Keun, L. L., & Hunt, P. (2006). Creative dance: Singapore children’s creative thinking and problem solving responses. Research in Dance Education, 7(1), 31.
Teacher-researchers developed and implemented a dance-integrated curriculum in a primary class of seven-year-old children and observed the effects of dance education on the children’s acquisition of dance skills and their proficiency in creative thinking and problem solving. The dance-integrated curriculum centered on the coral reef and was specifically designed to develop and increase dance and creative skills in participating children. The teacher-researchers observed students over five sessions in order to document any progressive learning, particularly in their kinesthetic responses (instinctive responses to external stimuli) to the problem-solving tasks, and used the observation data as the primary data source. The teacher-researchers found in the context of a supportive, dance-integrated learning environment, children developed creative thinking skills and learned to use bodily kinesthetic intelligence, defined as the use of one’s whole body or parts of the body to solve problems.
The teacher-researchers report that students made progress in creative thinking and problem-solving skills as evidenced through the following parameters: original body sculptures, innovative pathways, individual movement patterns, and dance composition. The teacher-researchers observed many individual differences in creative ideas and movement choices of the participating children.
The teacher-researchers observed the development of important aspects of the creative process throughout the integrated dance unit. Specifically, children consistently repeated shapes they had invented throughout the dance sequence, indicating a sense of ownership over the movement and form and a sense of kinesthetic achievement. Ownership over an idea is cited as an important part of the creative process. Similarly, the teacher-researchers observed children exercising instinctive creativity through solving problems like how to transition to and from open and closed shapes in synchronization with the music cues.
Students progressed in the area of dance skill acquisition. They learned the dance concepts of personal and general space, moving and freezing, levels, opening and closing, and fast and slow tempo. According to the teacher-researchers, these acquired skills helped generate creativity and divergent thinking through exploration of various solutions using the newly acquired dance skills.
Significance of the Findings:
The teacher-researchers assert that the observation data support and reinforce the theory that problem solving is intrinsic in the process of dance making, and that problem solving and creative thinking skills can be taught through dance. The study adds to an emerging body of research that documents the ways in which the arts may serve as a fertile ground for developing creative processes and skills. Specifically, the study shows how dance develops students’ kinesthetic intelligence.
The teacher-researchers randomly selected one class (mean age of 7 years 9 months) from a primary school in Singapore for participation in the creative dance curriculum and concurrent study. The study group included 39 students, of which 19 were female and 20 were male, all with no prior experience in creative dance. The teacher-researchers designed a curriculum and collected data through videotaped classroom observations of the participating students using creative processes to compose dance phrases. Teacher-researchers made detailed descriptions of a child or group’s movement responses to each learning task and annotated the descriptions with individual open-ended observations about the quality of the children’s movement responses. The teacher-researchers developed a predetermined list of responses they hoped to observe in student and group evidence according to either movement responses, which included evidence for creative thinking and problem solving, or skill acquisition, which included evidence for dance skill development.
Limitations of the Research:
As with any single case study, the findings of this study are not necessarily generalizable to other students in other settings. The observations that the teacher-researchers made of students’ individual development and the relationship of students’ individual development to their findings about the development of the class as a group over time, were not adequately clear.
Questions to Guide New Research:
Future research might focus on providing qualitative descriptions of individual children’s creative responses to kinesthetic tasks as opposed to the current approach of describing children as a class. Additionally, research on kinesthetic development and creative thinking might employ a control and treatment group with pre- and post-test measuring gains in dance and creative thinking skills, so that dance is isolated as an independent variable, allowing for stronger conclusions and evidence of the role of dance in creative thinking and problem solving skills development.