Learning through developmental dance movement

ABSTRACT

Investigating learning through developmental dance movement as a kinaesthetic tool in the Early Years Foundation Stage

Masters Thesis 2011

The understanding of the significance of movement to learning benefits from advances in neuroscience. This study considered this perspective in relation to the educational theories of Multiple Intelligences (Gardner, 1983) and Accelerated Learning for which little empirical evidence exists. Childhood development themes and learning strategies from a neurophysical psychological viewpoint were investigated through the use of developmental dance movement as a kinaesthetic tool over an eight session programme with early years practitioners and pupils in two primary schools. Based on observational case studies, qualitative data from three semistructured interviews was analysed with the aim of addressing practitioners learning outcomes and their views on the children’s learning. With a twenty-one paired sample, the Goodenough-Harris (1963) draw-a-person test was used to explore quantitative measurement methods of transfer of learning.

Findings supported neuroscientific research and highlighted useful and contradictory aspects within the theories. Practitioners acquired greater understanding of the children’s needs, abilities and learning preferences. Case studies demonstrated accelerated learning through observed changed behaviour. Benefits for pupils with specific learning needs were identified. T-test results from Aston index pre-post scored drawings showed significantly improved differences (p=0.005) in visual-motor integration and developmental maturity.

Results revealed that developmental dance movement can provide opportunity for physical/cognitive advance for young children whilst aiding the learning of cross-curricular concepts. Preferential modes of learning were highlighted whilst multi-modal aspects provided alternative and enhanced processing possibilities. Developmental dance movement can function to assist early years practitioners in guiding young children towards optimising learning potential. With greater insight into how dance can positively influence learning, education through dance-based teaching founded on scientific principles is supported. Issues surrounding theories of kinaesthetic learning and focus on the early years are recognised as areas for future dance science development.

Alison Golding

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