Artists deliberately used professional artistic norms

In some professionally oriented projects, students were made aware that what they were doing was ‘being’ like a professional artist. The models of teaching and learning used contrasted markedly with what was usual in their schools. Students frequently made reference to the specialness of these situations; they developed their own comparisons with kinds of teaching they encountered everyday.

Dance and media professionals for example often talked informally and personally with students. However, their exchanges were also concerned with solving the practical problems and challenges of the work at hand. This highlighted the expertise of the professionals, which was also evident in the ways they made judgments and applied standards from their field. Sometimes these judgments and standards were made explicit, at other times they were not. Quite often, the students had to strain to comprehend what was implicit and the tacit. Initiating and behaving like the professional was how much of the learning took place.

A story of professional norms

Sober Senses, the theatre company working at Delius School, ran workshops in physical theatre  – these required an awareness of space, of precision of timing, and of ensemble work. Artists told students, “We’re exploring what the body can do”. The discourse and the practice of ensemble were the main elements of dramatic ‘discipline’ that the company introduced to the classroom, and along with these came an emphasis on the transformation they required in the behaviour of students: “We’re a company now. You’re NO LONGER students”. The point was elaborated to stress, again, the specific, distinctive qualities of performance: “This is what we do in rehearsal ... this is physical theatre”. There was no sense of negotiation in these utterances. Students were expected to conform to these new disciplinary expectations.

Video materials

A selection of videos from our Vimeo channel on the use of professional norms can be viewed below.