Acquisition of close-up magic skills
What are the main principles behind learning? This project will attempt to analyse and evaluate different methods of learning so that a justifiable conclusion can be drawn as to what actually effects and improves individual and group learning. The selected activity to be learnt by our group is close up magic. After brainstorming all the possibilities this was chosen as a couple of people had had limited experience, but were willing to progress, and the others despite being novices were interested but most importantly for learning, motivated.
The art of magic is obviously quite broad, so therefore offers scope for learning but should be straightforward to evaluate. If we are to define the process of learning as the absorption of information that is subsequently reflected by behaviour, by the end of this particular task the behaviour concerned will be an assortment of magic tricks that can be performed with skill, spontaneity and confidence. To assist with individual learning it is vital that external information sources exist, as this is again why learning magic should be relatively successful. From our own knowledge we can rely on material from books, the Internet and possibly videos. This is in addition to our previous experiences and knowledge that can be demonstrated and learnt on a group level. The overriding importance of this project is not necessarily to be able to perform the skill with complete success but instead identify different learning (and also teaching) processes and evaluate their effectiveness. These may be for example group work, individual research, lecturing from one individual to the group or through the use of visual aids such as a video or handout. All of which are current methods of learning but undoubtedly they'll all have varying degrees of practicality within this context.
Initial thoughts on this project lead towards the fact that it will be a challenge and that roles and identities within the group have already been constructed. This is perhaps a result of a more streamlined teaching method by which someone with a skill demonstrates and the group attempts to emulate this. I believe this will only be an initial style, and as people's knowledge broadens and group dynamics change, other learning methods will have to be adopted. The importance of the teacher within this particular context is perhaps paramount as Underwood writes in respect to the idea of a self-fulfilling prophecy, 'assume that the aspirations of the pupil, their work rate and their attempts to achieve skill will be linked to the expectations of the teacher'. We also believe that the acquisition of this particular skill is not going to be as straightforward as 'input, process, output' something theorized within pedagogy. For magic a certain base level of ability is required and although one may be aware of the skill; it requires much practice to co-ordinate this with a sufficient amount of ability, especially when the difference between success and failure is so minimal.
To summarise, we believe this project should be productive in the sense that the skill we have chosen will not only give itself to the use of various learning methods but also highlight how individual perception varies and how these are either successful or have to be overcome. Operating in a small group there will also be varying degrees of coherence in terms of using new and untested learning strategies. As Huber writes, 'if students are able to tolerate an uncertain instructional situation, in which they are confronted with a variety of sometimes even controversial perspectives, they will be more motivated to achieve in this situation'. If a person within the group believes that they are unable to perform or learn the skill through a certain method it requires a strategy of teaching and learning in order to resolve the problem, something that we will hope to achieve. The final emphasis must be upon the learner, their conceptual understanding, perception, decision-making and technique execution. All aspects that are required if the acquisition of a skill is to be successful.
Planning and strategy can be deemed as the key to learning. Therefore the method by which we conducted this project was vital to obtaining any degree of success. The first time we met we identified that only two group members had previously performed magic tricks. Initially we decided to progress in a strategic fashion. Following the group brainstorming to establish a suitable focus for the project we felt the next step should offer the opportunity for individual exploration, an introductory opportunity, often suitable when entering a new field so that people can naturally identify their own capabilities. Subsequently we decided that each member of the group would learn a trick in their own time in between meetings. The idea was followed that we would meet together twice a week and teach the learnt trick to each other. Planning would ensure this is done using different teaching styles to maximise a pedagogic awareness. Some members of the group possessed limited experience and this may aid the practically in the learning of new skills by offering a degree of freedom within a learner centred context.
We decided to plan in advance of each group session that we would try and implement a different teaching style to identify which methods were most effective for performer learning. People are idiosyncratic to the way in which they learn most effectively. One person may learn better when practising alone. Another may prefer to learn with others in a group with additional, external stimulus. We knew this prior to the project so it was always vital to use different teaching styles to discover and evaluate subsequent individual responses.