Theory course on contemporary theatre and dance

 Theory course on contemporary theatre and dance

Name educator: Bert Vandenbussche

Name partner organisation: LUCA – School of Arts


Description of the course:

–       Theory course on contemporary dance and theatre, consisting out of 6 lecturing classes, 4 extra meetings (introduction to the course, individual meeting halfway, evaluation in group at the end) and attending 8 live performances (followed by ‘debrief’ in group).

–       Aim of the course is getting to know important ‘paradigms’ of contemporary theatre and dance & developing a personal way of looking at & appreciating contemporary dance and theatre.

Aim of testing project:

–       Stimulating intrinsic learning of students

–       Creating an appropriate reflective atmosphere

–       Integrating e-learning tool for fostering the learning dialogue between students (digital journal on the LUCA-internet platform)

–       Co-creating the assessment (assessment on involvement, not on ‘right’ content)


Date(s) of the testing project: End of September 2015 till beginning of January 2016

Target group: students 2nd Bachelor Visual Arts, Graphic Design and Textile Design              

Number of participants: 9

Nationality of the participants: Belgian

Sex of the participants: female­­­­­­ 6  man 3

Age of the participants: around 20

Amount of meetings with the learners: 18 meetings

Group reflections during lectures and after performances as well as individual reflections for the digital journal were not compulsory, reflection report at the end of the course was compulsory for each student.

A Number of people reflecting:   Solo (1 person)



  Small group

(< 20 people)


 Large group

(> 20 people)


B The way(s) of sharing:
Verbal:  X


Non-verbal:   Pictures /





  Em­bodied  sculpture


 Other forms of expression


Digital:   Padlet


  Social media   Digital diary


C Place of reflection (where)   Indoors


  Outdoors   On-line


D. Steps taken to implement

How did you organize your testing project (or to put it differently: as this is a testing project for experimenting, what will be different comparing to the same course you run the previous time)?

  • Introduction: getting to know each other ‘why did you choose this course?” + creating the mindset ‘it’s about your learning’.
  • During lecturing classes on 6 contemporary theatre directors and choreographers lengthy fragments were shown & discussed openly (it’s not about the educator’s story, but about sharing all stories).
  • We’ve been attending 8 performances in group. After each performance we kept a 45 minutes discussion (again it’s not about the educator’s story, but about sharing all stories). After this debrief students and educator were asked to write an entry to the digital journal, shared with all.
  • Halfway talk about evaluation, in group: no grading, only pass or fail.
  • Individual talk with students: ‘how are things goings? Which are your points of interest?’ In order to underline or help students find their personal ‘entries’ into the topic.


E. Your assessment of the outcome

In general, how do you look at the results of your testing project?

  • I‘ve been running this course for several years already, in a similar way (introduction ‘it‘s about your learning‘, open discussions during lecturing classes, debriefs after performances, personal journal during course and reflection report at the end). For the testing projects I‘ve added some things I considered as ‘minor changes‘ (getting to know each other, digital journal, individual talks with students halfway and talk about evaluation in group). But the differences were clear and surprising: it was my best course ever on this topic. More enthousiasm and motivation than previous years, more vivid discussions during lecturing classes and debriefs after performances, two best reflection reports ever. Students reported at the end the importance of these group discussions for their personal learning (some of them also reported the course was also important for their personal studio work, so learning was not limited to the course itself).
  • During the course there was a lot of interaction between students when talking about the topic. But it surprised me a little to notice during the final meeting in January how some people did not know all the names in this small group. And especially how this did not bother the overall sharing and learning.

·          This was the first time I integrated the digital journal. Students were asked to write a short text after the debrief of each attended performance. Before the course started, I was wondering if this was not ‘one step too far‘. But students were positive about it. Although not all students did write every time a text (which was for me not a problem), the majority of students expressed the value of this individual writing and sharing. It helped them to develop and express theirs thoughts, questions, remarks… And at the end of the course some students read again all texts on the digital journal, in order to remind them about the performances and what we were talking about. One student reported he did not like to write these texts at all.

F  Connecting with principles: which principle(s) were you taking into consideration mostly when facilitating reflection with learners? Please add 2 sentences about how you were translating the principle into practice. For more information: see postings on principles.



Raising awareness within learners to ‘own’ their learning in personally meaningful way

  • During introduction I state explicitly         “it‘s about what you want to learn. Find your personal points of interest concerning contemporary theatre and dance. You don‘t have to study by hard anything, but it‘s about learning yourself. We‘ll have a lot of discussions: learn from yourself, from other students and from me as educator. There is no syllabus, but I ask you to keep a personal journal (in addition to the texts on the digital journal which are shared, personal journal is not shared). There is no examination, but a ‘experience report‘ in the format of a ‘personal guide to contemporary dance and theatre‘ (in which you inform readers about how you look at the topic. Your personal journal will be usefull as a starting point for this).“
  • During group discussions at the beginning and the individual talks halfway I sometimes ‘underlined’ remarks of students. E.g. ‘what you just said, is really interesting. This seems to be important for you and makes your way of looking at the performance clear to me’.
  • Encouraging people to create a personal ‘reflection/experience report’ (personal both in content and style), integrating personal experience with topics from group discussions and some extra research.




Developing a relationship between educator and learners based on trust, openness, empathy, honesty, dialogue and feedback




Co-creating the reflective process



Managing the steering paradox of intrinsic learning processes



Creating the right reflective attention of learners



Slowing down and value moments of not-knowing,


Deepening your questions progressively


Recalling that reflection can never be imposed, only kindly invited.



Always considering reflection as a broad and deepening process, that should be holistic.


Being careful how to asses reflection (or not at all)

During the introduction we had a short talk about how I was ‘struggling‘ with the paradox between ‘stimulating personal learning of students‘ & ‘obligation for the educator to evaluate‘ and how they saw the connection between ‘personal learning‘ and ‘evaluation‘. It was just about sharing, no decision was taken (nor intended to be taken). Halfway the course we had a second talk about evaluation. I informed the students on the fact that there would be no grading, just ‘pass or fail‘. Several students reported at the end of the course how this conversation made a difference. “Grading is always linked to comparison: how good or bad are my ideas? Which value do they have? ‘Pass or fail‘ gives more freedom to express myself spontaneously.“ We talked about how to organize the group evaluation.




























During the introductory meeting I tried to encourage students to become the owners of their learning process by stating explicitly: “this course is not meant to teach you a lot of knowledge, although I have planned several lecturings. At the end you don‘t have to study anything by heart. But I do hope you will remember some informaton within let‘s say five years. Rather this course is about developping your personal frame-of-reference and corresponding way of looking on contemporary theatre and dance. Therefore it‘s important to get to know what you want to learn: find your personal points of interest, look what elicits your fascination. Use these as the starting point of your learning. All the ‘learning activities‘ are meant to help you develop an explicit frame-of-reference which clarify your way of looking: lecturing classes with group discussions, attending performances with debriefs in groups, individual journaling, reading… There is no syllabus, but I ask you to keep a personal journal in which you write down information, remarks, quotes … which you consider interesting . At the end I expect each one of you to write an ‘experience report‘ in the format of a ‘personal guide to contemporary dance and theatre‘ in which you inform readers about your way of looking and frame-of-reference. Your personal journal will be usefull as a starting point for this.“ Afterwards we immediately had a group conversation in which all students shared why they had choosen this course and how familiar they were with the topic (or not). With this kind of introduction I hoped to foster an adequate mindset within the students: they should not act as passive students listening to the educator, but rather as active learners within a interactive learning group.

At the end of this introductory meeting we also talked for the first time about assessement. I explained how I was ‘struggling‘ with the paradox between ‘stimulating personal meaningful learning of students‘ & ‘the obligation for the educator to assess‘. And I asked them how they saw the connection between ‘personal learning‘ and ‘evaluation‘. For me this conversation was about  acknowledging this paradox, both as educator and as learners. Although we did not came to a conclusion, students showed enthousiasm to be able to talk about this matter.

Halfway the course we had a second talk about assessment. I informed the students on the fact that there would be no grading, just ‘pass or fail‘. We had a very vivid discussion on this matter. Several students reported at the end of the course how this conversation made a difference. While others agreed, one of them stated this as following: “grading is always linked to comparison: how good or bad are my ideas? You always feel a kind of judging. Whereas ‘pass or fail‘ gives you more freedom to express yourself spontaneously. You don‘t feel constantly judged.“ We decided together about how to organize the group evaluation: students proposed to read each other reports in advance and to  question each other in two groups. They don‘t evaluate each other, they only grade themselves and explain why they give themselves this grade. At the end, I decide as educator if students pass or fail.