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Thread: Levels again...




  1. #1
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    Levels again...

    I'm thinking of switching from a 'time served' system (24 weeks at each level) to a skill mastery system.

    (yes, if you've been paying attention, I've been mulling this over for a loooooooong time.)

    If you use a skill mastery system, how do you do it? Do you make time to test/audition each dancer for the next level? Ask them to pay for a private class and come in to be assessed? Have them let you know when they think they're ready so you can just observe them closely during classtime? Do you also have a minimum amount of time that must be spent in each level, to reduce inappropriate attempts to level up?

    Has anyone ever switched from one system to the other? Did you feel like you lost students in the higher levels because of fear of 'testing?' What did you do with students who are already in over their heads a little bit?

    Thanks!
    Last edited by Lauren_; 04-02-2009 at 09:18 AM.


  2. #2
    Advanced BHUZzer Kathiya's Avatar
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    Re: Levels again...

    i donno about the last questions, but for the testing, i think the best option would be for them to let you know they think you're ready, and take a 'private lesson' with you during which you "test" them. get them to pay for that private session (to reduce inappropriate attempts) but maybe not too expensive either, because that might be a deterrent for some people who might be ready. maybe if you make the test session something like 15min or so, not a full hour, everyone would be happy...
    i'm not sure i'd go with the "i think i'm ready look at me next class" thing, because there's always gonna be someone or other to whore away your attention from the rest of the class...

    other option would be that the last class or 2 of the session be a 'test class' in which you give class/exercises as usual, but observe people closely and determine who's ready to be moved up and who isn't. but i personally prefer to be judged alone than with lots of other people watching. (but then, i have self-confidence issues, so yeah. lol)


  3. #3
    Master BHUZzer norma's Avatar
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    Re: Levels again...

    I haven't taught that way but my teacher did. She had beginners, intermediate then advanced/professionals.

    She typically would make the call when a student was able to progress to the next level. Occassionally an overeager beginner would request to advance. She would let them come to an intermediate class and see if they could keep up. Same thing with the next level up. Typically, most of her students would stay a year or two at their level before they were ready to move up.

    Occassionally, if her beginner class got to fall she would move people up as the intermediate and advanced classes were typically smaller classes.


  4. #4
    Master BHUZzer aziyade's Avatar
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    Re: Levels again...

    I've been switching my classes from time-served to skill-mastery, and it's been a challenge for me because I have "pods" or groups of friends who all want to stay together despite their varying skill levels.

    One thing I've stated over and over again is this -- you are NOT auditioning to be in a different class. This is not a test. This is simply an honest assessment of whether or not you and I both feel that you will get more out of one class or another. If we agree that you are struggling with the material from this level, you and I will both probably agree that you would not enjoy the next level.

    I mean, it actually IS a test, but I don't want them to think of it that way.

    Sometimes I have "advanced" a student who wanted to stay with her friends, but then that student decides herself to drop back down to the lower level.

    I also had one that I advanced to be with her friends even though I thought she would flounder about hopelessly, but she actually stepped up and started practicing and actually EARNED that spot. She's a much better dancer now.

    I don't have a minimum per se, but I do recommend 6 sessions (6-weeks each) in the Level 1 before they attempt to move to Level 2. Level 1 is where we focus on developing good technique and learning to hear the music. We work with combinations, and itty bitty choreographies (combos strung together to 1-2 minute songs. ) I would like to see Level 2 students take that class for a full year. (My syllabus for that class is about a year long)


  5. #5
    Ultimate BHUZzer artemisia_danst's Avatar
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    Re: Levels again...

    i have somethig in between. in principle everybody spends the same amount of time in each level, in practice, i single people out that think are ready to move up quicker...

    i dont like the idea of testing, as a student i would really hate it, and the stress that comes with it...


  6. #6
    Advanced BHUZzer phillyraqs's Avatar
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    Re: Levels again...

    Quote Originally Posted by norma View Post
    I haven't taught that way but my teacher did. She had beginners, intermediate then advanced/professionals.

    She typically would make the call when a student was able to progress to the next level. Occassionally an overeager beginner would request to advance. She would let them come to an intermediate class and see if they could keep up. Same thing with the next level up. Typically, most of her students would stay a year or two at their level before they were ready to move up.

    Occassionally, if her beginner class got to fall she would move people up as the intermediate and advanced classes were typically smaller classes.

    This is what my teachers have done as well. The teachers see you mastering things and ask if you'd like to try the next level. Usually, you move up. Sometimes, a student is too challenged and goes back to their old level. (But there is no sense of shame or fail with that.)

    Also, sometimes pods of students would move up. I spent maybe 3 years in a beginner class with the same core group of people and we all moved to intermediate together and spent three more years as intermediate and now 3 years as advanced. The levels above us were full of students so we were "beginners" in title only.

    Our teacher kept a second beginner class for those that were completely new to dance. We turned into an advanced beginner class, advanced intermediate, and now advanced advanced maybe?!

    I would hate testing and auditioning.


  7. #7
    Mega BHUZzer elljay's Avatar
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    Re: Levels again...

    Having gone through Ballet and Tap exams for half of my life, I side with the skills testing. That way students are clear on what they are working towards, and they will more easily be able to identify what specific moves or concepts they are having difficulty with and focus on those. You'd have to create a syllabus of exactly what skills are required for each level and let each student have a copy so things are clear.

    In ballet exams, the studio sets aside a day or two and gives each student an hour long exam, where they are tested on technique, musical knowledge, choreography and such. Students pay to be tested.

    I see value in this because it creates a clear boundary and eliminates issues of students wanting to move up before they are ready. Simply picking a choosing students at random can incite feelings of favoritism or other resentments by other students who are not "chosen" to advance.

    On the flip side - you will lose students who are there "just for fun". Many students will not want to be tested. Many students will get frustrated and give up if they aren't getting the skills, or advancing as fast as they think they should, or if their friends are advancing without them.

    It really depends on how you see your school, and why you are feeling the need to test. Is it because your students aren't of the caliber you feel they should be to perform? They aren't taking it seriously enough? Or you want to establish yourself and your school at a higher level of BD education? I think these are all valid reasons.

    Maybe offer two streams? Have a couple "just for fun" classes with limited performance ops. Offer those who want to be tested the opportunity to do so, and to earn a place in a more professional setting. Is that practical for you?

    I'm not yet at a place where I do testing. But it is something that eventually I'd like to do. In fact, I'd LOVE to attend a BD school that offers testing! I see it as a good challenge and a good way to keep objective perspective on my own skills. We get to all feel really great about ourselves after dancing for a few years and being in an "Intermediate" or "Advanced" class, performing a lot, getting tons of praise from audiences. I was feeling that way up until a year ago - I've been dancing BD for almost 10 years, teaching for 6, and thought I was pretty good. Until I went to study with Amir Thaleb. He rated me about a Level 2. It didn't hurt my feelings at all. It made me want to move to Argentina and study with him more! ..l;,


  8. #8
    Master BHUZzer casbahdance's Avatar
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    Re: Levels again...

    I have offered two levels of beginning class before. I'll just use numbers to identify levels, even though I don't really use them.

    Level 1 was 1 hour. Beginning beginners.
    Level 2 was 30 minutes immediately following Level 1. Still very much beginners. Concurrent enrollment in Level 1 was requried for Level 2, since we worked on basic technique in Level 1 and the folks in Level 2 would need that work. In Level 2, we would work on slightly more advanced movement and do choreos that we eventually performed.

    I've now just started offering a stand alone Level 2 class; this is how it works:

    Level 1: beginning beginners/5-week sessions. Over two sessions, drill about 16 basic movements, virtually no variations on basic movements, combos comprised of 2-3 movements and improvisation (although I don't say a word about it). I recommend a minimum of 3-4 sessions before folks even think about the next level but a person could stay there for a long time if desired or needed . The purpose is for students to become familiar with basic movement so they are ready to learn variations of basics plus new movement in . . .

    Level 2: very much beginners, but have a familiarity with the basic basics/5 week sessions. I don't teach the basics from Level 1, but they continue to drill them along with the variations and new material taught in this level. I use a very brief choreography to reinforce movement and to show how movements can be combined, how to seque between like and unlike movement, etc. A person could stay at this level forever and continue to get alot out of it, but I think folks would be at this level for at least a year. Continue to improv.

    So my class level progressions are on an achievement basis, not "time served."

    This is the first season I've offered this Level 2 class, and haven't been able to run it yet; I'm hoping that I'll have enough people from my own Level 1 class ready for Level 2 by sometime in the summer. It'd be nice for some other folks to join in, too!

    As yet, I don't have any intermediate classes, although I've been asked to teach one. I just don't have a location!

    How to move between levels? I have a list at a website I set up specifically for this purpose (Home Page) where Level 1 folks can see with what movements they need to familiar and with what they need a working knowledge. Folks can self-select to move up, but I will not slow the class down for someone who is not really ready for that level and, if asked or if the student looks completely miserable, would gently recommend more drilling on the basics, which is available in Level 1.

    Auditioning for levels? I'd leave that for maybe an advanced level; would definitely require it for any performance group, whether intermediate or advanced.

    Deborah
    Last edited by casbahdance; 04-02-2009 at 02:50 PM.


  9. #9
    Advanced BHUZzer nisaasaintlouis's Avatar
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    Re: Levels again...

    My levels are also structured around skill mastery rather than time served. My current policy for promotion (which I'm not 100% happy with, so this thread is very interesting), is this: when students indicate a desire to move up a level, I ask them to meet with me privately so that I can provide them with an assessment of their skills based on my classroom observations.

    I occasionally will approach students about moving up or down if it seems that they are either surpassing or struggling with the level of their current class. Generally, though, I encourage students to take the initiative to indicate to me their desire to move up, and then I frame it as a discussion (you tell me your assessment of your skills, I'll tell you mine, and then let's come to an agreement on what's the best fit for you).

    However, I'm intrigued by the idea of a more formal assessment ("test" - though I agree with Aziyade that it's probably best to avoid that word) because I feel it lends a lot more objectivity to the process. I feel like I am objective in my promotions, but I am not sure students perceive it that way.

    I'd like to hear more from teachers who currently use a formal assessment in their classes!


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