An Examination of Children’s Creativity and Learning in Dance

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Arts & Learning Research Journal Special Issue
Social Influences on the Creative Process:
An Examination of Children’s Creativity and Learning in Dance Abstract
The purpose of this paper is to look at the influences of social interaction and learning environment on children’s creativity in dance. Data from two separate studies are examined in which a total of thirty-seven fifth grade students created nine dances. This examination aims to (1) identify crucial elements of the classroom environment, which aided the students’ productivity and cognitive activity; and (2) look at how working as a peer group affected the participants’ creative process. Theoretical Framework

The designs of the two studies under examination are inspired by the philosophy of phenomenological hermeneutics. This tradition relies on a close textual analysis of study participants’ experiences as expressed through their interviews and reflective writing. In using this approach to research children’s experiences in dance, I rely on the example of Bond and Deans (1997), Bond (2001), Bond and Richard (2005), and Cone (2005). My particular interest in representing the child’s point of view also links my work with the philosophical underpinnings of feminist, inclusionary research in dance such as Stinson (1998) or Shapiro (1998). These authors conduct research that acknowledges the child’s perceptions of her own actions as valid data for analysis. Rather than viewing the creative process exclusively from the perspective of the outside investigator, this style of research accepts the viewpoint of the children who are subjects of the research. Methodologically, my studies relate closely to the work of Ference Marton (1984). Marton’s work examines phenomena from educational practice, an offshoot of the parent methodology phenomenology he has termed phenomenography. Research in this tradition looks at learning in a task set by the researcher under a naturalistic situation. Methodology;The settings for these phenomenographic studies were two elementary schools outside of Philadelphia where the author was conducting Artist in Residence projects in the schools. Artist in Residence programs allow professional artists in a variety of artistic disciplines in the visual and performing arts to integrate with school curriculum. The purpose of such programs is two-fold. Firstly, they give students an opportunity to interact with a working professional artist. Secondly, most artist in residence programs are strategically planned to augment a particular area of curriculum of interest to a cooperating teacher from a host school. For example, in my personal experience, I have numerous times been brought to a school to enhance the language arts curriculum with dance and poetry projects. These residency programs have been popular tools for curriculum integration since the mid-1960s. Data was collected from the “core group” of each residency, sixteen fifth graders at one school and twenty-one at another. These students attended a choreographic session with the researcher once daily for the ten days of the Artist in Residence project. Students self-selected to participate in the study, providing they returned the appropriate Institutional Review Board assent forms with parent signature. Group make-up was surprisingly diverse, considering the serendipity involved in assembling its members. In school one, twelve girls and four boys participated. Twelve of the students were Caucasian and four were African American. Two Giguere: Social Influences were receiving resource room support for poor academic performance and three were enrolled in the gifted education program. Five students reported that they had dance studio experience; one had participated in ethnic dance lessons, and another in musical theatre. In school two, thirteen girls and eight boys participated. Of these students one was Asian, one Hispanic, and nineteen Caucasian. No information was available in school two for...
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