Monday, 9 October 2017

The theory-practice relationship

On Friday we had some interesting discussions about dance competition and exams and its impact on the students and the place of culture in dance. During the chat, Agata asked some questions about the relation of theory and practice and Adesola tried to encourage us to start theorising a topic (see her blog post Noticing to Wondering: passive to proactive). Because of Adesola’s request, I tried to look at the conversation through a different pair of glasses. I reflected less on the content of the discussion but more on the nature of it. Today, I will write down some thoughts about the process of theorising a subject: 

I think it was Chelsie who talked about an experience in Japan where she had a performance with dancers from all over the world. She stated that if they all would have had a better understanding of the culture of the country they were working in and the style they were working with, their performance would have been better. She experienced something, reflected on it and started theorising. As we all talked about it, gathered similar experiences, noticed and reflected, I started to wonder how this discussion could interlink with Agata’s question about practice and theory.

In fact, I see reflection as the first tool needed to combine practice with theory. We do something, we experience it and we reflect on it. During the process of reflection, as J. A. Moon suggests, we think about something we already know. ‘It is a process of re-organizing knowledge and emotional orientations in order to achieve further insights.’(1) After reflecting on something and maybe learning something new out of a practical experience, we can, in a second step, then start theorising around this reorganised knowledge. To do so, we need additional tools like using already existing literature, interviewing practitioners or even theorists, collecting more experience, etc. This is the process of collecting data and this is where I am today in my research project. I am starting to write down thoughts in my reflective journal, reflecting on what I experience during my practice, I have confirmed two interview appointments and I have sent out an email with a task to people I want a response from so I can collect different stories around my inquiry.The third step would then be the writing process where we explain what how we understand this topic after careful consideration in critical review.

A last thought: this relation between theory and practice is reciprocal. I will think about the tools needed to turn theory into practice and post it at a later date. Feel free to already comment with ideas. 

(1) Moon, JA, 2004, A handbook of reflective and experiential learning. Theory and practice, London/New York: Routledge Falmer, p. 82.

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