Teaching Cognitive Skill Through Dance
Mia Keinänen, Lois Hetland and Ellen Winner (2000) have undertaken meta-analyses on ‘Teaching Cognitive Skill Through Dance’ with a particular focus on whether or not dance can lead to increased skill in both reading and non-verbal reasoning. This is an important investigation into furthering knowledge on the role of dance in our schools and how it can support student learning in other areas of the curriculum. If a link can be clearly supported by research evidence then closing the attainment gap through dance education could prove to be a reality aligning with my own research proposal where I argued that dance could be an important component in raising attainment.
In the first meta-analysis four studies were analysed and the results did not support a conclusion that dance had an overwhelming positive impact on reading, however, there was a distinct correlation between pupil engagement and motivation if they were part of the dance cohort in the respective database studies.
The second meta-analysis looked at three similar studies whose outcomes provided statistical quantitative results using non-verbal ability measures. This meta-analysis showed positive results in that there does appear to be a strong correlation between dance teaching and increased non-verbal skills although the authors realise that the results are limited because of the small scale of the research.
It is clear from the work carried out by Keinänen, Hetland and Winner that engagement and motivation harvested in a dance class are transferable across the curriculum and can be used to increase attainment in other areas. This supports my research which outlined that engaged young people are more likely to achieve.
Although the study did not find empirical evidence that dance can improve all skills and was carried out with a relatively small pool of data it does provide further evidence of the positive outcomes of dance being taught in schools supported by further research by Rose (1999) and Seham (1997).
A Question of Fun: Adolescent Engagement in Dance Education
Susan Stinson (1997) conducted her research on ‘Adolescent Engagement in Dance Education’ and aims to explore why some students are so engaged while others are not. It is an important investigation for developing knowledge of how we can start to turn the tide in low achievement levels across the curriculum through pupil engagement. This is highly relevant to my own investigation as I look at ways in which the widening attainment in Scottish Schools can be closed. Similarly, Stinson’s educational background is in dance and so her interpretive study focuses fully on engagement in this subject area.
Stinson’s research was observational and covered three schools in the United States. She was a participant observer in one class per week in each school for one school term and following observation she also discussed the dance classes with pupils. The findings showed that ‘fun’ was the key element in engaging pupils and that the majority cited this in their verbal evaluative responses to Stinson. However, interestingly, the learning was only deemed fun by those who saw the learning as relevant. Additional reasons for lack of engagement were often related to personal crises or attitudes which are factors which teachers cannot readily change.
An interpretive study on just three classes cannot provide definitive answers as to why some young people are more engaged than others but the student responses did show a distinctive pattern which could provide a starting point for classroom teachers and also for further research into similar studies such as that of Czikszentmitialyi (1991) and a further study by Stinson with co-author Bond (2001).
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1991). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper Perennial.
Keinanen, M., Hetland, L., & Winner, E. (2000). ‘Teaching Cognitive Skill through Dance: Evidence for near but Not Far Transfer’ in Journal of Aesthetic Education pp 295-306.
Rose, D. (1999). The Impact of Whirlwind Basic Reading through Dance Program on First Grade Students’ Basic Reading Skills. San Francisco: 3-D Group.
Seham, J. (1997). The Effects on At-Risk Children of an In-School Dance Program. New York: Adelphi University.
Stinson, S. (1997). ‘A Question of Fun: Adolescent Engagement in Dance Education’ in Dance Research Journal pp 49-69.
Stinson, S. W. and Bond, K. E. (2001). ‘I feel like I‘m going to take off: Young people‘s experiences of the superordinary in dance’ in Dance Research Journal.