LMSVEF Grantee Research Proposal: Comparing the effects of two different tap instructional strategies

By Madeline Tehan

    LMSVEF Grantee Research Proposal: Comparing the effects of two different tap instructional strategies

    About the Practitioner-Researcher

    Madeline Tehan
    La Mesa, CA
    Madeline Tehan

    I am currently a Dance teacher at La Mesa Arts Academy. This will be my second year at an amazing school that incorporates the arts into school curriculum for students in grades 4th-8th. Teaching dance has been a passion of mine since a very young age. Growing up I studied dance from the age of 10, and over the years performed with many dance companies and schools. I continue to take class today to pursue my passion and stay with current trends. I hope to continue the growth within our Dance department at La Mesa Arts Academy with the help of this grant.

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    Project Summary

    The goal of this project is to compare the effectiveness of two tap-dancing strategies in middle-school students: a) whole group instruction followed by whole group practice and b) whole group instruction followed by independent practice. The effectiveness of the tap instructional strategies will be observed throughout the tap instruction units by comparing students’ learning behaviors (engagement/motivation and skill learning) and assessing their growth as a group. The grant will help purchase two class sets of tap shoes for students during the tap unit. Tap shoes are essential for learning tap dance and will help the research process and produce reliable findings by removing a source (learning tap dancing without tap shoes) that causes untrustworthy research results.

    Project Context

    This project will include research regarding the pedagogy of tap dance. Both dance teachers at La Mesa Arts Academy have extensive backgrounds in performing tap as well as teaching tap dance. Dance teachers will meet weekly to discuss the instructional strategies that will be implemented as well as which techniques of tap dance they would like students to learn during the tap unit. Teachers will also discuss what types of assessments will be completed at both the beginning and end of the tap unit to identify student growth (for example, student engagement/motivation level, speed and quality of skill learning, utilizing observations by either writing what is being observed or video recording).

    Project Significance and Method

    This project would be significant to our Dance program. Understanding more effective teaching strategies will help tap teachers deliver more effective ways of helping students learn and enjoy learning. Purchasing the tap shoes would mean that we could incorporate a major style of dance, while allowing us to compare two different instructional strategies. Being able to incorporate this style of dance would increase engagement during the tap unit in both groups, which will assist in gathering more accurate data for comparing two strategies. The result of this research will help other educators teaching tap dance experiment with their tap instruction based on an understanding of research outcomes for this project.

    Research Plan

    • The research to be conducted will occur during the four-week tap unit in two of our 7th and 8th grade dance classes. There will be approximately 15 7th graders and 20 8th graders in each of the two groups (Class A and Class B).
    • One of the dance classes (Class A) will learn tap dance using demonstration and practice with whole group instruction and the other class will learn tap dance using whole group demonstration followed by independent practice (Class B). Independent practice will include students practicing the tap technique or combination as an individual without help from the instructor or a peer.
    • Although there are various tap-dance instructional strategies, these two strategies have not been compared. Thus, to the best of my knowledge this is the first practitioner-research that compares them in the context of teaching middle school students.
    • The instructor will track performance and ability level throughout the unit instruction to identify how each class has progressed. This will be measured by assessing six basic tap techniques (flaps, buffalo, single time step, pull backs, riff, and crawl) and a short combination. Students will be given a level of proficiency (beginning, intermediate, proficient).
    • The instructor will also track daily engagement among students. This will be measured by observation and recorded weekly as well as video recording at the end of the tap unit.
    • Two students from each level of proficiency from both Classes A and B will be selected for interview. Students will be asked to express their impression about practice such as ‘how did the practice session help you learn the tap dance’ followed by an ensuring question such as ‘why do you think it helped?’ if students’ answer to the first question is not detailed enough. The interviews will be recorded in written form by the interviewer while the interview takes place or by audio tape.
    • After the data has been collected the instructor will compare results between the two classes. The instructor will identify which class has more proficient students and which class has more engaged students. With the results the instructor will be able to identify which teaching strategy was more effective in teaching tap dance.

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