Final Poster Presentation

The aim of my research is to explore the impact of competitive highland dancing on the self-esteem and confidence of teenage girls between 16 and 18 years old. I am particularly interested in the potential negative impacts. I will explore this impact through a qualitative research study looking at the advantages and disadvantages of the competitive environment, the feelings generated from not doing well and how those feelings affect dancers in everyday life. I have already looked in-depth at the competitive environment of dance through studies by Samantha Sobash and Donna Krasnow, Lynda Mainwaring and Gretchen Kerr. I will conduct my own research using a focus group and hope to find an answer as to whether or not there are negative impacts and if so, what they are. Following completion of my study I will disseminate my findings to my own school, to the SQA and to the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing.!106&authkey=!ALKsGaiaTfngWxM


Working on my presentation…

Tonight I am working on my poster presentation based on my feedback. The main points are:

  • Literature research should stand alone without the need for dialogue so I will need to add a few more slides to summarise my findings.
  • The ethics slide also needs more from the dialogue.
  • Research questions should come before the methodology.
  • Work on dissemination slide – how are you going to spread the word to other schools?
  • Include the benefits of practitioner enquiry to me personally.
  • Add a bibliography slide.

I have never done a poster presentation for an assessment before so I am quite pleased with it but I now understand that it needs to stand alone as if the people seeing it will not also be hearing what I say.


Enhancing Self-Esteem in the Classroom

Enhancing Self-Esteem in the Classroom is a book by Denis Lawrence which looks at many interesting concepts related to my research including a clarification of what self-esteem is and why it is important:

“Self-esteem is the individual’s evaluation of the discrepancy between self-image and ideal self. It is an affective process and is a measure of the extent to which the individual cares about this discrepancy.”

Lawrence also goes onto say in his opening chapter that “unrealistic demands may result in self-esteem” and perhaps this goes some way to explaining one of the issues which may arise from competitive dance. However, if teachers make no demands than pupils tend not to succeed so a balance must be struck and it is important to remember during my research and personally that there are many advantages to taking part in competition and pushing yourself to be the best.  

There is a really helpful chapter on assessing self-esteem which I will examine closely as I work towards conducting my research as there are interesting questions and links to other research from this area and following this Lawrence dissects what teachers can do in the classroom to enhance self-esteem. This may be particularly important for me to delve into depending on the results of my study.

The final chapter explores the teacher’s self-esteem and the influence this can subconsciously have on their pupils if they are not aware of their own self-confidence and self-image. If I went through the competitive dance scene and the results of my study show a clear correlation between low self-esteem and competitive highland dance could that be having a knock-on effect on the youngsters I teach?


Lawrence, D. (1996). Enhancing Self-Esteem in the Classroom. London: Paul Chapman Publishing Ltd.

Creative vs Technical Dance

Today we had our first practical dance session of the course focussing on creativity and how to encourage young people to be more creative. This was really interesting because it is an area which I think is often inhibited by the competitive and serious nature of highland dance which I am exploring in my own research.

We started with a warm-up focussing on relaxing the body – something my highland, ballet and jazz training fought against.

Yvonne encouraged us to leave our technical abilities at the door and just be free but it took me a while to get used to that style – I always want to know exactly what to do and one of the reasons for my research proposal is that I believe the high level of techinical training and competitive nature of my training may have resulted in this.

As the day went on, however, I got more into it and found my ‘5-year-old’ self. In terms of the next module, Context and Culture in Dance, I learnt a lot about teaching primary dance and how to inspire younger pupils to be more creative using a theme and stimuli.

Working on Reflection

This is an area I find difficult to analyse and quantify. I do a lot of informal reflection on a daily basis as a teacher practitioner but have not often been able to put this succinctly into my Masters work as yet. As I prepare for my Poster Presentation I have been looking at Schön’s model of ‘reflection in and reflection on’ which I highlighted in a previous blog and more recently on Kolb’s Learning Cycle which I have found really useful in breaking down the evaluation process.

In terms of my specific research question I have looked at the problems I face in dance delivery, reflected on that experience, developed my idea for my research from this reflection and hope to be able to test my assumptions through my research proposal. The problem I find is that many of our best dancers often face difficulties developing motifs for their choreography. They seem scared to try things which may not work and instead play too safe. This got me thinking about why, as we have a number of dancers with top 10 world championship places in their fields – is there a correlation therefore between the competitive nature of their dancing and lack of creativity? I believe it impacts the self-esteem and self-confidence they need in order to be prepared to fail or ‘not be perfect’. Therefore, how can I alter my practice to limit the negative impacts caused by competitive highland dance in particular?



The Problems of Competitive Highland Dance

In response to recent feedback I have brainstormed a list of the problems I have experienced and/or witnessed with competitive highland dance. This list and the potential impacts of this list are why I have chosen this subject area:

  • Constant comparison to others
  • Striving for perfectionism which often (if ever) never comes
  • Injuries
  • Fear of failure
  • Doing it to be the best rather than for the enjoyment of taking part (it is all about the winning)
  • Lack of time for anything else (if you want to be the best)
  • “the five primary dimensions defined by Frost, Marten, Lahart and Roseblate in 1990: personal standards, concern over mistakes, parental expectations, parental criticism and doubts about actions.”
  • Focus is on what you can’t do rather than what you can do
  • In competition with everyone – no team element
  • Always knowing you could do better

These elements can seriously impact self-esteem and confidence and many are in conflict with the principles of the Curriculum for Excellence. I also find (both within myself and within the highland dancers that I teach) a reluctance in wanting to be out of their comfort zone and a lack of experimentation which can stifle creativity.

Kerry, Claire, Yvonne and I had an interesting conversation about this last month and are going to focus on this next weekend to hopefully help us as practitioners and our dancers as learners.