Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ballet Shoes and Pointe Shoes - Chunking and Imitational Learning In

Please let me explain. "Chunking" is a new verb. It is a scientific word. It means breaking down a movement into its series of mini-movements so that someone learning it can learn it more accurately and faster, and build the right neural pathways. Like a ballet class, or a ballet exercise. Neuroscientists use this word. Try not to think "chunky" because to a dancer "chunky" is a very threatening idea.

I am trying to be serious and academic about this but the verb "chunking" is too funny.

Brandeis University's Volen Center for Complex Systems published a study "Monkey See Monkey Do". It attended to the lack of research on imitative learning, which has apparently been neglected, in favor of studies in verbal learning, even though we learn more through imitation than by words. The study notes that:

"Several strategies may help leverage a learner's attention and motivate imitative learning. Organizing the motor skill practice is key. For example, Sekuler, an expert on the neural and cognitive terrain of visual memory, says that breaking down a behavioral sequence into chunks can aid imitation learning, just as chunking can help us memorize a string of seemingly unrelated digits or other material. Agam and Sekuler have their sights set on identifying strategies that teachers and coaches could use to make complex actions more "chunkable," and therefore easier to imitate.

The researchers' long-term goal is to devise simple methods that will allow teachers and coaches to take any arbitrary complex action that they want to teach--like that series of dance steps or that perfect golf swing, and then re-package that action into components that make for optimal learning."

If the researchers had watched a classical ballet, and then a ballet class, they would see a supreme example of chunking. Don't you just love that word? All those pre-pointe routines make pointe work chunkable.

The gazillion degages are chunking the aspired to, smooth, floating, gliding glissade. The stretchy, elastic, muscle-elicious fondu in adage are chunks of grand allegro.

The quick footwork exercises at the ballet barre are chunkettes of petit allegro.

I do not mean to diss brain research but I find this hilarious. So please appreciate the careful chunking that your ballet teachers are so good at, in helping you develop organized thought patterns, build neural pathways and build strength in your ballet shoes and pointe shoes.

The best example of chunking that I know right now is the pro student's manual about dancing in ballet shoes and pointe shoes, which chunks perfectly for pre-pointe practise and essential ballet technique for all.

No comments:

Post a Comment