The Friday Funny: What happens when recommendations for practice don’t actually involve learning

Have you ever had the experience of trying to do something that you really don’t understand?

Then you may be able to relate to the cute and hilarious struggles of this little ballerina in this video from Ann Oneil (thanks to Chris Giffard for sharing it).

[If you are receiving this on the email or RSS feed, click through to the post on the site to view the video.]

As a metaphor for communicating evaluation results (especially recommendations for practice, descriptions of good practice), is there something to take from this?

Is it less effective to try to change someone’s practice by doing it for them (and then hoping they continue it) rather than working with them more slowly to discover and understand what they are trying to do and how they can do it?

Although someone tries to show you what to do, you try in vain to get it right because you are not sure what it is that you’re trying to do, what are the important bits, and how you do it.

What implications can you see for evaluation?

5 comments to The Friday Funny: What happens when recommendations for practice don’t actually involve learning

  • Sue Giffard

    I have watched this little video many times: I’ve laughed of course, but something in me seethes for this child. Not only the fact that she has now been laughed at (perhaps with?) thousands and thousands of times in her short life, but the fact that a child with such focus, such commitment to doing the right thing, to learning, should be so unlucky as to land with an admittedly very sweet but clueless teacher. I write as a ballet dancer of many years, well into my twenties, and now a modern dancer in my mid-fifties.
    This poor child is trying very hard to do what she is told: to make her shoes turn out… (really?? it’s all in the shoes?) The girl knows intellectually what she is trying to do, you can see it in the turning-out movements of her hands. But she cannot feel it in her legs and feet.
    And her teacher is so concerned with the placement of her shoes that she isn’t able to realign her expectations with what this child is able to do at this point. Perhaps she could have suggested that the child feel her heels touching each other or being close together. Or just feel that her feet are placed next to each other. The teacher’s insistence on the final goal as the only thing to strive for leads to the child being literally unable to stand on her feet, i.e. she fails. Fails so badly and so ludicrously that we all watch her and laugh.
    How many times have we all been witnesses to or been the victims of such “teaching”?

  • Many thanks Sue – what wonderful professional insight. It makes me think about how much I’m over the notion of striving for ‘best practice’, as it’s something that is often more unobtainable than it is aspirational or motivational. What about ‘good enough practice’, or what about being just okay at something you really enjoy and working from there for those little improvements so you do your ‘thing’ with a bit more style each time. (And yes, I am talking about me and my snowboarding.)
    As for that little girl, she deserved to have her efforts recognised and to be given some direction about how she could be ‘okay’, so she could move forward in enjoyment. I hope she’s still dancing.

  • Love these comments!

    And Fiona, this also reminds me of some really useful advice I see around more and more – find ways to play to your strengths rather than working on your weaknesses. Rather than assuming everyone needs the same profile of competence on each dimension, as you say, be OK enough to get away with it for now, then build from what we are good at.

    A related idea is that every week there is WAY too much on our ‘to do’ lists; some of it just isn’t going to get done. Don’t stress about that too much because it’s inevitable. Instead, spend more time on the things that make you stronger; less time on the things that make you weak.

    It’s more fun AND we’re way more productive. :)

  • Chris Giffard

    Fiona, I’m not sure if she is still dancing, but here is a clip of her dancing 4 years later, and only last year.

  • Yay – thanks Chris. So good to see – and I notice that her parade is still a team routine, in time with the music, dressed in frills, and looking like fun. It’s a beautiful thing (as my accountant would way).

    Let’s be working our own funky strengths and encouraging others to do the same.