COMPANION

Approaches to Learning and Teaching

Individual, Group, Styles

The ‘application approach’ is a way of teaching the Alexander Technique by applying the Technique to an everyday activity, or an activity which is relevant to or common for the pupil. It is frequently used in group teaching. It was predominantly developed by Irene Tasker as an adjunct to private lessons, but only became firmly established as a teaching method with Marjorie Barstow, at which point it eschewed any traditional chair and table work. F. M. Alexander For Alexander his technique was intended to be employed all the time, as a ‘universal’, consistently...
The issue of communication here is chiefly divided into 1. the use of words, 2. the use of hands (see Hands-on work), 3. the use of observation, i.e. demonstration, illustrations, or video (see Observation work). This entry deals with the use of words in general. F. M. Alexander on the use of words Alexander’s terminology changed over the years as he developed his practice and theory.[1] There are several instances of Alexander alerting the reader to the inadequacy of words, for example, when using the words ‘physical’ and ‘mental’: I am forced to use...
Diagnosis in Alexander’s writings refers both to medical diagnosis, and to people’s own diagnosis of their own problems. Alexander also uses it to refer to the assessment of a person’s use and functioning. F. M. Alexander on diagnosis In UoS, in the chapter ‘Diagnosis and medical training’, Alexander argues that no diagnosis can be complete without considering the influence of use upon functioning, and that since medical training does not include such considerations, a medical diagnosis alone is incomplete.[1] He is further of the opinion that there is a...
Distance learning includes correspondence courses and online (internet) teaching. In recent years people have offered lessons or courses via the internet, also called ‘distance learning’. Correspondence courses There was a correspondence course available in the late 1990s, but details are not available. Online courses On-demand video introductory courses,[1] [2] and written material with assignments are available (e.g. The Alexander Technique Diploma Course.[3]) Online video teaching Some teachers are offering...
This entry only covers teaching the Alexander Technique in groups. On the pros and cons of group teaching, F. M. Alexander teaching in groups, and a discussion, see Individual vs. group classes. Books The Alexander Technique in Conversation by John Nicholls and Seán Carey contains a section on how John Nicholls see the role of group work, distinguishing between different types of group work.[1] Marjorie Barstow: Her Teaching and Training edited by Barbara Conable contains descriptions of Barstow’s group teaching.[2] Four Days in Bristol by Don Weed contains edited...
‘Hands-on work’ here refers to that part of teaching the Alexander Technique which involves the teacher using hands touching the pupil for the purpose of feedback and guidance. History F. M. Alexander made several references to the use of hands by the teacher in his writings. The first reference appears in 1908: I append a simple example of what is meant by mechanical advantage. Let the pupil sit as far back in a chair as possible. The teacher, having decided upon the orders necessary for securing the elongation of the spine, the freedom of the neck (i.e. requisite...
The issue of whether group classes, as opposed to individual lessons, is a better or an equally valid way of teaching the Alexander Technique, has been discussed since the 1970s. This entry only considers the debate on the pros and cons of teaching the Technique in groups. For teaching in groups in general, see Group teaching. The term ‘group class’ is not properly defined in any of the literature, either 1) in terms of number 2) or in terms of the difference between teaching a whole group and giving a lecture/demonstration to a group or 3) teaching an individual in front of a...
Observation here refers to visually observing one’s own use or other people’s use, for the purpose of learning and teaching. ‘Observation work’ is the training towards developing observation skill. Observation work can be used for at least two purposes. 1. Learning about oneself; watching other people’s use can provide clues to general habits of use, which may be applicable to oneself. 2. Learning about an individual pupil’s use and function in order to adapt the teaching for that pupil. F. M. Alexander Alexander was a keen observer of people...
Play or a playful attitude is used in the Alexander Technique by some teachers. However, there are scant records; only a few teachers have described this approach in writing. F. M. Alexander preferred an easy atmosphere while teaching on his training course. Erika Whittaker reports: ‘It was all great fun and was never allowed to be serious in the studious sense, F. M. saw to that. If we were looking solemn in class F. M. sent us out for a walk, “come back when you are smiling again!”[1] Marjory Barlow, inspired by Alexander, said that ‘This work is meant to be...
This entry covers methods which involve some kind of equipment and other aids used in teaching and learning the Technique. This entry excludes table and chair which are listed under Classical procedures. The use of a wall, a staircase, books and other readily available aids are not included. Anatomical aids See The use of anatomy and physiology. Balance board, wobble board Some training courses and teachers are using balance boards, but there are no written descriptions. Gym ball See Exercise ball. Juggling balls See Juggling. Mirrors See Use of mirrors....
F. M. Alexander discouraged stereotyped, imitative approaches to the teaching of the Technique. It is generally realised that teachers can only teach from their own experience and so any teaching is highly influenced by the individual’s understanding and experiences. Having said that, there are still some approaches to the teaching of the Technique which are distinguishable from each other. Here only styles of teaching successive to F. M. Alexander are discussed. For descriptions of Alexander’s teaching see Descriptions of F. M. Alexander. Various classification criteria...
This entry covers the use of anatomy and physiology both for understanding the workings of the Alexander Technique and for the purpose of teaching the Technique. History – F. M. Alexander F. M. Alexander did not refer to anatomy in his writings, except for two very simplified explanations (on how ‘the thoracic and abdominal cavities as one fairly stiff oblong rubber bag’ in MSI,[1] and using a piece of paper to illustrate the spine shortening and lengthening in CCC.[2]). He did not regard anatomy and physiology relevant for teaching the Alexander Technique. He famously...
The use of mirrors as a teaching aid or for self-study; it is sometimes referred to as ‘mirror work’. History F. M. Alexander reported how he used a mirror – and later mirrors[1] – to study the cause of his vocal trouble and for the development of the solution. The use of mirrors was crucial to his self-observation and hence to the development of the Technique. . . . I had derived invaluable help from the use of a mirror. Despite this past experience and the knowledge that I had gained from it, I now set out on an experiment which brought into play a new use...
Visualisation here refers to generating mental images that simulate or re-create sensory perception without any immediate input of the senses. Imagery refers to using visually descriptive or figurative language, for the purpose of changing people’s ideas, beliefs and perceptions about themselves. As there is considerable overlap between the two terms (and they are frequently used interchangeably) they are here treated together. Imagery means to use figurative language to represent objects, actions, and ideas in such a way that it appeals to our physical senses. Usually it is thought...
Writing as part of learning the Alexander Technique F. M. Alexander Irene Tasker in her notebooks report that Alexander initially (March 1931) asked the first training course students to write on their experiences of putting the Technique into practice: F.M.A. suggested students should write a paper discussing the relative shortness of time required for dealing with, say, stiffening of fingers at piano, by means of exercises as against working to the means-whereby principle in doing everything.[1] A few days later Irene Tasker reports on Alexander’s response to having...