The Ultimate Way™: Teaching Lindy Hop, and Colonoscopies

We were keen to learn how to better structure our swing classes. After a few years of dancing we both have had enough experience as students in swing classes, and teaching weekly has taught us a lot, but mostly through trial and error. Being who we are, researches at our core, we decide to deepen our understanding of Lindy pedagogy, by applying some cold hard science. As you will soon find out, it was not so cold, nor scientific.

The Method.

First, we made a huge list of steps and ideas that we would like to teach our students. This included everything from a tuck turn to advanced charleston variations. Second, we proceeded by rating each move with a difficulty level, from 1 to 3, based on our understanding of the technique involved and the abilities of our current students. We now moved to the construction of the actual classes.

One thing we knew for certain is we wanted our students to leave the class with a smile. Preferably their own. We decided the first and last moves or ideas that we teach in each class would be easy – meaning something we know for sure the students will succeed in doing, and would be super fun and amusing for them. For example: Knee slapping your partner, or side by side mess-arounding. Remarkably, this is akin to the findings mentioned in this Ted talk, about making colonoscopies feel better for the patient. These findings inspired us in our project, to dig deeper and search for The Ultimate Way to teach Lindy Hop.

So then what? We chose one move or idea from the list that is rated 3. This is the hard move of the lesson. Hence, it must be a peak. We then built a short routine around this move, choosing other, easier, items from the list, that would allow the students to practice the routine fluently. For example: the hardest move of a specific lesson was a push out from tandem with the lead’s right arm (we call it Russian Yo-Yo, you can see it here). Then the other, easier moves were the chase entrance to tandem and exit from tandem. Finally, the easy-super-fun moves were knee slaps and groovy taps.

From the study mentioned above we postulated that the order in which we teach the moves would have a great impact on the students’ experience. Which order should choose?

difficultydiagrams

We decided each class would have one big peak, anticipating that more would be clumsy. Simplification and constraint of time lead us to choose these two diagrams: The Mountain Shape and The M Shape as you can see in the diagram. Each was tested out in 3 classes. And what exactly did we test? In the end of the class we handed out a small form that had 2 questions on it:

  1. How much, between 1-5 (1 being not at all and 5 being a lot) did you enjoy the class?
  2. How hard was the class for you between 1-5 (1 being not at all and 5 being very)?

פתקים

The Results.

After receiving the forms of all 6 classes, summing at 48 forms – we can conclude that the results are inconclusive.

On the whole, The M Shape shows a slightly lower difficulty level score and an apparent higher fun level score. Moreover, it shows smaller variances than The Mountain Shape, so we can expect more consistent results.

Difficulty level averages

Mountain Shape

M Shape

2.18

2.55

3

3.18

4

3.4

This table shows the average difficulty ranking the students gave to the six classes, 3 for each type, ordered by score.

 

Fun level averages

Mountain Shape

M Shape
3.88

4.72

4.25

4.75
4.5

5

This table shows the average fun ranking the students gave to the six classes, 3 for each type, ordered by score.

The Future.

First of all, we need you to do this experiment as well. We’d love you to test these diagrams while teaching and then share your own experience and results. Who knows, maybe we would find significant information, that will impact the way we teach and influence our students for the better. So much better. At the least, it’s pretty fun playing with this stuff.

After our results are verified, there are a few ways to go. We think it would be super interesting if there’s something similar to be found, but on the level of months rather than just individual classes. Months are comprised of classes, as our classes were comprised of moves and ideas. Is there a month diagram that is better?

The Summary.

Though our experiment lacked the breadth and resources to be as complete as it should be, we definitely learned a lot in the process. All this reflection and awareness, the effort and time, discussions and contemplations, coffee and bread sticks, have made us so much the better. Even beyond the actual formalisation of classes and figuring out how to structure routines for greater smiles, the intuition that we have gained will serve us for the rest of our careers. And the whole thing was a blast.

The End.