Planning a Course Structure - Macrocycle, Mesocycle and Microcycle

New series for all my fellow professional dance teaching and aspiring-to-be-teaching friends. I will be posting some informational content with a bit more insight from my pedagogical background to help each other to become the best possible teachers for our students. Today: Little overview how to structure a (dance) course curriculum: 

When it comes to developing a well structured teaching curriculum there is two types of main issues that I see within many teachers: either being to captured by planning the details and loosing the sight of the big picture or vice versa. Just recognized yourself? I am sure this approach might be helpful:

Macrocycle: how many different levels or course concepts do you want to offer? How many weeks/months are those levels planned for? What is your general message (apart from dance technique) you want to transmit through dance teaching and what is the general dance technical approach you want to convey? Which specific style of your dance do you want to teach?

Mesocycle: during the teaching period for one specific level (during the course of one beginners /intermediate / advanced cycle), what movements do you want to teach, what general concepts do you want to work with in this level and which aspects of dance technique do you want to introduce/focus on?  In which order do you want to introduce those movements/techniques and how many classes do you want to spend on each and how do those classes interlink with each other contentwise?

Microcycle: which movement and techniques do you want to focus on in one specific class? Which exercises could help to learn this movement/technique? How does this class fit into the Mesocycle and how does this class refer to the anterior and following class contents? How do you want to structure the class? Which are the individual components of the class, what are their purpose and in which order do you want to arrange them (warm-up, exercise, demonstration, explanation, dancing time etc etc)

Here are some examples from Tiago and my methodology to understand those cycles a bit easer:

For our Macrocycle we usually worked with a 16 week beginners class, around 1 year intermediate class and open advanced class. Our technical concept involved a huge focus on correct footwork for all basics (and leaders AND followers knowing their own footwork and being able to do that on their own), body leading instead of too much arm leading and training a sensitive frame rather than using force. Our message has always been that Brazilian Zouk is a couple dance, that follows similar lead and follow rules as most other couple dances and one of my most important messages was always that leader and follower are equally responsible to create a beautiful dance and that those roles are not necessarily connected to your gender or sex.

Some examples of our Mesocycle structure: for our beginners course we have a fix structure of all the basic movements (similar to the BZDC syllabus, I can explain them further in another post) that we teach along with focusing on the concepts of projecting the leg before stepping, impulse control and grounding step and dancing on the strong beat and traditional zouk rhythm. Apart from that we try to show a big variety of musical genres we can dance zouk to. In intermediate our movements would rather be focused on variations of those basics and on bodyisolations and body waves. Technical focus would be on the fundamentals of body leading and frame and we talk about the history of Brazilian Zouk and do some easy musicality exercises. And in advanced we teach head movements, and one-foot-spins and counterbalance. For the technique we would focus much more on musicality, on advanced spinning techniques, center mass of gravity and axis in dancing and would talk a lot about dance community etiquette and competition. Of course especially the technical aspects and the more general concepts are something that works a bit more as a fluid work: we speak about mostly all of them in each level from the beginning until the advanced but we chose to put focus on specific subjects for specific reasons I can also explain in another post. 

As an example for the Microcycle planning let’s use “introducing left side bonus” towards the end of a beginners class Mesocycle. The goal for the class would be: introducing the students to the technical concept of travelling turns, repeating the concept of separating direction and rotation in the lead and follow, and learning how to enter, execute and finish the left side bonus. We would probably plan one or rather two additional classes to train this movement and maybe use another entrance and/or exit in the following weeks. As warm-up we would probably work some footwork, train to dance on the rhythm and add an exercise to dance the leaders “side base” throughout different directions of the room. We could after that do a round of “free dancing” for the students, asking them to remind and include the “free spin” in their dance, because we will later use this as exit of the bonus and can already work on refreshing the students mind repeating this movement. After that we could do a simple exercise for travelling turns on the line. Etc etc etc. 

To structure your class you will need to analyse the subject/movement/technique you are teaching, because inherently in the structure of the subject you will find possible structures of the class. Of course apart from the content, you would also need to take hugely into consideration who you are teaching, what your teaching style is etc etc. All of those factors will also come to play when thinking about methodology (e.g. inductive and deductive teaching), social form etc etc. 

After the class ends, and again after each cycle it is important to reflect if you and your students could meet your goals that you set in the beginning and possibly also reevaluate what you would like to change in your class if you didn’t meet the goals or even consider changing those goals altogether. This reflection is a necessary point to finish your class programming and also the start point for a new class structure if needed :-)

Thank you for also reading informational posts! If you like this educational content please consider giving a like, follow, save, share and comment so I know if I should keep this content coming.

This concept of macro, meso and microcycle is also widely used in programming training plans for any sports activity. This text was inspired by the amazing Sheila Santos and Heidemarie Exner, the wonderful teacher courses by Alex de Carvalho and Kadu and Larissa but also mainly by all my great pedagogic/didactic professors back in the day when I would go to the university 😂