Dance Partners for Creativity: Investigating the co-development of creativity at the interface between dance and lower secondary level education

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Graduate School of Education


Recent cultural and education policies have encouraged partnerships between dance-artists and teachers in order to foster student creativity in schools. However, this sits at odds with a parallel agenda which focuses on testing pupils and measuring their attainment. There is growing concern within the education profession that creativity, particularly in secondary schools, is being stifled by increasing constraints from this testing and attainment agenda.

Dance educators believe that formulaic approaches to artistic process and products are resulting in student choreography lacking in authenticity and originality. There is therefore a pressing need to address this to help reconnect secondary school practice with the creativity known to exist within the artform. To contribute to addressing this need, this research will investigate approaches to creativity in dance education with 11/14 year olds (curriculum Key Stage 3) in England. In particular, the research will focus on an approach where creativity is fostered by working partnerships between dance-artists and teachers. This is currently felt to be a potentially fruitful way of fostering creativity at the secondary level in dance. For example within the Specialist Schools Programme; the Creativity Action Research Awards; Creative Partnerships; and the new dance Centres for Advanced Training. Whilst outcomes of these programmes suggest that partnership can be highly successful in stimulating creativity, not enough is known about how. In order to investigate this further, successful partnership activity within these kinds of programmes will be researched.

The research question is therefore: What kinds of creative partnerships are manifested between dance-artists and teachers in co-developing the creativity of 11-14 year olds, in dance in education, and how do these develop? Three key research areas have been identified to develop partnership models and practice. These are: investigating partnership roles and relationships; gaining understanding of how creativity is conceived and facilitated; and questioning practice to understand the tensions and dilemmas faced by the partnerships.

A range of recent research underpins this study. This includes a flexible framework for understanding creativity, developed from the team's previous research. It also includes articulations of models of partnership from other contexts, as well as recent policy documents.The research will use a qualitative methodology to critique and inform practice and policymaking. The team will research collaboratively with between 3 and 6 dance-artist/teacher partnerships with experience in research, with whom relationships already exist. These relationships will be negotiated within the University of Exeter Ethics Committee guidelines. Drawing on the team's previous experience, research methods will include: reflective interviews/journals, observation, documentation, conceptual drawing, focus groups, photographic/video evidence, and other arts-based methods brought to the investigation by the partnerships.

The research is intended to be useful to dance professionals including artists, teachers, education researchers, teacher trainers and policy makers. It is a strength of the team's diversity that they can reach these groups. The team includes an internationally recognised expert on creativity in education, an expert on researching creativity in dance education and teacher-artist partnerships, and policy and teacher education specialists.Dissemination and debate are vital to this research and will occur via two seminars (at Laban and the University of Exeter): a book (synthesising findings drawing on all team members' participation); peer-reviewed articles and conference presentations; as well as responding to other opportunities as they arise. This includes those within other domains struggling to find space for creativity, and keen to develop understanding of creative partnership


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