Dancing around the edges: dance in the primary school classroom

Torzillo, Miriam (2016) Dancing around the edges: dance in the primary school classroom. Professional Doctorate (Research) thesis, James Cook University.

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In Australia, Dance education in primary schools has long been relegated to the edges of schooling, outside the recognized remit of education. It has been considered marginal to formal schooling and not worthy of assessment; its products mainly useful for entertainment (Bresler, 1993). If it existed at all, it was usually found within Physical Education (Stephens, 2010); sometimes outsourced to private providers; and almost always consisting of teacher directed and skills based lessons in social dance. Dance education taught according to the intent of the Curriculum, involving making and responding to dance was rarer indeed.

Despite this, some teachers taught dance. In Queensland Australia, following the implementation of a National Arts Curriculum, some music specialists had been directed to also teach dance and drama as part of their programs. This directive inspired a research project to explore the impacts of this directive on teachers and the experience of students in their classes. The project was founded on the researcher's personal experience of teaching dance, and the engagement of students and teachers, when they had the opportunity to learn or teach dance using a collaborative, embodied and creative pedagogy.

The experiences and concerns of children worldwide were echoed in my study. The type of dance learning they enjoyed and preferred provided opportunities to be physically engaged in learning; to work collaboratively; to express their ideas, to have choice; to be challenged and to have fun while learning. The study collected and analysed varied sources of data. Arts ways of thinking, analysing and presenting informed my collection, analysis and dissemination of findings.

The analysis of data in the first stages of the study identified the importance of the relational, embodied and expressive aspects of dance. From this initial stage, I arrived at a perspective I term 'socio-kin/aesthetic'. This perspective was used to assist in the organization and interpretation of findings. Ultimately this perspective has evolved into three pedagogic principles, which form the basis of my teaching framework.

My teaching framework is a further objective and professional product of this study. My challenge was to design a framework that would be of use to generalist teachers; the ones most likely to be tasked with teaching dance. The framework had to include strategies that are somewhat familiar to teachers, as a starting point for dance teaching. If the best way to learn how to teach dance is to start doing it (Buck, 2003) then step by step strategies, which are open-ended but scaffolded, to support students collaborative idea development were needed.

In some ways, this framework is also a creative product, emerging as it does from my teaching practice in which the pedagogy itself and the dances made, themselves become artworks; a sort of teaching/learning performance. In this model of pedagogy, the boundaries between the lesson phases are blurred, with creative and performative elements diffused throughout. Therefore the rationale for the learning and the outcome is for students to engage in artful practice; to emphasise process rather than product; and the making and doing of dance.

Item ID: 50994
Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate (Research))
Keywords: assessment for learning, assessment, cognition, creative dance, creativity, dance education, dance in primary schools, dance making, explicit teaching, participatory arts, pedagogic frameworks, primary school dance, professional development, teacher change
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Additional Information:

For this thesis, Miriam Torzillo received the Dean's Award for Excellence 2018.

Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Chapter 4: Torzillo, Miriam (2012) Dancing around the edges: dance in the primary school. The International Journal of Arts Education, 7 (1). pp. 25-36.

Chapter 5: Torzillo, Miriam (2014) Making movement, making meaning: dance in the primary school classroom. The International Journal of Arts Education, 8 (4). pp. 1-14.

Chapter 6: Torzillo, Miriam (2014) Dance in the primary school classroom: making it happen. The International Journal of Learning: Annual Review, 20. pp. 135-147.

Chapter 7: Torzillo, Miriam (2015) Everyday pedagogy for dance education. The International Journal of Pedagogy and Curriculum, 22 (4). pp. 51-66.

Chapter 8: Torzillo, Miriam, and Sorin, Reesa (2016) Showing what we can do: assessment of primary school dance. International Journal of Assessment and Evaluation, 23 (4). pp. 29-42.

Chapter 10: Torzillo, Miriam (2015) Trust and witnessing: lessons for dance education/professional development in community. LEARNing Landscapes, 9 (1). pp. 249-265.

Date Deposited: 03 Oct 2017 22:52
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130313 Teacher Education and Professional Development of Educators @ 50%
13 EDUCATION > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130399 Specialist Studies in Education not elsewhere classified @ 50%
SEO Codes: 93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9302 Teaching and Instruction > 930201 Pedagogy @ 50%
93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9303 Curriculum > 930399 Curriculum not elsewhere classified @ 50%
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