Assessment of High School Students' Creative Thinking Skills: a comparison of dance and nondance classes

Minton, S. (2003). Assessment of High School Students' Creative Thinking Skills: a comparison of dance and nondance classes. Research in Dance Education 4(1): 31 - 49.

Abstract:

This study compared the creative thinking abilities of students taking dance class in high school to non-dance students. The researcher used the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT) to measure creative thinking abilities using a pre-test/post-test format. Students were enrolled in classes that focused on variety of dance. The TTCT scores comparing changes in dancers and non-dancers' overall showed no significant differences. However, the researcher did see differences between dancers and non-dancers in a subscale of scores focusing on originality and abstractness.

Key Findings:

The comparison of creative thinking between dance group and non-dance groups showed no significant differences in overall scores. Significant differences were found, however, for originality and abstractness of titles, when the scores for dancers and non-dancers were compared on one creativity measure or subscale at a time. Thus, it is possible that participation in dance could have a positive effect on these two aspects of creative thinking. Similar differences were not found, however, when comparing dancers’ and non-dancers’ subscale scores at the school level. The relatively small numbers of subjects in this comparison may explain this lack of agreement in results. Such small numbers of subjects can reduce the power of any statistical analysis.

In a school-by-school comparison, there was additionally no significant difference in scores between the dance and the non-dance groups. However, though there were not statistically significant differences, there were more instances of improved scores for the dance group. This result may show that dance boosts students’ creative thinking abilities.

Another important result of this study was the differences in dancers’ profiles for subscale scores at the six schools. Some aspect of the high school dance class may have been an influential factor in positive outcomes in various subscale scores when comparing results between the six participating schools. However, it is also possible that these results might be explained by overall school environment or demographics.

Significance of the Findings:

The fact that there were significant differences in the dancers’ and non-dancers’ scores on originality and abstractness of titles is an important conclusion. Higher originality scores could mean that dancing may encourage learning to ‘think outside the box’ leading to the ability to create new concepts and inventions in many fields. Better scores for abstractness of titles could point to a connection between dancing and literacy.

Methodology:

The subjects of this study were 286 students at six different high schools. The experimental group was enrolled in some form of dance class (e.g. ballet, modern, jazz, hip-hop, African, Mexican folklorico, and Irish step). The number of hours and level of instruction varied. The students who participated in the control group took non-active classes (e.g. business accounting, English, health, and psychology). The researcher administered the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT) at the beginning and end of one term. Scoring on the TTCT was based on five subscales: fluency, originality, abstractness of titles, elaboration, and resistance to premature closure The researcher accounted for differences in pretest scores between the two groups and differences in time spent in dance classes in the dance group when analyzing the data.

Limitations of the Research:

These results must be viewed cautiously for several reasons. The two groups – dancers and non-dancers – were not perfectly matched. The non-dancers’ pre-test scores were higher on four of the five TTCT subscales. This means that dancers in this study had more room for improvement than non-dancers. Other limiting factors are the following: the dance classes did not spend the same amount of time dancing during the school term; the curriculum used by the six dance teachers varied, and some dance students were taking dance classes outside of school in addition to their in-school instruction. The sample size was also quite small.

Questions to Guide New Research:

Future research might study the relationship between various creativity measures such as originality or elaboration and all the other class-related factors that could have a positive effect on how students think creatively. These factors include, but are not limited to, the atmosphere in a classroom; the teacher’s relationship with the students; specific behaviors used by a teacher; and the type of dance curriculum used in a class. The forms of dance taught in a class are also important factors to examine for potential positive effects on creative thinking abilities of students.

It will also be important to isolate the various components of creativity. A possible approach in doing this is to have a team of researchers in which each individual focuses on a specific facet of the relationship between creativity and participation in dance. The researchers could come together to compare notes in the data analysis stage of the research design.