COMPANION

Teaching Styles

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 have been suggested, according to 1. lineage, 2. dominant sensory modality, 3. quality of being rational, functional and phenomenological, 4. classical approach and application approach, 5. predominant method of teaching.

1. Lineage consists mainly of the four teachers of F. M. Alexander who were most involved in teacher training: Marjory Barlow, Marjorie Barstow, Walter Carrington, and Patrick Macdonald. A description of the Barstow, Carrington, and Macdonald styles is featured in the chapter ‘Teaching lineages’ by Jeremy Chance[1]; and also in ‘On doing what Alexander did’ by Walton L. White.[2]

2. Dominant (or favourite) sensory modality, suggested by David Moore, has distinguished between the lineages as follows:

i.       Primarily kinaesthetic (the Walter Carrington tradition)

ii.       Primarily visual (the Marjorie Barstow tradition)

iii.      Primarily auditory (the Patrick Macdonald tradition?)[3]

3. Each style is seen as a combination of rational, functional and phenomenological qualities, distinguishable according to how much a style is dominated more by one quality than the other qualities, as has been suggested by Jamie McDowell.[4]

4. Methods of teaching can be 1. classical teaching (as adopted by F. M. Alexander, i.e. chair and table work, with some teaching procedures), and 2. application approach (where teaching takes place in the process of applying the Technique to an activity).

5. Methods of teaching can be a considered as a combination of three different ways of communication: 1. tactile, 2. verbal, 3. visual. A teacher’s style may favour one of these more than the others.[5]

In addition to the above there are ‘teach yourself’ Alexander Technique literature and online courses which contain reading material and written exams.

Other descriptions

  • ‘On doing what Alexander did’ by Walton L. White contains a description of the teaching approach by Macdonald, Carrington and Barstow.[6]
  • ‘Did Alexander teach the Alexander Technique?’ by Catherine Kettrick defines Alexander’s ‘original’ technique as the five steps he developed to solve his own misuse (as described in ‘The evolution of a technique’ in UoS), and argues that Alexander did not teach this procedure in his lessons, and considers what the implications are for teachers today.[7]

Descriptions of individual teaching styles

  • Marjory Barlow’s teaching is described in Think More, Do Less.[8]
  • Marjorie Barstow’s teaching is described in Marjorie Barstow: Her Teaching and Training.[9]

There are no books dedicated to a description of the styles of Walter Carrington or of Patrick Macdonald.

For more details, see the respective biographies of the above teachers.

References

[1] Principles of the Alexander Technique by Jeremy Chance (Thorsons, 1998), pp. 118-35.
[2] ‘On doing what Alexander did’ by Walton L. White in The Alexander Review (Centerline Press, 1990), vol. 4, no. 1., pp. 44–54.
[3] ‘The directions’ by David Moore in The Congress Papers 2008, From Generation to Generation Vol. 2 edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (STATBooks, 2009), pp. 155–74.
[4] ‘Styles of teaching’ by Jamie McDowell in The Congress Papers 2008, From Generation to Generation Vol. 2 edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (STATBooks, 2009), pp. 113–17.
[5] Nos. 4 and 5 suggested by the author of this entry.
[6] ‘On doing what Alexander did’ by Walton L. White in The Alexander Review (Centerline Press, 1990, vol. 4, no. 1., pp. 44–54.)
[7] ‘Did Alexander teach the Alexander Technique?’ by Catherine Kettrick in The Congress Papers 2018, Advancing Global Perspectives edited by Paul Marsh (STAT Books, 2019), pp. 123–29.
[8] Think More, Do Less by Sean Carey (HITE, 2017).
[9] Marjorie Barstow: Her Teaching and Training edited by Barbara Conable, (Mouritz, 2016).