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    The thing about floundering (trail and error) is that one also learns what did not work, and hopefully why. If the students are carefully schooled on how to get it exactly correct, they don't learn much about all the other ways that are incorrect. I think there is value in knowing about what didn't work. It's a bit like science: you can learn from experiments that fail.
  14. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    Its also about how people expect to be learning; if people aren't used to exploring or thinking for themselves in a Socratic questioning way, then its going to be difficult...
    and you will need to convey to them how you are going to present the class....
  15. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    Yes. I think it's always a good idea for a teacher to be clear about what the teaching method is, no matter what method it is.
  16. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    but sometimes what i teach is implicit rather than explicit....
  17. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    In my experience, what I think is clearly implied may not always be inferred by my students. They may even infer something completely opposite.
  18. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    but the point of teaching with this approach is to get them to focus an an element, and not get involved with an end goal..for example;

    a stepping-around-your-partner-exercise might be to develop axis awareness, or balance, or shared energy (dynamics) or fluidity, or musicality, or connection, or partner transtions or shared axis...

    I dont have to say what the goal is till I feel they are ready for the next step....
  19. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    I think it serves the learning process to get students as actively involved as possible, which would mean IMO that they understand what it is they are working on. Even if the goal is intermediate and temporary, I think it helps them to learn by knowing what they are trying to achieve.

    Sometimes my method may require that they forage ahead blindly, not knowing what they are doing. In cases like this, especially like this, I think it is good for them to know that is the purpose. (Engineers hate this).
  20. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    Why? If I want them to focus on an exercise, i dont want them thinking about something they are not ready to do and will probably try to do and f*** it up.

    it helps to be reductive and build the whole thing up; that's how i learned ganchos over three weeks;

    most of the time we were drilled in connection, tight turns, knowing where our partner's feet and weight was, maintaining proximity. No-one told us we were learning ganchos till the last week. we honed a lot of skills in order to do them, and werent distracted by a goal, and it came as a surprise when we could do them with relative ease.

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