Chapter Four: The Dance

A Model for Curriculum Design

Our students, with the advent of the digital age, are different then generations past. Marc Prensky (2001) pointed this out in his seminal article on instructional technology, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.” He stated, “[Digital Natives] like to parallel process and multi-task. They prefer their graphics before their text rather than the opposite. They prefer random access (like hypertext). They function best when networked…they prefer games to ‘serious’ work” (p. 2). I propose that instruction should be looked at in a different way. Rather than the driver – the catalyst – the mover of curriculum, instruction is the dancer’s interpretation of the choreographed dance, which is the curriculum.

Choreography and Performance

An example of this can be seen in the embedded video (if that does not work, copy and paste from the Royal Ballet Company.

Starting around 35:30 and watching about two minutes, one can see the choreography (curriculum) that is offered to the dancers (teachers), and the dancers use that choreography and bring it to life. That’s what we do as teachers: we bring curriculum to life through creatively implementing it.

To see this in action – as a model, at least – the cyclical model that Olivia & Gordon (2013) favor is useful, but I think it lacks something. Specifically, it lacks an indication that an end point exists. To be sure, curriculum and instruction exist as a cycle, but an endpoint also exists, which is the combination of curriculum and instruction. Therefore, the model might look something like this:

Interaction of Curriculum and InstructionIn this model (the model is mine, put together in a PowerPoint), there exists a third space that operates outside of and exists separate from the curriculum and instruction as isolated elements. It is not just that “curriculum” and “instruction” are interrelated, though they are; it is also that “Curriculum and Instruction” exist in the same space as well – a set of knowledge that is taught by the teacher – choreography that is brought to life by the dancer

As Dancer/Instructor:


I am chunky. I am clunky. If I use the above analogy, I have seriously just colored outside the lines, on the walls, all over myself, and I have chucked a bucket of paint at the audience. This is, I think, the perfect example of the third space of curriculum design — sometimes we are just new at all this.

As Choreographer/Curriculum Designer


These kids worked very hard for what they achieved here. My choreography was useless without the beauty of what they put into the dance. Again, I think that this is a perfect example of the third space of curriculum design — except that something is still missing.

Concrete Flow Chart; Abstract Dance

In practice, a flow chart and arrows and dotted lines and all the rest are necessary to have something to work with. But like the curriculum theorist Hilda Taba, I “eschew graphic exposition of [my own] model” (in Olivia & Gordon, 2013, p. 111). Perhaps there is a way that those two approaches can meet in the middle, so to speak. So this is what I have:

1. Needs at the Top and Teaching at the Bottom


Tiny Silhouette Dancer. From

From the top: Consider and consolidate the needs of students, of society, and of the subject matter.

From the bottom: Consider one’s instruction, individual student experiences, lessons, learning activities, and assessments.

(Do a little dance. Be willing to risk and change.)

2. Goals at the Top and Practice at the Bottom


All about that Bass Dancer. From

From the Top: Develop curricular goals and objectives, and determine how those will be assessed.

From the Bottom: Practice and revise; be present and be kind.

(Do a little dance. Be willing to risk and change.)



All the Single Potters. From

3. Revisit Needs at the Top and Revisit Teaching at the Bottom

From the Top: Continue to consider and consolidate the needs of students, of society, and of the subject matter.

From the Bottom: Continue to consider one’s instruction, individual student experiences, lessons, learning activities, and assessments.

(Do a little dance. Be willing to risk and change.)

4. Meet with All Stakeholders at All Levels at Revise Curricular Goals and Objectives and Assessments


Job Dancer. From

From the Top: Consider what others bring to the table.

From the Bottom: Consider what others bring to the table.

(Do a little dance. Be willing to risk and change.)


So She can Dance. From

5. Return to Step One with this New Information

From the Top: Continue to revise and assess needs.

From the Bottom: Continue to revise and assess instruction, using instructional goals, objectives, and assessment.

(Do a little dance. Be willing to risk and change.)

The Hope and The Result

The hope is this: that we will no longer be islands in our pedagogical worlds. In this model, using the third space of inquiry, in which curriculum and instruction are considered as parts and as a whole — from a perspective that includes the values, beliefs, and experience of ALL stakeholders — we may just end up looking like Savion Glover, the greatest tap dancer who has ever lived:


Savion Glover offers his philosophy of dance education: “I’m not looking to create or produce the next great tap dancer, but great thinkers, educators, and intellectuals.” He goes on to say this:

Once one is able to connect, through any artistic outlet—dance, singing, painting—the talents we have can come through and express whatever it is that’s inside. If we don’t know we have those talents, we limit our abilities to express. So once we are connected to that artistic expression, we have an option that can lead to a better life or more options in how we deal with life.

Tap dance, he says, is quite often relegated to the level under “real” dancing — under ballet and jazz. Unfortunately, too often, curriculum as an entity is “less than” in-the-trenches teaching, and instruction as an entity is “less than” the ivory tower of the administration building. But the third space is how we must approach curriculum design: through human connections. Through expression. Through the valuing of the human experience.

Through the dance.

Chapter Five: Curriculum Goals, Objectives, and Assessment