Dancing onto the page: Crossing an academic borderland
The transition of performing artists into academia has become an increasingly popular yet fraught migration, as higher learning in artistic disciplines increasingly requires teachers with an applied practical knowledge, a capacity to undertake research, and to articulate the value of performing arts knowledge within scholarly discourse (Elkins, 2009). Transitioning dancers can be expected to sort through their embodied knowledge and transferable skill-sets in order to maintain a sense of identity and autonomy within the new academic terrain (Molloy, 2013). At the same time they are required to adopt new dispositions of enquiry and approaches to knowledge production in order to thrive within the new environment of the tertiary education sector. So how might postgraduate coursework be designed to support experienced practitioners across such an academic borderland, and into the formal research culture of higher education? When we consider how enriched higher education might become through the successful immigration of experienced professional practitioners, such postgraduate course design becomes a salient educational issue.
Our own journeys across this borderland have subsequently informed our co-design and implementation of Dance 724, a postgraduate course in qualitative research methods and academic writing that prepares students for independent research projects within honours, masters and doctoral degrees in dance studies. In this article we write reflectively on how Threshold Concept Theory (TCT) has guided our curricula design and pedagogic practices in this lynchpin paper. We also discuss six key thresholds that can restrain dance practitioners as they enter academia. While the focus here is on dance practitioners entering postgraduate dance studies, we suggest that the transition across an academic borderland for professional practitioners from diverse disciplines may be supported by a threshold concepts approach to postgraduate curricula design.
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© Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research, Te Kura Toi Tangata Faculty of Education, 2015