Monday, 23 March 2015

What is the learning outcome?

I've had a small flea in my knickers lately about education. The days when you could learn about something because it interested you seem to have disappeared. It all began when adult education centres stopped offering pottery, calligraphy and singing for pleasure and replaced it with GCSE English, Maths and a Computer Driving Test. University degrees are sold to teenagers as a way to get a better job, rather than a way to learn more about something. Primary school children are encouraged to learn only the things that will improve their levels and now that  sample questions of the baseline assesment for foundation stage have been published, the focus for pre-school children is about to shift. Soon, every 4 year old will be able to 'say parrot without the p' but will they remember how to play?

During my performance management interview I said to my headteacher that I would like to learn more about Dalcroze and his Eurythmics method. I asked if it could be one of my targets so that I could legitimately spend some time researching the method. She agreed but then we had to make sure there was a reason. It wasn't enough to find out about the method. "What will be the learning outcome for the children at this school?" she asked. Panicked, I thought that if I answered that I didn't know until I found out more about it I wouldn't be allowed to have this as a target, I said that I hoped it would improve the children's connection to the pulse of the music.

When I booked myself onto the Dalcroze Taster Day I wasn't worried about the learning outcomes but after a long and confusing Sunday, I might be about to change my mind.

Dalcroze Eurythmics seems to be a huge secret. 

When I arrived at the Independent school in Croydon there were no signs or posters and eventually I found an upper middle class middle aged woman with a stack of purple folders in the car park who showed me the secret back entrance. I often struggle with courses set in Independent schools because the difference in resources and class sizes breaks my heart and this one was no different, as I counted class sizes of under 20 and the most amazing forest school facilities. I start the course wondering if any of this will be applicable to a normal state school with classes of 30, hardly any resources and children popping in and out for sessions to boost their levels. 

Our day was broken into four sessions: The first was an introduction, where we were given some outdated looking books and told that Dalcroze had been a prolific composer who had discovered that his students at the conservatoire were crap (excuse the paraphrasing) and decided that they needed to feel the music in their bodies so he developed the Eurythmics system, which contains the three elements that were to form the rest of our day.

These elements were fascinating and as I try to write now my head is still spinning with all the thoughts and ideas they have given me. Another woman on my course has blogged about the day in a more succinct way than I ever could and if you are interested you can read it here.

At the end of the day, I can't pretend I haven't been given what the course promised. It was a 'taster' of Dalcroze but now, if I want to use it can I just go ahead, or do I need to know more? The course leaders said that the next step was to take the two year foundation/certificate course, which would allow you to use Dalcroze in your own teaching. Do I really need that to get my state school primary children appreciating music in a better way? 

There seems to be an all or nothing philosophy going on here. The taster day was attended by teachers (who are already teaching) who wanted ideas to improve the musicality of their students but the way this system seems to work, is that the tutor takes the group where they are capable of going.(It's quite a hippy approach) During one exercise, someone asked, "Can young children do this?" and the answer was a very firm, "No, some of my young children in the string project can't sit in a circle!" The room suddenly felt like a let-go balloon. 

From what I have gathered, this is a very useful method for improving musicality. It should be taught in Primary schools and particularly state primary schools. The Dalcroze society are missing a trick. They should be running hundreds of thousands of courses up and down the country where they teach primary school music teachers some simple methods they can use in their classes. 

So, although I'd love to learn about Dalcroze and his Eurythmics method just for the sake of it, I don't have the time or the money and find that I am desperate for a course that has a clear learning outcome after all. 


  1. Just to clarify: Dalcroze UK is not associated with this independent school in any way; it only hires out the rooms. Dalcroze is certainly taught to 30+ children in state schools up and down the country, as well as in special schools and SEBD units etc.(topics which will be covered on our Easter Course in a couple of weeks in Manchester). The method can be applied to whatever age, ability and social situation - that is its beauty.

    Certainly there is more that needs to be done for the method to reach an even wider audience, this is exactly in agreement with Dalcroze UK's vision! We certainly need more resources. That said, I do spend a lot of my time giving INSET training to school teachers and music services/Hub staff who then pass on their knowledge to hundreds of children.

    As I mentioned in my Rhythmics session, it's important for those new to the work to understand age appropriateness of exercises; therefore a complex exercise, suitable for adults is not suitable for small children who are becoming acquainted with physical and spatial awareness (such as the challenge of forming and sitting in a circle). Hence my comment to the lady in question.

    I was pleased to read that you found elements of the work fascinating and took away with you a wealth of ideas. It was a lovely group of people to be working with.

    Bethan Habron-James

    1. Thank you for clarifying that Bethan. I will suggest my local music hub books some training - you were all very inspiring tutors.