carnegieXchange: School of Sport

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Lecturer: Dance Education in and beyond the Pandemic

The pandemic has raised unique challenges across the world of sport and Physical Education. Read how Physical Education lecturer John Connell’s helped students on his module to dance on their doorsteps.

New Carnegie School of Sport Building

The pandemic has brought its own challenges for society and never more so to the educational organisations throughout the UK. The process of learning and teaching for the students at Leeds Beckett University who have elected for Dance Education, in my opinion, is second to none.  Rather than view the issue as a negative, it is reversing what is there and embracing the problem the best way we can. Primarily it is to ensure the learning and teaching experience afforded the students electing for Dance Education 2 and 3 at Leeds Beckett University is the best it can be.  Yes, there are massive, time consuming factors to be considered, but ultimately it is to make sure the students receive the best experience possible which will equip them with the confidence to feel comfortable teaching dance in schools and the community.

When once the teaching within the University was straightforward, technology becomes the challenge.  The “loneliness of the long-distance lecturer” is realised while I prepare to move in our converted garage, now a mini dance studio with a curtain track all the way round and extra-large black bed sheets forming makeshift curtains.  I stand there looking aimlessly at the television screen taken from the living room and linked to the computer to see a screen of avatars waiting for a sound, a murmur or a movement and there is nothing, not a blink, flash, breath or sigh, but then, everything comes to life.  It was a significant challenge: how to motivate and include the collage of faceless incarnations who are presumably eager and willing to engage in their education.  

“Dancing on your Doorstep” is the idea, and why should it not be, reversing the negativity of what we are experiencing to become this immensely creative cross-curricular experience for the students. In reality, anyone who wished to engage, especially the young people and teachers in schools and the community. The idea is derived from the fact that we are in lockdown and therefore the cross-creative physicality of movement from your doorstep is the stimulus.

The students have been amazing to both meet the new challenges facing them and overcome these with professionalism and consistency.  There is a catalogue of words which come to mind and all have been successfully worked with to provide the most excellent learning and teaching experience for all those engaged in the dance education modules.  The fact that the students have planned, taught, and reflected upon work to include and support young people with their experience of dance is a real achievement.  The stimuli “what do you see from your doorstep?” was initially presented by me, danced and developed by the students who then delegated ownership, empowering the teachers and young people.  The creativity is amazing to see. 

The virtual teaching of dance and the inclusion and motivation of young people in schools is best articulated by two teachers comments from a Shropshire school who provided extensive feedback to the students:

“I have never had to plan anything like this with people in different parts of the country and full credit to all of them [the students] and what they achieved yesterday” (Jo Aston, Year 3 subject lead: History/Geography, Broseley C of E Primary School, Shropshire).

“If that had been my first time delivering an online session I would not have been as confident as they were” (James Heath, Year 4 subject lead: Maths/PE/Deputy, Broseley C of E Primary School, Shropshire).

Student Abbie Drummond said: “The Dance module has enhanced many of my crucial professional and personal skills even throughout the virtual lessons during the lockdowns. 

“John is extremely supportive and uses teaching strategies that are enjoyable, engaging and content-rich. I will be taking Dance in level 6 to improve these skills further.”

To be teaching dance in schools, virtually, is a first for our students here at Leeds Beckett University. These students have risen to the challenge and successfully engaged in a virtual teaching experience which will provide them with unique opportunity to include and motivate others whilst highlighting to the professional world, what can be achieved with careful planning and organisation.