Developing Growth Mindset in Ballet Training and Pedagogy

Presenter: Diane Bedford; Clinical Associate Professor, Texas A&M University


This paper seeks to examine the psychological concept of growth mindset and the manner in which this reflective practice can enhance the ballet student’s positive self-awareness and accountability in the acquisition of knowledge. Traditionally, ballet instruction has focused on the pedagogue’s surveillance of the student and the ensuing instructions and commentary offered to the student. When the instructor’s surveillance is negative, focusing on judgment, criticism and the impossible attainment of an ideal body, the learning environment has a detrimental impact on the dancer’s health (Dryburgh & Fortin, 2010). In this type of atmosphere, which is unfortunately common in traditional ballet pedagogy, students can succumb to issues of perfectionism and negative self-judgement. These emotions lead students towards the development of a fixed mindset which ultimately inhibits the student’s learning abilities. I propose that in order to develop the student’s positive self-reflective practices, ballet pedagogues could foster and develop a growth mindset which places value on process and continual development of skill. Through this approach, students also learn to become questioners and stakeholder in their own education. To develop the methodology of growth mindset in ballet, I integrate research from educational psychologists such as Carol Dweck in addition to literature focused on progressive ballet technique. In developing this framework, I describe methods I have implemented thus far in my own ballet pedagogy to foster the development of growth mindset in collegiate level dancers. 


Diane Cahill Bedford (MFA, BFA) serves as Clinical Associate Professor in the Dance Science Program at Texas A&M University. She holds an MFA in Dance Performance and Choreography (2010) and a BFA in Dance and English Literature, Magna Cum Laude (2003) from Florida State University. Her choreography has been accepted for performance in New York, Vermont, Florida, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Texas. Diane has presented on various aspects of dance pedagogy at conferences for the National Dance Educators Organization (NDEO), The International Association for Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS), National Dance Society, TAHPERD, and San Jacinto College. She has also authored a preliminary edition of a dance appreciation textbook titled Dance in Many Forms. Diane previously taught dance and directed Outreach Programming for Fort Wayne Ballet and Charleston Ballet Theatre. Additionally, she served as Professor of Dance at San Jacinto College South where she directed the San Jac Dance PAC before joining the TAMU Dance Program.