Please mail any comments to Ian.Brockbank@edo.mts.dec.com
Recently there was a discussion on an electronic mail discussion group about your teachers' examination process. The general feeling was that there is much room for improvement in several areas, and suggestions were made as to how you might remedy this. It was felt that it would be valuable for these suggestions to be passed on to you, so I volunteered to do this.
The main cause of criticism was a lack of feedback to the candidates. The discussion started with a posting on behalf of someone who took their Full Certificate exam, thought they had done reasonably well, got told by their tutor that they had taught their best ever lesson, and then got told they had failed, with no indication as to what they had done wrong, or how they could do better next time. Various people then followed this with similar experiences.
I am aware (from the discussion, not having taken even the Preliminary myself) that there is now a debriefing session after the exam in which the examiners talk to the candidates about their exam, but the general consensus seemed to be that this is little use. After the stress of the exam, the candidates are unable to take in the points made. As one person put it it "comes at a time when you are physically and mentally drained". A written summary they can take away with them and study at leisure would be much more helpful. It would also ensure the recipient would remember all the points made (since it is down there in black and white).
A second area of concern was in the attitude of the examiners. Many people found their approach extremely negative and unhelpful. They are supposed to be evaluating the candidates' ability at teaching a class, but some seem go out of their way to create a difficult atmosphere, make the candidates as uncomfortable as possible. This does not apply to all examiners, and there were some good experiences related too, but it seems to be much too common. As one person writes
"...Since then, I've witnessed most of the exams that have taken place in our branch (as a musician), and have generally ben appalled by the atmosphere created by the examiners. It takes a strong (or oblivious) candidate to ignore the JUDGE sitting across the way, and particularly to ignore the chat that can go on during the exam. I've overheard some beautiful examples of extremely fuzzy communication ... and heard what must be very distracting cross-talk, examiner to examiner."
This same person had the good fortune to have Miss Milligan as a preliminary exam examiner, and found that a great experience:
"Miss Milligan came across to me as someone who wanted me to do well and would *help* me do well (interruptions during teaching), and was letting me benefit from her long experience teaching. ... She was the antithesis of the way many examiners have seemed since, i.e. a distant critical judge."
while another person in the same position said "it was very well known that if she [Miss Milligan] didn't interrupt you, she was letting you bury yourself. She wasn't looking for people who knew all the answers, but for potential."
The suggestions which came out of this discussion are well summarised in one message:
"Well, to repeat to some extent what others have said already: Here are some concrete suggestions. The RSCDS could:
For your information, I include all the messages sent on this topic, in chronological order, below.
I hope this is useful, Although this discussion started negatively, it continued in a genuine desire to help the process improve.
I'm pleased to submit the following for a friend who recently returned from St. Andrews. I think it's self-explanatory. PLEASE CLUE ME IN I'm a failed SCD Full Certificate Teacher Candidate. Wow! That sounds like an opening at an AA meeting. Fail is such an ugly, unfeeling word. Fortunately, it's theirs, not mine. Why did I f...? I honestly don't know, which seems to be the obvious problem I had with the examiners. But is it so obvious? I'd like to hear from those of you who have gone through the process. What was your experience? What's wrong with this picture? You've been awarded a Preliminary Certificate to teach SCD. You have taught for over two years. You are recommended by a full certificate teacher to take the full certificate exam. You have had your teaching observed by one or more certificated teachers, who have made various suggestions to help you improve, and who have faith in your ability. Most important of all, your class knows and believes in you and your teaching ability. So far so good. That's a lot going for you, not to mention the hours, money and emotional energy you've put in. This is not going to be a piece of cake, however. In this case you have not been able to work regularly with a sponsor teacher, so going to St. Andrews Summer School is the only way you're going to get the final preparatory training. Fine. Why not be coached by the best? The preparation days are intense and there is a great deal of stress. You fight hard to maintain your self-confidence. As the time goes by you feel better, more relaxed. You dance and practice teach. You get feedback and make adjustments. At no time do you hear from your tutor, nor feel yourself, that you are not adequately prepared. The exams come 1, 2, 3. Each time there is some stress, but you do your best and stay calm. The teaching exam is the most important part, but you are prepared with experience and your week plus of preparation. You teach your lesson. You feel good about the flow and class response. Later you hear from an independent source that a couple of experienced stooges gave your lesson compliments. Your expert tutor tells you it was your best lesson. Your debriefing is low-key and touches on the usual subjectives: "you could have done this or that a little differently," "a couple areas to watch for in your technique." You go away comfortable. You're done and can retreat from the point of emotional exhaustion. The point is you feel good, successful, and have no reason to believe otherwise. Two weeks later you get the results. You've f..... According to the examiners' report, they didn't like the lesson. The lesson which was constructed and taught according to the model we've followed during training. The lesson which you, naively it seems, thought was taught well. Where does that leave you? In a fog just as mysterious as the haar that sometimes covers St. Andrews. Now you're back home, without any concrete idea about what they didn't feel was up to standard, ready to start teaching your own class for another semester. Fortunately you have picked up ideas from the training and from your fellow candidates, so you know you have improved, but you feel on edge because the examiners don't think you're good enough to hold the piece of paper that pronounces you a "real" SCD teacher. Is there a better way? I think so. What if a program such as this were used? First, the Preliminary Certificate should be the focus for weeding out candidates. Have a higher standard at the beginning for getting into the teacher-training process. I would personally rather not have been given a Preliminary Certificate than to now be judged not good enough for the Full Certificate. Second, develop a clear set of teaching guidelines that candidates can study in developing their teaching style. The "Hints" provided in the new manual give general guidance, but are not nearly complete enough to develop a teacher. It seems that the SCD method is based on an oral tradition, which makes it difficult for those with less than a lifetime of SCD to fully comprehend. Third, use the Full Certificate exam to award candidates either a Full Certificate or a Provisional Certificate. The provisional status is given when a teacher needs some specific improvement, such as remedying a technique deficiency or gaining more experience with a teaching skill. The commitment would be to come to the Summer School the following year to have that specific element checked. Under this system, RSCDS examiners recognize and acknowledge that they are working with teachers, not "want-to-be" teachers. If there is a perceived deficiency, it should be made clear what it is and a reasonable time given to correct it. If the deficiency is not corrected, there is a more objective standard to use to withdraw the provisional status. If the examiners decide to use the f..... word, the teacher candidate is not left to wonder why. I'd like to hear reactions from others who have been through the RSCDS teacher training and exam process. What are you comments on the system? Do you think a change along the lines I've suggested makes sense? If I'm really off-base, I'll gladly tear up my Preliminary Certificate and go back to being a member of the set. Please respond directly to Strathspey. =============================================================================== > I'm pleased to submit the following for a friend who recently returned from > St. Andrews. I think it's self-explanatory. > > PLEASE CLUE ME IN I haven't any clues specific to your friend, but I can say that I know of at least one very good teacher who failed his/her first full certificate exam, but passed the next time. This person now goes around and teaches workshops and everything, so we're clearly not talking about someone whose skills as a teacher are or were weak. =============================================================================== The scenario described could have been written by another person who failed, still does not know why, and has stopped teaching. Stopped dancing for a little while. while you have some very good ideas, the exam process has been quixotic for years and probably will never change. I feel that there should be an extensive list of items as part of the standard and each one should 'be met' or 'not met'. That way one can at least know why one failed. The worst part of the whole process is that one never really knows why. I feel fortunate that I passed both parts of the exam on the first try. =============================================================================== I also passed my prelim first time, failed my full first time, but passed it second time. When I failed I knew I hadn't taught as well as I could, and didn't quibble with the fact that I had failed, but I was totally disillusioned by the examination process. The system of indicating what you did right/wrong by ticking/crossing topics is useless - each topic has different aspects, and just giving it a cross does not help the examinee at all. But what most distressed me was the attitude of the examiner. She was intensely critical, and not remotely encouraging. At one point I asked if I did anything right. She ignored me. Now I understand that teachers should encourage students, and on this point she failed totally. Although not in as many words, she as good as told me to give up, and that I was useless. Fortunately, rather than being demoralised, once I was over the shock I was determined to prove her wrong, and re-took the exam as soon as possible. This time the group I danced with was more relaxed at classes, and I felt that I taught much better in the exam. And I passed. Different examiner, of course. This one was still critical where appropriate, but encouraging and helpful in his comments. Maybe part of the problem is a "personality clash" - I don't know. But I agree that much clearer guidelines would be welcome, and I think that failed students (and maybe also successful ones) would benefit from a proper written report of their performance, rather than unhelpful ticks and crosses. I also strongly feel that it is wrong to award the full certificate "for life". With the current system it is possible for someone who has not danced at all for thirty years to legitimately call themselves a fully certificated teacher. I believe that all teachers should be re-examined every, say, five years. The RSCDS claims that it is too difficult to do this for overseas teachers, but they manage to examine plenty of new teachers, so although this is obviously a difficulty, it is no excuse. It would not be necessary to have a full set of classes, just a refresher and an exam. It would enable teachers to brush up on the changes to technique that the RSCDS continue to make, and would weed out those who are no longer able to teach proficiently. After all, ski instructors and first-aiders have to re-test every three years! =============================================================================== Re: the teachers' examinations> Hear! Hear! This is a topic guaranteed to elicit heated discussion and vehement invective (gosh!) from any SCD teachers who have been through it. The process has improved somewhat, it seems; at least there are itemized topics nowadays. In 1989, when I qualified at St. Andrews, it was simply "Pass/Fail". I, too, was exasperated by the negativity of the examiners, and was moved to ask if there was anything at all they liked. Only then did I receive any positive comments (grudgingly and sparingly given!). As a high school teacher who does her best to keep up with current practice and theory of education in the public schools, I find the pedagogy of the R.S.C.D.S. somewhat lacking and indeed antedeluvian. Everything rides on "the day"; no credit is given for effort or experience. Why is the instructor ignored?. Even the state exams in Britain take course work into account these days. As for continual updates, I agree, up to a point. Perhaps every five years is too often. The syllabus is changed every ten years; why not have teachers re-certify that often, if only to demonstrate familiarity with the dances? =============================================================================== At this time, the teacher exam is such a onerous process that I can't imagine anyone going through it again for a recertification process. I certainly would not. =============================================================================== A previous correspondent writes > My dancing, but non-teaching, spouse (who is a Professor in "real" life) > observes that many people seem take the RSCDS teachers exams only to advance > themselves to a higher status within the dance community, or to be perceived > as advanced dancers, rather than because of any calling to teaching. > Perhaps we need another way to recognize and reward those whose organizational > and dancing skills contribute highly to the success of our Branches in areas > other than teaching. Hear! Hear! Perhaps another type of training program and certification should be offered by the society, something on the order of Social director and Event planning. Teaching is skill but a teacher's certificate seems to have become a status symbol and as such looses integrity. I think SCD society is rather like a band, if we all play fiddle it would not sound as good as some playing fiddle, some piano and even some of us playing accordion ;-) I think there should be other avenues of official status. =============================================================================== As pointed out by another correspondent, this is a topic fraught with high emotions and strongly held opinions. Here goes with a few of mine. Yes, the RSCDS examination process has long needed updating and modifying. When Miss Milligan ran the show it was shaped by her beliefs. But she was free to modify (and humanize) as she saw fit. Now those who follow are rigidly tied to what they perceive as her standards and a lot has been lost. One of the worst parts (IMHO) is that candidates and tutors are given no clear written feedback about the reasons for failure. This has been requested of the Examinations Committee on many occasions and no clear answer has been forthcoming. I was fortunate enough to have passed both exams on the first try, but I was chagrined for friends who really didn't know why they had failed. In some cases it is obvious, and in those cases I believe tutors have an obligation to advise candidates who lack the skills and potential not to take the exam. The tutors are the ones who see the candidates over a period of months (or two weeks at Summer School). We all know of poor candidates who managed to "pull it off" the day of the exam, and the good ones who were overcome by the anxiety of it all. If the tutors were encouraged to advise candidates in a frank manner it might help. If a candidate insists on proceeding perhaps nothing can be done, but at the moment it doesn't appear that tutors are urged to take on this responsibility. If a seemingly good candidate fails then the examiners owe them a reasonable, clear and written explanation. I heartily agree that higher standards need to be imposed at the prelim exam level. But more than that I am frustrated at the prevailing notion that a candidate who has passed a prelim exam is considered an RSCDS teacher in perpetuity, even if they fail, or never take, the certificate exam. When I was going through the process I was led to understand that a prelim was a "learner's permit". It was the time to study, be evaluated, consider whether or not the skills and motivation were present. I am not trying to be elitist, but a prelim is a teacher-in-training. If the prelim candidate does not pass the full certificate within "x" years (say 5-7), or fails the certificate exam twice, then the prelim pass should be null and void. If my certificate has any value it needs to be differentiated from the prelim pass of those who squeaked through and then never went forward or, worse yet, went forward and failed multiple times. I am not speaking here of the large number of people who went through the process having failed the first time and were successful on subsequent attempts. But, I don't think that the RSCDS, TAC, or many Branches througout the world have addressed this matter. In an effort not to be elitists we have weakened the value of the Teachers' Certificate by according the status of "teacher" to prelims. Do note that the prelim is not called a certificate, it is a "pass". As for re-examining teachers. Yes, I agree that it would be a valuable, if time-consuming, effort. I have no great ideas for implementing such a plan but I do think it would allow the maintenance of standards and motivate those who were truly committed to teaching. My dancing, but non-teaching, spouse (who is a Professor in "real" life) observes that many people seem take the RSCDS teachers exams only to advance themselves to a higher status within the dance community, or to be perceived as advanced dancers, rather than because of any calling to teaching. Perhaps we need another way to recognize and reward those whose organizational and dancing skills contribute highly to the success of our Branches in areas other than teaching. =============================================================================== A previous correspondent wrote: >I'm pleased to submit the following for a friend who recently returned from >St. Andrews. I think it's self-explanatory. > >PLEASE CLUE ME IN > This will be a lengthy response, so please, pass it by if you're not interested. I deeply sympathise with anyone who has gone through the RCSDS exam process and failed. I attended my full certificate exam with a teacher from the same area -- we taught in the same class here in Tucson. I passed my exam, while he failed his. No amount of persuasion or support would encourage him to try again. He has stopped teaching, and indeed dancing, altogether. This is a terrible loss to his class as well as himself. This is where I feel the exam process is very destructive. When queried, this ex-teacher replied that he had done everything he knew how to do, and it wasn't good enough for the society, so they would just have to do without him. Having said that, I feel that the exam must be approached in a better attitude than that which my colleague used. He was determined to use Pilling diagrams on his lesson plans and in answering questions in the written exams. He had been repeatedly told not to do so, by our teacher in St. Andrews, our local teacher, and myself. He said that it was his lesson plan, it was meant for his use, and he would use whatever tools he felt comfortable with. My feeling has always been that when taking an exam of this nature, you must discover what it is that is expected of you, and you repeat it back. There will be plenty of time to make your own changes in practice later. If I go into a driving exam and refuse to wear a safety-belt (required by law here), I'm sure I'll fail the exam without even starting the car. I was in a somewhat unique position during my full certificate examination. It was Miss Gibson's last year as secretary, and there were numerous parties and events celebrating her years of service. Due to these events the regular exam schedule was disrupted. At this time, exam results were given in person by the secretary at the Summer School office. The prelim class had stooges from the general Summer School population. The full certificate class had the prelim class as stooges. The prelim results were delayed due to the parties for Miss Gibson. I had already taught my exam class and was sitting in the "Green Room" with the other candidates, who had all assembled after lunch for the next round of exam classes. Our teacher entered the room and told me to get my ghillies on and join the prelim class to stooge for the exam classes that afternoon. The prelim results had been given out and a number of people had failed, one of whom ran away and couldn't be found. So, I was put in the position of stooging for my fellow classmates (in corduroy slacks, to boot). What I saw was a wide range of expertise in teaching. And the results of the exams did not really fit the quality of lessons we had received. There were some who taught poorly who failed -- and should have, IMHO. There were others who failed who I definitely would have passed. In one case, our teacher told the failed student; "Well, I don't know what to say. I had no reservations whatsoever from the start of class. I knew you would pass, and I'm very confused about why you failed." Let me say this, however. I noticed from that experience, that those of us who followed the teaching formulas presented in class, passed. Those of us who taught in a "British" style, passed. Those of us who avoided "Americanisms", passed. Most interestingly for me, every one of us who had passed the prelim at St. Andrews two years prior to this exam, passed. Unfortunately, I also feel that a great deal of weight is given to the personalities of the candidates, as well as their talents in teaching. One of the candidates taught an extremely good lesson -- but I fear it might have been deemed too aggressive by one of the examiners, and he failed. Of course, I have no way of knowing how well my colleagues did in the other portions of the exam. But I have been led to believe that the teaching practical is the major portion of the exam, and the dancing practical and written exams are used to lend support in the final decision -- I don't know if this is specifically true or not. I know that there is bias in the examiners. There always will be. Some examiners love a hard hitting, no nonsense approach. Some like a softer approach. Some like aggressive dancing, with lots of flight and attack on the steps. Others preserve a softer, gentler technique. Some prefer male instructors or female instructors. When humans are involved, some bias is always present. Yes, some examiners are noted more for their "fairness" than others, it will ever be so. But the selection process for examiners is undergoing a change at present. This change has, to some extent, opened the way for the first resident North American examiners to be selected. I feel that the exam process is as much an indoctrination process as a test of one's teaching and dancing ability. Those who take in that indoctrination and can feed it back to the examiners will pass. This is a socialisation process, the Society being an entity concerned with its own continuation. To that end, I would strongly encourage anyone wishing to undergo this process to do so at St. Andrews Summer School -- both for the prelim and full certificate exams. Failing that, attend the exam classes at TAC Summer School at St. Catherine's. I feel that it is harder to get this feeling of indoctrination in local Branch candidate classes, but it can be done, if this is the emphasis of the instructor. They have started asking for input from the classes on what would make the process more rewarding, etc. And I think some suggestions have been taken to heart. I wrote that the examiners should include a written report of all the "opportunities to improve" with the pass/fail slip. The little tete-a-tete we have with the examiners can be a harrowing experience even if it's a positive one, and no one came come away with all the information their throwing at you in such a setting. It is here, more than anywhere else, that I feel the entire examination process is flawed. I have always followed the doctrine that an examination is a learning process. Given that, the students must be given the appropriate feed-back to correct themselves. There is nothing more useless in the US academic system than the final exam, to my way of thinking. What good is takning an exam where you will never be able to find out which questions were answered incorrectly and why? Why are the candidates not given a copy of their written exams, or at least a written critique of the content of the paper? Why are there no notes for the dancing practical, and especially the teaching practical? Why not give them a mrked up copy of their lesson plans? In the past the answer has always been a lack of time -- the results must be given at the Summer School. Now that this practice has been abolished, and we have the technology to make photocopies, why not make this a more rewarding experience, regardless of the outcome? As to the re-certification process, I doubt if we shall ever see such a thing. Roy Goldring came up to the lunch table, just before we were to go in for our written exams, and gazing down on all the nervous faces, he said: "Don't take it to heart. Everyone's nervous about exams. I have no doubt that if the Chairman of the Summer School announced that there would be a re-certification exam for all instructors with certificates for over 5 years, they'd all run screaming into the streets -- me included!" Above all -- if you truly feel that this is something you want to do -- go for it!! Take the exam again -- it's got to be less frightening the second time around, as there are fewer unknowns. Really, the RSCDS can use all the good instructors it can get, and if you really are as committed as to take the exam again, I;m sure you'll do well. But be sure to prepare for the exam at least as hard as you did for the first attempt. If however, you feel too upset to proceed at this time, I would suggest waiting for a few years before attempting the exam again. Continue dancing, by all means. Dancing is really what it's all about in the end, and there are too few of us men out on the dance floor to begin with! Sorry to be so wordy! =============================================================================== > But what most distressed me was the attitude of the examiner. She was > intensely critical, and not remotely encouraging. I have to admit to having experienced both sides of this coin. For my prelim, I was examined by Duncan MacLeod. It was not the policy then for candidates to receive anything in writing and we just huddled together for a tete a tete while the next candidate was examined by the other examiner. Unfortunately no-one had suggested taking a pad and paper. Duncan MacLeod's insight into my dancing, my presentation, and my teaching was so enlightening I could hardly believe he had watched me only that evening. No pat answers here. Everything pertained specifically to me. No wasted time with compliments but right down to the nitty gritty. He tore me apart and it was great. I left feeling I had learned more in those few minutes than I had all the years I had done SCD, and I had had good teachers and trainers. Regrettably, my full exam was not as fruitful. > Maybe part of the problem is a "personality clash" - I don't know. I did not have an overly positive attitude going into my full exam. I'm sure I am not alone when I say I dislike exams of any sort, even though I accept them as a necessary evil. Nonetheless, (IMHO) examiners - particularly examiners of social activity teachers who give their time voluntarily - often fail on one of their major tasks = to put candidates as much at their ease as possible so they can demonstrate how they 'would teach' if it weren't for the stress of this extremely alien exam setting. One of our examiners was someone who liked to stage whisper. While it was not something that was likely to bother me personally (I have a loud voice and good ability to ignore), I was aware of how her attitude was really taking its toll on some of the other candidates. I personally observed her remarking to her fellow examiner in a voice that could be heard in the next county "Oh is that only as far as he is, he should be a lot farther advanced than that by now..." The candidate in question, already quite nervous, started shaking and sweating and getting mixed up. Why! Who has to put up with such in any normal class setting. Isn't it for normal class settings these people are being examined. My own personal teaching section was less than perfect. I too forgot to teach a truncated (twenty minute) class and ran out of time. I had blown it and knew there was no-one to blame but myself. It was difficult, but I even managed to control myself when the examiner made an unacceptably rude putdown in front of the stooges. I was determined not to further embarrass my tutor by raising to her bait. By this date examiners met privately with the candidates to discuss the examination. I was convinced I had failed and wished only to glean knowledge in the same manner as had been my priviliage during my prelim exam. This time I took a clean pad of paper and pen with me. I could have returned it unused to the store the next day. My examiner had nothing to give me and what she did put forward was tripe that I knew was not likely held by any of her collegues. What was this woman doing here? To my everlasting amazement, a month or two later I discovered I passed - and to my even more amazement a good friend and collegue who had been given no indication that he was in trouble, did not. > I also strongly feel that it is wrong to award the full certificate > "for life"... I believe that all teachers should be re-examined every, > say, five years. Despite my dislike of examinations and obvious negative feelings towards my full exam experience, I too believe we teachers could all benefit from upgrading. I salute those workshops and summer schools that are offering teacher upgrading. As for re-examination, perhaps we could look to what some of the other dance societies have done. They have three levels 'Associate, Teacher, Fellow'. Just an idea. Apologize for the length. =============================================================================== My humble opinion on the hot topic: If you didn't pass the first time, please try again. Don't let the hurt feelings stop you from pressing forward with intent to pass next time. Just make sure that you take the time to do it right, don't take the Exam if you don't feel ready. In Cincinnati during the 95 Spring tour, we had 5 re-sits. Four of them passed. So you see, there is hope! I disagree with tightening the prelim level any further. It's tight enough already. Wasn't the program designed to show that prelims were "good enough" to continue training as a teacher? Isn't the 2 year interval really an apprenticeship? I would prefer the reasonably good prelim candidate to pass, and also receive a written report that states: "These are problems we observed. CORRECT THEM BEFORE TAKING THE CERTIFICATE EXAM." That allows someone with good teaching skills to pass and gives them 2 years to get that Pas de Basque or whatever under control, rather than failing them on a correctible problem. Regarding re-certification, I don't favor it. I would prefer a system of continuing education, sponsored by TAC if the RSCDS won't do it. Such a system would RECOMMEND that practicing teachers take continuing education courses. A recommended goal might be that teachers collect 5 points every 5 years, where a weekend is worth 2 1/2 points and a summer school course would be worth 5 points. A continuing education course would cover individual technique, updated teaching methods, and include a critique and comment on an individual's lesson. TAC or the RSCDS can put together outline/syllabus for the courses. I hate the term "refresher course" -- most professions have continuing education programs. Why not we dance teachers? I made this same suggested this to Irene Patterson some months back. It seems to me that TAC can implement such a plan with or without RSCDS approval; after all, it's only a recommendation! Over time, the better instructors will accumulate points at their own pace and continue to improve their teaching skills. We'll know who does and who doesn't. The Branches can support the recommendation and run continuing education programs locally so people don't have to go elsewhere. Simple enough, and no examination headache attached! =============================================================================== > ....this is a topic fraught with high emotions and strongly held opinions > Yes. Can I pick up on three points that have come out so far. 1. Periodic re-examination. I'm with a previous correspondent - there is no chance I would ever submit myself to the process again. However, I believe it is moot, as poor teachers rarely last and the "status" conferred by the piece of paper is pretty thin. The real status comes from being known as a good teacher. (Aside: I might reconsider this if it also meant re-examination of examiners) 2. Reasons for taking the exam. IMHO, those who take the prelim or even full certificate with little or no intention of teaching do not do it for the status but mostly because the candidates' class is the only place in the whole RSCDS system where serious criticism of personal dancing is given and most people nowadays want correction not generalities - "there are some of you who....." is useless and potentially damaging because too often the people who listen and try to correct are those who don't have the fault in the first place but they soon create a different one. A whole new subject, perhaps. 3. Feedback. Everybody seems to agree that the process is rubbish. Irrespective of how you have done, the "little chat" immediately after the teaching practical comes at a time when you are physically and mentally drained. Even with a notepad, you are in no state to take in even the very best feedback. From my prelim, I remember only one point because my reaction at the time was "Damn, he picked that up". I have no idea what was said after my certificate and I can't see that ticks in boxes would have made any difference. Yes, it needs proper written reports but until more people (particularly *successful* candidates and tutors) tell the Examinations Committee this, they will sit in their ivory tower, saying "Sour grapes". So let's tell them. How about sending them a copy of this thread? Note: a suggestion and question - not a threat ;^) =============================================================================== Lest we all get swept away on a wave of negativity, I must confess that both my prelim and full certificate examination experiences were very valuable and helpful, as well as being enjoyable. Yes, indeed, there are areas for improvement, and I think giving written feedback would be very useful, but much depends on the examiners themselves. I was fortunate to have a set of super examiners who went out of their way to make us feel relaxed, and who spent a good deal of time helping us and making suggestions. Even when I ran out of time (and who does not?) there was no suggestion that the world was about to end. Obviously people's experiences differ, and I do not want to minimize the frustration others have felt, but there are examiners who seem to be able to work well within the current framework. I think a previous correspondent gave us a real insight into the RSCDS when she said that when Miss Milligan was in charge there was much more flexibility, whereas now there is a much more inflexible system, based not necessarily on what Miss Milligan would have done, but rather on others' perceptions of how she would have proceeded. I think this may be a general problem with the RSCDS and not simply confined to the examinations process. The idea of forwarding suggestions to the examinations committee is an excellent one, particularly as the discussion has included people who were successful in the examinations as well as people who were not. Perhaps we could also suggest some ways to *implement* those suggestions? Keep the ideas coming - the more we talk, and the more ideas we generate, the better will be the suggestions forwarded to the committee. =============================================================================== I haven't been following the full thread of this discussion, but I did pick up one gem of a comment. I fully agree with the sentiment that many take their Teachers Cert. just to advance their status, or to gain some tangible evidence of competence. To what end, if they do not wish to teach, is doubtful. The idea of other qualifications is excellent, organising skills, what about MCs?!!! A qualified MC, that knew what to do, would be a bonus. And what about constructing well balanced dance programs, some of the ones I go to certainly aren't! Basically though, some defined levels of attainment would be good. We all know of the 'long service medal' advanced dancer type! just some thoughts, =============================================================================== My own feeling about the teaching exams is that a system of examinations put in place by an individual with a *tremendous* gift for such things (Miss Milligan) just doesn't work in the same way when carried out by various people who lack her special gifts. During my preliminary exam, Miss Milligan came across to me as someone who wanted me to do well and would *help* me do well (interruptions during teaching), and was letting me benefit from her long experience teaching. This was my only encounter with her, and perhaps others didn't share this feeling, but she turned my own exam from sick-nervous to wonderfully high, and I felt I learned some things, too. She interrupted me about 5 times, and I felt assisted and encouraged (which *must* have helped me do well) -- *she seemed to be in there taking the exam with me*, literally helping me do my best. She was the antithesis of the way many examiners have seemed since, i.e. a distant critical judge. I realize it takes a special talent to use the interruption-method in a way that feels supportive to the candidates, but it certainly can be one of those important special gifts. Our conversation post-exam was about 60 seconds long -- she had given me the feedback DURING the exam at a time when I actually got to put it into practice, and she got to see me do it. What could be more instructive for me, or for the examiner? I don't remember a thing about my full exam -- distant, uninterested examiner with nothing much to say. Since then, I've witnessed most of the exams that have taken place in our branch (as a musician), and have generally been appalled by the atmosphere created by the examiners. It takes a strong (or oblivious) candidate to ignore the JUDGE sitting across the way, and particularly to ignore the chat that can go on during the exam. I've overheard some beautiful examples of extremely fuzzy communication (what was really meant by that remark/comment/instruction????), and heard what must be very distracting cross-talk, examiner to examiner. My favorite overheard (repeatedly made) remark was an examiner who made the same ambiguous comment to all the candidates, JUST as they were about to start teaching -- I watched all the candidate faces: bemused, puzzled, oblivious. No one had the presence of mind to ask, at that tense moment "what exactly do you mean by that?" Or, better yet, "why on earth didn't you say that *before* I planned my lesson, and say it in a way that made the meaning clear??" Fuzzy communication can be very harmful to a candidate's chances and state of mind. To be an examiner who makes the experience valuable for the candidates is a goal worth pursuing -- I think it should be those "special gifts" which should be the first qualification for an examiner... RSCDS standards for teachers can be learned much more readily than can those special gifts. =============================================================================== > Since then <prelim exam by Milligan (v.good)>, > I've witnessed most of the exams that have taken place in > our branch (as a musician), and have generally been appalled by the > atmosphere created by the examiners.... All these horror stories about the (post-Milligan) conduct and organisation of these exams makes me wonder whether the RSCDS could be in danger of being guilty of offering a service (namely the well-run instruction and examination of properly pre-screened candidates), which they manifestly fail to perform in an adequate manner. I wonder when someone will demand their money back ? It must be a big financial investment for some people to make the pilgrimage. =============================================================================== > Lest we all get swept away on a wave of negativity, I must confess that > both my prelim and full certificate examination experiences were very > valuable and helpful, as well as being enjoyable. Yes, indeed, there are > areas for improvement, and I think giving written feedback would be very > useful, but much depends on the examiners themselves. So one conclusion could be that the RSCDS is not very good at selecting competent examiners, and not giving their examiners adequate guidelines and procedures for conducting the examinations. It seems to be left to the inventiveness (or otherwise) of the examiners chosen, and no doubt there is a high chance that they will include at least one "bad apple" in the examiner team in the form of a bossy old fogey who dominates the show. > Perhaps we could also suggest some ways to *implement* those suggestions? Well, to repeat to some extent what others have said already: Here are some concrete suggestions. The RSCDS could: 1. Agree on some standards and procedures for examiners, and document these. These to include: . Written feedback to the candidate, in the form of constructive comments and advice. . Rules of etiquette for examiners. Eg: Don't converse in loud whispers during the exam. Encourage the candidate by positive body language (look friendly and interested in the proceedings). . etc ? 2. Agree on and document guidelines and criteria for the selection of examiners by the selection committee (I assume there is such a body). These standards could usefully require a process of evaluating the style and information content of the feedback reports which prospective examiners have returned to candidates in the recent past (not possible for new examiners, of course). 3. Publish the above 2 documents to all RSCDS members. This would increase the accountability of the RSCDS central organisation, by a sort of "glasnost" (if that's spelt properly). =============================================================================== I've been following the discussion with interest. My partner and I were fortunate to have taken our Prelim. in St. Andrews a number of years ago with Duncan McLeod as our teacher. We both passed with flying colors even with Miss Milligan as our examiner. The other examiners were able to give us some pertinent and positive comments as well as a critique of our weak points. Our experience with our full was quite different. Because of our situation at the time we were taking classes in two locations about 1,000 miles apart. Whereas I was definitely going to be taking mine in Boston, my partner decided to take hers at there instead of in Minneapolis later on. We are both considered to be strong technique teachers. Prior to the exam we were told that we were to go into the class assuming that no one had taught before us and to follow our lesson plan with that in mind. I went first and felt fairly comfortable in spite of having to teach Argyll's Bowling Green with a bunch of beginners in the class. The class also had a significant amount of technique in it to build up to the dance. My partner was after me and in spite of having problems with her knees at that time taught a strong class using other dancers to support her and as part of her demonstrations. She was told that "after the previous candidate had worked them with technique, you came in and drilled them again!" Talk about ignoring the instructions! Two weeks later, in Minneapolis, she was a stooge with that class and was told that she should have taken it with that class instead of the one in Boston. I passed, and she failed. Three years later, she went to St. Catherine's and was considered by far the strongest candidate in the class. Doesn't say much for the examination process. =============================================================================== I am curious to know if this feeling, which is so strong throughout North America, is shared in the UK...... how do the British candidates feel? Although I took both exams in the U.S. I am Scottish, and had only been here a few years when I sat and passed both, first time. Mine was an extremely positive experience, with only one negative comment made. Unfortunately, I have seen the negative, destructive critisism given to candidates. I have seen candidates who I, as the tutor, had no doubt would pass without a problem, fail, with no sensible explanation. I hesitate to suggest it, but it sounds like there could be some National predudice here? =============================================================================== I haven't said anything to add to the fire and fury on this topic, but... as to the previous question. I have many friends on both sides of the Atlantic, and both sides of the Borders, who have experienced the complete range of failure/success, positive/negative experiences, exhileration/deflation of the current examination/certification procedures of the RSCDS. From my own experience in a Glasgow Prelim Class, where half the class passed and half failed, I can attest to the fact that the emotions/reactions and the experience with the examiners runs the complete range described in this forum, without regard to race, creed, sex or national origin. In fact, maybe in it's own quiet way, the RSCDS has acheived something truely unbiased with respect to humanity! (I apologise for the sarcasm.) I learned an incredable amount, and my dancing was the best it ever has been, at the end of the course. I failed, but I am a much better dancer for having taken the course under an amazing convenor (Christine Traynor) and with an amazing musician (Dorothy Hamilton). We in the class all appreciated beyond comprehension the time and effort they both put in on our behalf. I am sure it is true for most of the teachers of "teachers' courses", and the teachers live through every minute of every course and every exam with each of us pupils. They are the true unsung heros of this process. Thank you all with much love from all of us who have studied under you. =============================================================================== > > I am curious to know if this feeling, which is so strong > throughout North America, is shared in the UK...... how > do the British candidates feel? I took (and passed) my prelim last December and found it a very positive experience - to the extent that I wanted to go and do my full certificate immediately! Although the examiner obviously raised negative points, there were also some positive points. I felt that the discussion as a whole was very constructive. Neither was it as bad as I had been led to expect - we had been warned beforehand that most (if not all) of the comments would be negative. I hope that I find my full certificate as rewarding an experience next year. =============================================================================== > I am curious to know if this feeling, which is so strong throughout North > America, is shared in the UK...... how do the British candidates feel? > Although I took both exams in the U.S. I am Scottish, and had only been > here a few years when I sat and passed both, first time. Mine was an > extremely positive experience, with only one negative comment made. > > Unfortunately, I have seen the negative, destructive critisism given to > candidates. I have seen candidates who I, as the tutor, had no doubt would > pass without a problem, fail, with no sensible explanation. > I hesitate to suggest it, but it sounds like there could be some National > predudice here? It's certainly the same in England - don't know about Scotland! =============================================================================== Whilst not a personal victim, I too would testify to the apparent randomness of passing or failing. I think the examiners should be re-tested! =============================================================================== As a comment on a previous posting about possible geographic/cultural bias in the exam situation, I'll add my own experience, with the caveat that it's tempting to generalize from individual incidents, but the sample sizes we're dealing with are quite small, and influenced by many other factors: When I did my Prelim at St. Andrews, there were six who failed out of the twenty candidates who sat the exam. All of the six were British, from both sides of the border, while those who succeeded were a diverse lot, from Canada, the U.S., and the Continent as well as Britain, and included some expatriate Brits. It made me wonder at the time whether the British candidates were being judged to a higher standard; whether more was expected of them than from the (benighted) colonials, whose dancing experience had taken place at a great remove from the bastions of Scottish culture (insert slightly humourous tone here). In hindsight I've tended to discount this possibility, and ascribe the rather skewed pass/fail statistics for our class to the peculiarities of individual deviation; it was certainly true that some of the candidates who failed the exam were extremely nervous, and made unconscious mistakes as a result. I've heard that at least three of them subsequently passed the Prelim Test on re-sits. The impact of the exam for me was strongly influenced by the devastation felt by the candidates who failed. My personal experience was very positive: I felt good about my performance, and received generally favourable comments with a couple of gentle criticisms that at least convinced me the Examiner had been paying attention during my lesson. The hardest part of the whole experience came after the results were announced, when I had this extreme conflict of emotions between my own exhilaration and trying to commiserate and sympathize with those who had failed. Perhaps this is the reason they no longer announce the results during the course, a change of policy that I feel very mixed about. But I suppose that's a separate thread... =============================================================================== The two main problems raised seem to be the possible subjectivity in pass/fail decisions, and the lack of constructive feedback for candidates. Wouldn't both these be solved, in part anyway, if the RSCDS adopted a weighted evaluation profile (e.g. clarity of instructions, 15 marks; responsiveness to class, 10 marks; continuity of lesson, 10 marks; demonstration technique, 15 marks . . . )? Marks and if possible comments under each category would be sent to all candidates after the exam, not only those who have failed. A less desirable aspect of this would be that a pass result could be read as A, B, or C. But everyone embarking on teaching would know where they most needed to work. The RSCDS exams are unusually complex in that they evaluate what you know, how you dance, and how you teach: they are tests both of knowledge and skill. For that reason alone, clear feedback is important. And as others have said, the decision to take the exam represents a great commitment of time and money, not to mention physical and emotional energy. The exam should be a point on the continuum of learning, not a static end point. So we need to know where we are--LLLL (life-long laddered learning) is the buzz-word, I think. On the related matter of post-exam development of teaching skills, our club has a system which I think is useful, and I wonder if others have something like it. At the end of each teaching year, the club executive (including class representatives) reviews each teacher's performance. The teachers then join the meeting, and the President gives them the gist of the comments and (normally) invites them to teacher for a further year. So teachers get feedback on their work over the whole year, from those best in the position to evaluate them: their own class. Of course, teachers' workshops and special teachers' classes at general workshops are valuable too, especially if they give us a chance to interact with our peers as well as receive instruction. More teachers' workshops these days offer group discussion and exchange of ideas--an essential element in teacher development, and one which allows us to capitalize on the world-wide nature of our organization, like this forum. Happy new teaching/dancing year. =============================================================================== A previous correspondent's idea of executive feedback is a good one if the group is large enough, however, many classes have one or two teachers, and it is difficult to critique a teacher if all you have are 8 beginners and 2 intermediates who attend sporadically. =============================================================================== > Lest we all get swept away on a wave of negativity ... I had meant to keep my paws off this hot potato. Apologies if you think this topic has been overworked already. Let me share something of our Teachers' Certificate class's experience in South Africa last year, though I'm not adding much that hasn't already been said. Yes, our whole exam experience was a nightmare, for a number of reasons. Yes, I think we all found the full cert. exams a whole lot worse than our various prelim's had been. Yes, they left a lot of hurt feelings, unfortunately including those of our very well liked and respected tutor. But, in all honesty, I think the results were probably more-or-less fair - I apologise to my tutor and fellow-candidates if they disagree. There were some candidates that no-one doubted would pass, and they did. For the rest of us, things could probably have gone either way on the day, and did too. Yes, the crits concentrated almost entirely on the negative aspects. But, they were given in a helpful, not hurtful, way. And the examiners did their best to help us feel at ease. As to the rest of the examiners' visit - we thoroughly enjoyed the teaching side of their tour through South Africa. Surely all or most of the examiners are where they are through having been excellent and well-liked teachers themselves? One correspondent said on 6 Sept: > Feedback. ... Yes, it needs proper written reports ... > So let's tell [the Examinations Committee]. How about sending them a copy > of this thread? and another continued on 6 Sept: > The idea of forwarding suggestions to the examinations committee is an > excellent one, particularly as the discussion has included people who > were successful in the examinations as well as people who were not. > Perhaps we could also suggest some ways to *implement* those suggestions? Yes, please. For a start, I would have appreciated more feedback, a little more encouragement, enough time to ask questions or respond to comments, and to have had our tutor present during the "little chat". For prelim exams, I would suggest that the time allowed for them to prepare their lesson be increased to an hour instead of 10 or 20 minutes. I hope prospective teachers won't have been put off by all this! =============================================================================== Another correspondent has written: > 1. Periodic re-examination. I'm with another correspondent - there is no > chance I would ever submit myself to the process again. Well, based on my Full Certificate experience, I also would have difficulty submitting myself to 'the process' again. However, remembering my personal Prelim experience and hearing in this forum other candidates describe how positive and encouraging their examiner was, I know examinations themselves are not the problem. > (Aside: I might reconsider this if it also meant re-examination of examiners) I think he has hit it right. More care has to be taken in the selection and training of examiners. These people are, after all, the main outreach of the Society. The everyday goings on and politics of the RSCDS headquarters will not necessarily have any impact (or interest) for the average SC dancer this side of the Atlantic (or anywhere else outside of Headquarters I would imagine), but the influence of the examiners is quite encompassing. All RSCDS teachers must go through examination and must therefore conform to whatever these examiners are looking for -- at least for the duration of preparation and examination. That is a major power of influence. If the experience is positive, good for the organization. If negative... Because of the potential of this influence, the Society should ensure Examiners put forward the correct and most positive influence possible. Examiners should be trained and 'examined' by the Society with as much diligence as the Society now has its teachers trained -- and the training and examination must be as examiners. They should be screened. An examiner should be in that position because they are a successfully trained and competent examiner, not because they have been a great administrator, super teacher or wonderful person. Examiners should restrict themselves to RSCDS accepted doctrine and refrain from allowing 'opinion' to enter the exam. Opinion is fine over coffee (or a beer) the day after or maybe even during a class or workshop. It is out of place in an RSCDS examination. I liked the words of another correspondent who wrote, > To be an examiner who makes the experience valuable for the candidates is a > goal worth pursuing -- I think it should be those "special gifts" which > should be the first qualification for an examiner... RSCDS standards for > teachers can be learned much more readily than can those special gifts. =============================================================================== Although I was the one who may have originally mentioned the anonymity issue, I have no problems being counted. I have taught professionally, either as a high school teacher or as a workshop leader, for many years, and I coach soccer and teach skiing to ski patrol candidates. In the latter capacity I also evaluate the candidates. Although many times the reactions are subjective, there needs to be a better base knowledge level communicated from the RSCDS to the tutors and from the examiners to the candidates. As someone said earlier, some people take the examine as "the next step in their dancing career." "I've been dancing two years so I am ready to take my prelim." In a few cases this may be the case, but generally it is not if for no other reason than, like driving a car, you learn continually as you are doing it. There are very few of us who do not need refreshing or instruction no matter how long we have been dancing. It is important that teachers "like to teach." This usually comes out, at least to some extent, in the examination and should be considered by the examiners. The baseline level of information mentioned above is crucial because it really gives the examiners and the candidates something against which to be measured. As a performance-based examination the real question, within the bounds defined by the society, should be "Was the objective met in a proper manner that conforms to the requirements of the Society without being rote and without teaching something that is wrong?" Teaching styles are different and that is one of the beauties of having different teachers (especially since learning styles are different as well). Examiners, since I am assuming that some of you are reading this information as wwell, let's not try to fit everyone into the same mold. Break it! Let's look as the objective and how effectively it was met. Another issue that has not come up, and maybe should be addressed, is the level of dancing expertise of the candidates. Not everyone is going to be a performance-level dancer in his or her technique, but it is important that third positions be attained when appropriate, that there be three-beat pas-de-basques, that phrasing be on target. Remember, we teach not only by teaching but by example. I have seen too many candidates who couldn't dance properly (technically) either pass (because they came from a remote area) or sit for the exam when the tutor should have known that their dancing was not up to snuff. Now that I've opened this can of worms, I'll sign off. =============================================================================== On 1 Sept, a message was sent to Strathspey that started the recent lengthy discussion on Teachers' Exams. Some suggestions for improvement were made, including the following: > Second, develop a clear set of teaching guidelines that candidates can > study in developing their teaching style. The "Hints" provided in the new > manual give general guidance, but are not nearly complete enough to develop > a teacher. It seems that the SCD method is based on an oral tradition, > which makes it difficult for those with less than a lifetime of SCD to > fully comprehend. How about one of the experienced teachers / tutors on this list putting together such a guideline? Possibly even submitting it to the RSCDS for publication. After all, there's no reason why all the work should be done by the handful of people holding office in the RSCDS. Many "ordinary" members have already put together all sorts of useful material. There are some books listed in the TACbooks catalogue that look as though they might deal with this topic, but I know nothing about them. Perhaps Ian McHaffie or someone else could help here? Douglas - Teaching Aids: Hints and Ideas Mitchell - A Suggested Course of Instruction Selling - A Handbook for SCD Teachers =============================================================================== I know this subject is no longer being discussed, but there are a couple of comments I wish to record on behalf of my teacher: Another correspondent says: > I have been reading copies of the internet discussion passed on to me. > Through all the discussion relevant to passing/failing RSCDS exams not one > person has mentioned the "Confidential Report". So far I have been asked to > provide these reports for four of my students who have gone on to sit their > RSCDS exams. On each occasion I have given the student concerned a copy of > the report that has been forwarded to the tutor. When I went to St. Andrews > in 1984 and again in 1986 I know that my confidential reports were done by > my Branch teacher but I have no idea what was said about my ability as a > prospective teacher, as a dancer, or if my personality was deemed to be > what was required. It seems to me that perhaps considerable weight may be > given to these documents by the examiners. If this is so then someone who > is considered to be a suitable candidate whilst in their Certificate Class > may have been given a "Confidential Report" that was quite contrary to what > actually happened in the class and at the time of the exam. I would also be > interested to know if the tutor has any input at any stage. For example > there might be a candidate who is "borderline" - is the tutor asked for an > opinion as to the candidate's suitability? I found both my exams to be somewhat daunting experiences and I am fairly certain that I would not subject myself again to the trauma of having to sit further examinations. In Sydney we have a very active Teacher's Liaison Group and there is great emphasis placed on continuing education. It is impossible for most of our teachers to get to Scotland but the majority of teachers in Australia manage to regularly attend our Winter Schools which are held in a different State every year. This is an ideal opportunity to polish our own technique and also to keep abreast of what has been happening in other places. Also our recently formed Australian Teachers' Assoc. has already held one very successful week long workshop in Melbourne which was attended by teacher's from almost every State and Territory in Australia. Finally I think it is important that we should keep things in perspective! This is, after all, a hobby! And for me, anyway, the major aim is to ensure that SCD is kept alive by whatever means I think will work ( hopefully keeping within the bounds that are laid down by the RSCDS!). =============================================================================== Another correspondent says: > Through all the discussion relevant to passing/failing RSCDS exams not one > person has mentioned the "Confidential Report". So far I have been asked to > provide these reports for four of my students who have gone on to sit their > RSCDS exams. On each occasion I have given the student concerned a copy of > the report that has been forwarded to the tutor. <Snip Snip> She is right. Nothing has been said about the Confidential Report. And I agree with her practice of giving a copy of the report to each candidate. This helps the candidate know where they fit in according to their local tutor/sponsor and hopefully, those areas which need attention. These reports should be treated with a great deal of care and thought by the local tutor/ sponsor. I've seen glowing reports of a candidate's abilities and qualities that did not necessarily match the usual performance of the candidate. > It seems to me that perhaps considerable weight may be > given to these documents by the examiners. If this is so then someone who > is considered to be a suitable candidate whilst in their Certificate Class > may have been given a "Confidential Report" that was quite contrary to what > actually happened in the class and at the time of the exam. <Snip Snip> I would hope that there would be considerable weight placed on these reports. After all, the writer of the report is supposed to have had a much longer relationship with the candidate than the small amount of time afforded to the examiners. I have been approached by a few people who had expressed a desire to go through the examination process. I looked long and hard at each prospective candidate and told each one what my true feelings were about their proposed candidacy. I'm not doing anyone favors by painting their chances for success in rosier colors than exist. Personality has a lot to do with it - will this person be a nurturing, guiding person, one who can build and maintain a class? Will this person be able to handle the challenges of the group dynamics inherent in any class situation? Is this person reliable enough to entrust with my own class, should I keel over tomorrow? In short, is this person truly interested in becoming a teacher, or are there other motives involved? I have real problems dealing with these decisions which can affect so many people, not just the candidates, but the unsuspecting students I'd be turning them over to. In each case, I've gotten a second or third opinion from another teacher, and thankfully, they've all concurred with my decisions. It may sound silly, but I am convinced that in many classes, there are lurking people who would make excellent teachers, but who would never consider it, until after they've been approached. I have two or three students in my class right now who would be very good teachers, but are still not convinced that this is what they want to do. I won't force or pressure them, but the seed has been planted. On the other hand, nearly all the people who approached me and told me they wanted to be a teacher have been inappropriate candidates. This is where we can address those situations referred to in previous discussions of people treating the certification process as the just the next step in their dancing careers. > I would also be interested to know if the tutor has any input at any stage. > For example there might be a candidate who is "borderline" - is the tutor > asked for an opinion as to the candidate's suitability? I can't say for certain this is the case with all examiners, but I think that if there is any doubt, they examiners can and do discuss things with the tutor. I believe this is more in the vein of a clarification on particular points, rather than a defense of the candidate's suitability or worthiness. I do know that for the teaching practical of my full certificate, the examiners selected two or three dances to be taught which were deemed by the tutor to be inappropriate, and the tutor successfully protested the selection of these dances, and others were selected in place of these inappropriate dances. Our tutor told us about this and of course we wanted to know what the dances were but all he said was that they were "Not appropriate". I think they might have been things like the Queen Victoria Quadrilles, or Miss Murray of Ochtertyre, or Tweedside, with unusual technique or formation challenges. Another power in the hands of the tutor might be the assignment of dances to be taught by the candidates. I don't know how exactly this works, but I know with my sinking confidence level, if I hadn't been assigned to teach the dance I was, I'd never have passed! =============================================================================== I read over, with interest, the comments posted on this subject. I was examined many years ago by Miss Milligan and, while the experience was somewhat nerve wracking, it was also highly exhilerating. She interrupted frequently. In fact, it was very well known that if she didn't interrupt you, she was letting you bury yourself. She wasn't looking for people who knew all the answers, but for potential. I fear that merely forwarding the comments made here will not do much good. I think that each Branch should be encouraged to send a formal complaint to Headquarters. That is the only thing that will produce improvement -- everything else is ignored, unfortunately.