Dance as a place for learning

            A case study in Kartanonkoski School, Vantaa, Finland

                        ...
also refers to the spaces between people. Also, a moving, living body can be understood as the
location where all learning...
also draw from and apply Lauri Rauhala’s seminal work on holistic conception of human being
(Rauhala 2005).



Methodology...
engagement are very promising. This has been possible through a national arts education project
funded by the Ministry of ...
References


Anttila, E. 2007. Mind the body: Unearthing the affiliation between the conscious body and the
              ...
Pakes, A. 2003. Original embodied knowlegde: The epistemology of the new in dance practice as
           research. In Rese...
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Dance As A Place For Learning Eeva Anttila

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Dance As A Place For Learning Eeva Anttila

  1. 1. Dance as a place for learning A case study in Kartanonkoski School, Vantaa, Finland Eeva Anttila Abstract This case study focuses at dance as a place for learning. The word place here refers to both physical and imagined spaces, as well as learning environments. It also refers to the spaces between people. Also, a moving, living body can be understood as the location where all learning takes place. This research project seeks understanding about complex, multisensory learning processes in the context of dance and education and aims at articulating a view on learning that takes embodied knowing into account. The research question is: What kinds of learning and knowing can dance elicit? The project is based on collaboration with school teachers, dance teachers and dance artists in creating a special learning environment, or space for students. In this learning environment artistic and pedagogical practices inform and influence each other. This approach embodies a cultural viewpoint towards learning and pedagogy, where students are seen as active creators of culture and art, instead of a learner of skills or knowledge related to art. The study then investigates how embodied, arts-based knowledge is at play in generating meaningful learning in a formal educational environment, that is, a school. The research methodology is based on collaborative action research. Introduction and theoretical background The purpose of this research project is to develop a conception of learning that embraces bodily processes in human learning. A deeper understanding of the embodied nature of learning is a step towards a comprehensive view of learning that involves the entire human being and that is thoroughly intertwined with social processes. These processes consist of reciprocal, embodied interaction with other human beings and with the world of socially constructed meanings. The premise for this research project, thus, rests on the so-called embodied turn that has taken place in many scholarly fields, for example cognitive science, neuroscience, neurophenomenology, and somatic studies (Damasio 1999; Gallagher 2005; Lakoff & Johnson 1999; Maitland 2005; Pfefer & Bongard 2007; Thompson 2007; Varela 1991). This interdisciplinary study looks at embodiment especially in a sense of creative human process and thus, focuses on creative movement and dance as embodied practices and avenues for learning. In so doing, it participates in a movement that seeks to overcome the gap between science and art in human, social sciences (Bresler 2008; Leavy 2008; Pakes 2003). I uses the metaphor of place in several ways: it refers to both physical and imagined spaces, as well as learning environments. It Eeva Anttila
  2. 2. also refers to the spaces between people. Also, a moving, living body can be understood as the location where all learning takes place. Embodied learning can take place within a wealth of different activities. Dance, however, is a largely unexplored field in terms of learning and education (Hanna 2008). Despite the embodied turn that has all but falsified the Cartesian notion of the mind-body split, it seems evident that educational practice still widely endorses this split. Within the dualistic framework embodied practices, such as dance, are not considered integral in human learning. This research project seeks to shed light on the complex learning processes that originate in the moving, sensing and feeling body, that generate rich reflections and meanings, and that comprise of complex relations to others and the world. This inquiry is situated in the context of dance and education, but the results are applicable to other fields, including cultural activities, physical education, recreation as well as to all age groups and institutional contexts (social services, arts institutions, businesses, to name a few). Embodied learning can take many forms and take place in formal and informal contexts. It can support life- long learning and holistic well-being in all demographic groups, and help individuals with learning difficulties. This study, thus, is related to many academic fields. It is truly interdisciplinary, depending on understanding of related fields and bearing relevance to a number of current research efforts in human, social sciences (see, for example Hyyppä & Liikanen 2005) The theoretical basis of this study is broad. As mentioned above, it will build on findings in the fields of cognitive science and neuroscience that demonstrate how the mind is inherently embodied, how social interaction is the basis of intelligence and complex mental operations, how the body shapes the way we think, and how consciousness needs a body. Also, the study of social cognition has unearthed the role of mirror neurons has illuminated how social cognition develops largely through attending to others’ bodily gestures and movements (Hari 2007). The field of somatic studies and movement/dance philosophy are also significant resources for this study as they incorporate bodily practice and academic study and seek to understand the human being from the first person perspective, thus widening understanding about the meaning of our bodily existence and being in the world (Hanna 1995). Here, the study will relate to and make use of the work of a vital community of researchers in Finland who can be considered leading scholars in the field even in internationally (e.g., Monni 2008; Klemola 2005; Parviainen 2002, 2006; Rouhiainen 2007). It will Eeva Anttila
  3. 3. also draw from and apply Lauri Rauhala’s seminal work on holistic conception of human being (Rauhala 2005). Methodology and research questions The methodological orientation of this study draws from collaborative action research, practice- based research and interpretive research. The starting point of collaborative research is that research is conducted with people, rather than on people (Birch & Miller 2002; Reason 2002). It fosters an active research relationship that involves the exchange of ideas and understanding. It involves physical interaction and face-to-face encounters among human beings, and a shared process of meaning-making and interpretation. Epistemologically, the approach is based on social constructivism and on the notion of embodied knowledge where local, cultural and socially situated perspectives are focal. (see Burr 1995; Gergen 1999) The epistemological premises of practice-based and embodied knowledge will be further articulated through this study. The study seeks to overcome a gap between embodied and socially constructed knowledge and demonstrate how embodied practices can be described and reflected through language (see Anttila 2007). While the purpose of the study is to develop and articulate the notion of embodied learning, the specific research questions are: • How do students of a public school describe their learning experiences related to dance? • How does the school community (teachers, staff, parents, students) reflect on the educational value of dance in a public school context? • What kinds of learning and knowing can dance elicit? Procedures The empirical data will be collected from students, teachers, staff and parents of a public school in Vantaa, Finland, where dance is integrated in the general curriculum for all students (grades 1-9). For the purposes of this study, a professional dance teacher has been hired to work at the school full-time, starting August 2009 until at least May 2010. The prospects for a three-year long Eeva Anttila
  4. 4. engagement are very promising. This has been possible through a national arts education project funded by the Ministry of Education that extends through 2013. (see www.taikalamppu.fi). Data collection will happen through journals, interviews, a virtual dance room where staff and teachers can document their observations and experiences, videotaping and photographing, parent surveys, and on-site observation. Data collection will continue throughout the dance project, while the analysis of data will happen in cycles according to the academic (school) year. Each cycle will build on the previous and deepen the understanding of the evolving thematic structure. The data analysis will be completed by 2014, and the entire study, incorporating theory, reflection and implementation will be completed by 2015. The preliminary results will be published from 2012 in leading journals of arts education and education as well as national and international conferences of American Educational Research Association, Congress on Research in Dance, dance and the Child international, Nordic Forum for Dance Research, World Alliance for Arts Education. Eeva Anttila
  5. 5. References Anttila, E. 2007. Mind the body: Unearthing the affiliation between the conscious body and the reflective mind. In L. Rouhiainen, E. Anttila, K. Heimonen, S. Hämäläinen, H. Kauppila & P. Salosaari (Eds.) Ways of knowing in dance and art. Theatre Academy: Acta Scenica 19, 79-99. Birch, M. & Miller T. 2002. Encouraging participation: Ethics and responsibilities. In M. Mauthner, M. Birch, J. Jessop & T. Miller (Eds.), Ethics in Qualitative Research. London: Sage, 91-106. Bresler, L. 2006. Toward connectedness: Aesthetically based research. Studies in Art Education, 48(1), 52-69. Bresler, L. 2008. Research as experience and the experience of research: Mutual shaping in the arts and in qualitative inquiry. LEARNing Landscapes, 1(3), 123-132. Burr, V. 1995. An introduction to social constructionism. London: Routledge. Damasio, A.1999. The Feeling of what happens: Body and emotion in the making of consciousness. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company. Gallagher, S. 2005. How the body shapes the mind. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Gergen, K. 1999. An invitation to social construction. London: Sage. Hanna, J.L. 2008. A Nonverbal language for imagining and learning: Dance education in K–12 curriculum. Educational Researcher, 37, 491 - 506. Hanna, T. 1995. What is somatics. In bone, breath & gesture: Practices of embodiment. Johnson, H. (Ed.). Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books. Hari, R. 2007. Ihmisaivojen peilautumisjärjestelmät [The mirroring systems of the human brain]. Duodecim 123, 1565-1573. Hyyppä, M. T. & Liikanen, H. 2005. Kulttuuri ja terveys [Cultural experience and health]. Helsinki: Edita. Klemola, T. 2005. Taidon filosofia – Filosofin taito. Tampere: Tampere University Press. Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. 1999. Philosophy in the flesh: The embodied mind and its challenge to Western thought. New York: Basic Books. Leavy, P. 2008. Method meets art: arts-based research practice. New York: Routledge. Maitland, J. 1995. Spacious body: Explorations in somatic ontology. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books. Monni, K. 2008. About the sense and meaning in dance. In M. Klien, et al. (Eds.), Choreography as an aesthetics of change. Limerick: Daghdha Dance Company, 37-44. Eeva Anttila
  6. 6. Pakes, A. 2003. Original embodied knowlegde: The epistemology of the new in dance practice as research. In Research in Dance Education 4 (2), 127–150. Parviainen, J. 2006. Meduusan liike: Mobiiliajan tiedonmuodostuksen filosofiaa. Helsinki: Gaudeamus. Parviainen, J. 2002. Bodily knowledge: Epistemological reflections on dance. Dance Research Journal, Summer 2002, 11-26. Pfeifer, R. & Bongard, J. 2007. How the body shapes the way we think: A new view of intelligence. Cambridge: MIT Press. Rauhala, L. 2005. Ihmiskäsitys ihmistyössä. Helsinki: Yliopistopaino. Reason, P. 2002. (Ed.) The Practice of co-operative inquiry. Systemic Practice and Action Research. 15(3). Rouhiainen, L. 2007. Dance and somatic awareness as a means of cultivating ethical and integral Subjects. Research in Dance Education (forthcoming). Thompson, E. 2007. Mind in life: Biology, phenomenology, and the science of mind. Cambridge: Belknap Press. Varela, F. 1991. Embodied mind: Cognitive science and human experience. Chicago: MIT Press. Wasser, J.D. & Bresler, L. 1996. Working in the interpretive zone: Conceptualizing collaboration in qualitative research teams. Educational Researcher, 25 (5), 5-15. Eeva Anttila

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