18 SES 08, Development in and through Dance
Dance is considered one activity area within the school curriculum that has the potential to make a significant contribution to a range of educational outcomes for young children (NDTA, 2004; Youth Dance England, 2010). Advocates of dance research have consistently pointed to the potential benefits of dance for young children (Lucas et al, 2013), suggesting that it can increase creativity (Chappell, 2007), cognition (Giguere, 2011) and wider educational attainment (Hanna, 2008; Pickard & Maude, 2014; Sowden & Clements, 2015). In recent years, emerging research is showing an interest in cross-curricular links, exploring how dance can potentially develop curricular learning for children, especially within literacy (Adams, 2016).
Dance advocates claim that dance can have a positive impact on literacy because it is believed to enable children to engage in mean-making through “semiotic activities” (Adams, 2016, p. 32); i.e. explore new and challenging knowledge and concepts using their bodies as tools. It has also been argued that children can create dances that incorporate a beginning, climax and an end. These processes resemble story structure and encourage text deconstruction (Anderson, 2016). There are also claims that when pupils work together to develop a dance story in response to an inspiring starting point they engage in sequencing, a process of putting ideas, events or concepts in logical order. This is a fundamental skill in reading, comprehension and writing. Dance also provides pupils with opportunities to “visualise” stories, texts they have read (Bell, 1991 in Rose et al, 2003), with potential impact on their ability to read and write. Despite these claims, the evidence base is profoundly limited.
To advance this line of inquiry, the study reported sought to review the available research on effective teaching of dance and reading (objective 1) in order to inform the development of an evidence-based dance programme specifically designed to improve children’s reading comprehension (objective 2) which was subsequently implemented and evaluated in a primary school in England (objective 3). Two year 4 classes were involved in the study (one participating in the intervention and one acting as a control group). Alongside the main objective of measuring the effects of dance on reading comprehension, the study had two secondary objectives: (i) to explore possible moderating variables that mediate impact results, including pupils’ gender, their perceptions on the importance of physical education and dance, their participation in dance outside of school, and their motivation to read; and (ii) to examine pupils’ and teachers’ perceptions on the content, the nature and quality of the dance intervention.
Study Design and Participants. The study took place in a state co-educational primary school in England adopting a natural experimental design. The participants in the study were 50 Year 4 (KS 2) pupils aged between 8 and 9. The school’s two Year 4 classes were involved in the study and provided two intact study groups: a dance-based physical education (DBPE) group, that were assigned to receive the intervention within eight 45-min lessons; and a control group, which participated in their regular PE lessons delivered by the PE Specialist employed by the school. Data were collected from the same population of participants (both groups) at two points in time: Time 1 (T1) – at the start of the intervention to obtain baseline information; and Time 2 (T2) – at the end of the eight lessons to examine changes occurring as a result of participation (and to compare results between the two groups). Reading test. To measure pupils’ reading comprehension, schools agreed to offer the research team access data to pupils’ achievement scores (as part of their regular assessments). Furthermore, as a result of a consultation with an experienced year 4 teacher (working in an independent school) and a trainee primary teacher (co-author), two reading comprehension tests were selected from existing resources and administered to all pupils (different texts were given at T1 and T2). The ‘test’ involved pupils reading a short story and answering comprehension questions. Pupil questionnaire. A pupil questionnaire was also developed and distributed to both groups at both points in time (T1 and T2). The purpose of the questionnaire was to collect demographic information (gender), explore pupils’ attitudes towards and experiences of dance and PE. To measure their motivation to read, items from a validated instrument (http://www.cori.umd.edu/measures/MRQ.pdf) that are relevant to the purpose of the present study were included. Pupil focus groups and teacher interview. Pupils in the intervention group also participated in 30-minutes focus groups with the aim to explore their views on the nature and quality of the dance lessons (process evaluation). For the same purpose, the year 4 teacher participated in a semi-structured interview. Data analysis. Quantitative data were analyzed through SPSS Version 20. Qualitative data were analysed using N-Vivo (thematic analysis).
Data collection is ongoing. A two-way repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to determine the effects of dance intervention on pupils’ reading comprehension in SPSS v. 22 with a significance level p≤0.05. Results from an earlier feasibility study showed that reading comprehension was influenced by the main effect of intervention (assessment) (F (1, 26) = 9.43, p=.005, np² = 0.26.). Pupils from the intervention group performed better at post-test (T2) at the immediate period following the dance intervention (Pre-total= .6321, SD= .23361) compared to the control group.
Chappell, C. (2007). Creativity in primary level dance education. Moving beyond assumption. Available at: https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/bitstream/handle/10036/68770/Creativity%20in%20primary%20level%20dance%20ed.pdf?sequence=1. Giguere, M. (2011) Dancing thoughts: an examination of children’s cognition and creative process in dance. Research in dance education, 12 (1), 5-28. Hanna, J.L. (2008) A Non-verbal Language for Imagining and Learning: Dance Education in K 12 Curriculum. Educational Researcher, 37, 491-506. Lucas, B., Claxton, G. & Spencer, E. (2013). Progression in Student Creativity in School FIRST STEPS TOWARDS NEW FORMS OF FORMATIVE ASSESSMENTS. Luxembourg: OECD. National Dance Teachers Association [NDTA] (2004) Maximising opportunity: Policy Document (London: National Dance Teachers Association) Pickard, A. & Maude, P. (2014) Teaching Physical Education Creatively (London: Routledge) Youth Dance England (2010) Dance In and Beyond Schools: An Essential Guide to Dance Teaching and Learning (London: Youth Dance England)
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