Dance improvisation in dance education: Attitudes and uses

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A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements For the degree of Master of Science in



Jacobi Lynn Mejia


The thesis of Jacobi Lynn Mejia is approved:

________________________________ __________________

Shana Habel, M.A. Date

________________________________ __________________

Terry Sweeting, Ph.D. Date

________________________________ __________________

Konstantinos Vrongistinos, Ph.D., Chair Date

California State University, Northridge ii



I dedicate this thesis to the Holy Spirit for enabling me to get this far in education and to become the first in my nuclear family to hold degrees in higher education.

I also dedicate this thesis to Albert Durstenfeld for helping me from the start of the process to become a master’s student and being there for me throughout this journey.

I additionally dedicate this thesis to my mom for motivating me to go to college and believing in me, Phyllis Grimmett, and to my recently-deceased Noel, Aunt Jeannine, and

Grandmother Grace, who persevered.

And lastly, I dedicate this thesis to all the great educators that have been involved in my life that have paved my way to achieve this goal.


TABLE OF CONTENTS Signature page ii Dedication iii List of Tables vi Abstract vii CHAPTER I- INTRODUCTION 1 Background 1 Problem 5 Purpose 5 Hypotheses 5 Benefits 7


Teachers’ Views on Improvisation 8

Attitudes: Reasons to Use Improvisation 10

Value Versus Practice 12

Attitudes: Reasons Not to Use Improvisation 13

Methodological Processes 18

Conclusion 20


Research Design and Material 22

Participants 23

The Data Collection Instrument 24

Pilot Study 25

Data Collection Procedure 26

Data Analysis Procedures 27


Regarding the Instrument 29

The Amount of Improvisation Used Among Dance Teachers 34

Reasons Dance Teachers Use Improvisation 40

How Dance Teachers Use Dance Improvisation 45

Reasons Dance Teachers May Not Use Improvisation 49

Additional Beliefs and Attitudes 56

CHAPTER V- DISCUSSION 62 Aim 62 Key Findings 64 Limitations 70 Future Research 72 References 74 Appendix A 83 iv



Appendix B 91

Appendix C 94



Table 1. Categories and subcategories of the theme “survey reflection” 30 Table 2. Questions that resulted with primarily the same response 31

Table 3. Participants who avoided questions 33

Table 4. Statements that confirm uses and frequency of improvisation 34 Table 5. The amount of improvisation used within a lesson 36

Table 6. The kinds of improvisation experienced 37

Table 7. The kinds of improvisation used 37

Table 8. Those who received training in improvisation in education 39 Table 9. Categories and subcategories of the theme “benefits” 41 Table 10. Comparison of training on, and use of, improvisation 44

Table 11. Improvisation as performance 44

Table 12. Categories and subcategories of the theme “how to deliver” 45 Table 13. Categories and subcategories of the theme “what it entails” 46 Table 14. Categories and subcategories of the theme “different elements” 47 Table 15. Categories and subcategories of the theme “different activities” 48 Table 16. Categories and subcategories of the theme ‘student reluctance’ 51 Table 17. Categories and subcategories of the theme ‘negative remarks’ 52 Table 16. Difference in perspective of those who were classroom teachers 57 Table 17. Categories and subcategories of the theme “advantages” 60





Jacobi Lynn Mejia

Master of Science in Kinesiology

Statistical (quantitative) research has not been done on dance educators’ beliefs and attitudes towards dance improvisation. The purpose of this study was to fill that gap and to examine dance educators’ uses of dance improvisation. A questionnaire was developed from the literature review and input from the researcher’s committee. The addition of several open-ended questions allowed for both quantitative and qualitative analysis.

Twenty kindergarten through twelfth grade Los Angeles, California dance educators participated in the survey through an online website. The survey went through a pilot process based on a two week interval and then was quantitatively analyzed using SPSS computer software, followed by qualitative investigation to discover emerging themes. The questionnaire successfully gathered information on uses and attitudes

towards particular statements relating to dance improvisation. However, the findings also demonstrated the need to modify some survey questions to better focus response and to strengthen results.

A key finding revealed that elementary dance educators tend to use dance

improvisation more than secondary dance educators. Most secondary dance educators use vii



improvisation sometimes or not at all and when they do use it, it is for 10% or less of their lesson time. Possible causes for this limited use could relate to a feeling of lacking time to incorporate improvisation into instruction, lacking the training to teach it, or they did not experience training in dance improvisation in their own secondary education.

The dance educators were more likely to use dance improvisation in instruction if they received training in improvisation in secondary education. The majority of dance educators in their 30’s also claimed to have used most of their instructional time teaching improvisation. Some dance educators, however, use improvisation only for specific groups.

Positive attitudes appeared to exist towards dance improvisation overall, but contact improvisation and dance improvisation for performance, specifically, appeared to be used least by the dance educators. Participants who had been classroom teachers prior to being full-time dance educators had higher regard for dance technique as compared to dance improvisation.




Dance improvisation is an integral part of the educational dance content standards in California and is defined as, “Movement created spontaneously that ranges from free-form to highly structured environments, always including an element of chance”

(California State Board of Education, 2001, p. 37). In a recent study by Biasutti (2013), improvisation has been described as being, “spontaneous, creative, and non-planned movement characterized by the expression of emotions and body feelings” (p. 7). In literature it has also been described as being part of a creative process (McCutchen, 2006), and a technique (Schwartz, 2000), used to compose dance for either performance or self-discovery of movement (Minton, 2007).

Dance improvisation is seen in many different cultures around the world. For instance, Jewish solo dances in Eastern Europe are highly regarded because of the dancers’ improvisational skills (Friedland, 1985). In Latin America, dances such as Argentine tango, salsa, and samba depend highly on improvisation to execute social ballroom movements (McMains, 2001). Improvisation is widely used in Africa to demonstrate dancers’ skills when performing spiritual or ceremonial dance (Welsh, 2010). In Western America, improvisation is required to perform such styles as break dancing (Shimizu & Okada, 2012), swing dancing (Gentry, Wall, Oakley, & Murray-Smith, 2003), and modern dance (Minton, 2007).

The place of improvisation in American dance education has been greatly influenced by a number of individuals. One of these individuals is Mary Wigman


1973), who was a “leading figure in the concert art form known in prefascist Germany as Ausdruckstanz, or dance of expression” (Wigman, 2003, p. ix). Thimey (2000), one of Wigman’s students has recalled that, “Very much in contrast to the ballet, improvisation was important in the Wigman School,” to gain sensitivity to space and the weight of movement (p. 59). Another student of Wigman, Hanya Holm (1893-1992), who became her successor and who “maintained a common language that united them” (p. xxv), supported the idea of teaching improvisation to draw out movement from dancers and use it to compose (Wigman, 2003, p. 165). Holm emigrated from Germany to New York in 1931 and opened an American branch of the Wigman School (Craine & Mackrell, 2010).

One of Holm’s students was Alwin Nikolais. According to Gitelman and Martin (2007), he became a renowned American choreographer (p. 132) whose company, “In November 1949… acquired the name the Playhouse Dance Company, sometimes the Henry Street Playhouse Dance Company” (p. 249). Nikolais taught a “daily two-hour technique class [which] was followed by an hour-long theory class four days a week. Theory class usually, though not invariably, included improvisation. New students were led through exercises to introduce them to the requirements of improvisation” (p.35). He also became one of few male contributors to early dance education in America; according to Wilson, Hagood, and Brennan (2006), “Dance in education has been a feminine

movement except for artist, teacher and philosopher Alwin Nikolais (p. 110). Thus, improvisation has an important legacy in, and is a traditional aspect of, American dance education.

Improvisation tends to be closely associated with the term “creative”. The simplest definition of “creative” is, “to make or do something in a new way” (Inc. The


McGraw-Hill Companies, 2010). “Creative” is also defined as using imagination, problem solving, or aesthetic capabilities (Barron & Harrington, 1981). Furthermore, according to Craft (2003), psychologist Abraham Maslow suggests that there is, “a more widespread kind of creativeness,” which Craft describes as a form seen in “everyday life” (p. 114).

Dance improvisation is beneficial to dancers since it allows them to create, invent, and originate their own movement spontaneously as well as gain confidence. In fact, research shows that students that learn through discovery, rather than being given teacher-directed instruction, increase confidence skills (Leathers, 2002). A student in Leathers’ study explains why they preferred learning from an environment of discovery compared to an environment where direct instruction was given: “I got more confident when I learned that I could solve things on my own” (p. 8). Since dance improvisation focuses on the individual creating solutions on his/her own, the experience has the potential to increase confidence.

The ability to express oneself is another capability dance improvisation has to offer. According to Lockhart and Pease (1982), improvisation is not a “free-for-all,” to do whatever one chooses, but rather a time where the dance teacher guides a dancer’s natural artistic abilities to be drawn out from within them (p. 104). Improvisation enables the dancer to express their own artistic potential.

Experience with dance improvisation can definitely cross over into other areas of a person’s life. Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, went to Reed College and took a modern dance class not knowing how this would carry over into his work with Atari (Von Oech, 1998).


At Reed, most of the men took modern dance classes from a woman named Judy Massee. We did it to meet the women. I didn't realize how much I learned about movement and perception from the class until a few years later, when I worked for Nolan Bushnell at Atari. I was able to relate how much resolution of

movement you need in terms of perceiving things for video games (p. 138). In fact, companies rely on people who have improvisational skills and can collaborate (Sawyer, 2006). People such as these are a necessity for companies interested in pursuing innovative product development. For this reason, companies bring teams together to improvise and form ideas that can be put into single products (Sawyer, 2006). Great examples are, “the Apple mouse, the Palm handheld, the stand-up toothpaste tube, and hundreds of other products,” which have all been created using group improvisation (p. 42).

A dance educator’s responsibility is to teach skills one can use for the future not just skills that could be used in a dance class. Dance educators have the potential to play a very important role in educating students to become college and career ready. However, do dance educators currently use improvisation as a creative arts experience and tool in dance education? Do they even perceive improvisation as being important? Do they believe it is beneficial?

According to Ogott, Indoshi, and Okwara, (2011), attitude is defined as being, “a mental predisposition towards people, objects, events, situations or ideas,” that could be either positive or negative based upon personal beliefs (p. 1). Ideas and feelings are the mechanism for obtaining positive values or responding negatively with prejudices.



Much literature exists on teaching and learning dance improvisation (Biasutti, 2013), while a limited number of studies exist on teachers’ attitudes and beliefs (Biasutti, 2013; Koutsoupidou, 2005; Oreck, 2004; Pajares, 1992). Biasutti (2013) recently

investigated dance educators’ views and practices of dance improvisation qualitatively. However, no one has investigated dance educators’ attitudes towards dance improvisation quantitatively (Biasutti, 2013).


This present study fills this absence by implementing both a quantitative and qualitative analysis of dance educators’ attitudes and beliefs while also examining the uses of dance improvisation in dance education. Its primary purpose is to develop and test an instrument that investigates K-12 California dance educators’ attitudes towards, while simultaneously examining their uses of, dance improvisation.


Based on the review of literature (Chapter 2), several hypotheses for this study include:

1. Older dance educators are also more likely to use dance improvisation than younger ones.

2. Dance educators are less likely to use dance improvisation if they believe there is not enough time to use improvisation in their lessons.

3. Since dance technique is seen as a priority (Leijen, Wildschut, Admiraal, & Simons, 2006) in secondary dance education, Elementary dance educators are more likely to use dance improvisation than secondary dance educators.


4. Dance educators who feel they do not have enough training in dance improvisation are less likely to use it.

Koutsoupidou’s (2005) study on music improvisation concentrates on questions that demonstrate and confirm the uses of improvisation in primary education. Some questions from that study were modified to address the current study:

1. What is the frequency of using dance improvisation in elementary and secondary education?

2. Why and how do dance educators use or not use improvisation?

3. Do personal factors (age, professional qualifications, teaching experience, or educational background) and different kinds of improvisation that dance educators use, play a role in a teacher’s use of improvisation? (Kinds of

improvisation include structured improvisation, free form, contact improvisation, group dance improvisation, and improvisational/exploratory activities based on elements of movement, i.e., space, time, etc.).

4. What are the dance educators’ attitudes towards California State Standards in Dance?

Some additional questions were also included:

1. What are the dance educators’ attitudes towards particular advantages and disadvantages of dance improvisation?

2. What are dance educators’ attitudes towards dance technique in comparison to dance improvisation?

3. Do dance educators with an elementary or secondary non-arts classroom teaching background, henceforth referred to as “teachers who were classroom teachers”,



differ in attitude towards dance improvisation compared to those with no teaching experience in a non-arts classroom, henceforth referred to as “those who had never been classroom teachers”?


The benefits of this study include:

1. Providing quantitative data on current attitudes and beliefs of a representative group of Los Angeles dance educators.

2. Revealing areas for potential improvement in instruction within the K-12 dance class.

3. Revealing areas of need in the preparation of professional development for K-12 dance educators.



The following relates to the current study and will review subject matter

concerning teachers’ views on improvisation, reasons why improvisation is used, values versus practice, reasons why improvisation is not used, and methodological processes.

Teacher’s Views on Improvisation Music Teacher’s Perception on Improvisation

Koutsoupidou’s (2005) study examines sixty-seven music teachers’ perceptions and practices of teaching music improvisation in primary education. The study’s intention is to discover attitudes towards, and reasons for, using or not using improvisation in “primary classrooms” (p. 363). Personal factors that might influence views and practices of teaching music improvisation -- teacher’s age, music and teaching qualifications, the amount of teaching experience, and educational background -- are addressed. The ways in which different types of music improvisation are used and how that correlates to music teachers’ qualifications, as well as whether improvisation has any benefit for their

teaching, is also researched. The study specifically investigates the frequency of use, subjects’ personal information, school and classroom conditions, which are, “available time, children’s age, group size” (p. 366), and attitudes towards the National Curriculum in England.

The five assumptions and several questions in Koutsoupidou’s (2005) study are arranged into a questionnaire which is used through a pilot study process (test, re-test) and tested with five music teachers. The final questionnaire consists of two parts: a section addressing personal information and a section addressing attitudes towards


teaching music improvisation. The questionnaire is given to sixty-seven participants, both generalists and specialists, in various locations of England. After statistical analysis, the results reveal that many music teachers have a positive view towards improvisation as well as other intriguing information, which will be described in detail later in this chapter.

Dance Teachers’ Perception on Improvisation

Biasutti’s recent (2013) study is both similar to and different from

Koutsoupidou’s (2005) study. For instance, Biasutti’s (2013) study also focuses on views, experiences, and attitudes towards improvisation, but the subjects are eleven dance

teachers instead of music teachers. Koutsoupidou’s (2005) study combines both quantitative and qualitative research techniques with a questionnaire while Biasutti’s (2013) research is completely qualitative with the participants having gone through an interview process.

The results of Biasutti’s (2013) study show several common themes emerging from the dance teachers’ descriptions. For instance, dance improvisation is defined as expressing both “emotions and body feelings” (p.7). Other themes describe processes relating to the body, space, time, and relationships, as well as to cognitive development. Motor skills, awareness, perceptual/cognitive, non-verbal communication and emotional portrayal are also included as themes that describe improvisation. In addition, the dance teachers describe how they put improvisation into practice by using specific techniques, such as acting as a facilitator, and they report the advantages and disadvantages of using improvisation.

Biasutti (2013) summarizes how “dance teachers demonstrate a generally

favorable mental attitude in the use of meta-cognitive strategies, sharing a goal-oriented


approach to dance improvisation teaching” (p. 18). Note that this conclusion is, again, based on only eleven dance teachers. Regardless, these dance teachers do share common ideas which describe dance improvisation. They also describe methods for teaching it, their awareness of its potentials, and express a favorable attitude towards improvisation overall.

Attitudes: Reasons to Use Improvisation

Research shows that dance teachers believe that improvisation has positive

benefits and outcomes (Biasutti, 2013; Schwartz, 2000), which implies a positive attitude. According to Oreck’s (2004) coded themes, teachers can possess an attitude towards arts instruction in the classroom for different reasons. Whether or not the teacher has a positive attitude towards a particular kind of instruction, reasons for teaching it may issues concerning the student, pedagogy, or relating to the teacher him/herself.

Teachers Value Improvisation for Their Students

Biasutti’s (2013) study reveals that dance teachers use improvisation because they view it as having several advantages for their students. According to Biasutti,

“improvisation could be used in many contexts and with different participants’

characteristics and ages,” and, “facilitates participants to feel free to react and to express themselves without any pressure or feelings of being judged” (p. 16). Another advantage is that improvisation is adaptable to the “unknown” – other variables – such as

environment, people, and situations.

Improvisation is additionally seen as a way to explore movement (Biasutti, 2013; Gilbert, 2000; Lavender, 2006), invent movement (Carter, 2000; Lavender, 2006; Swartz, 2000), use creativity (Biasutti, 2013), and develop performance skills. This latter idea is


believed by 71% of the music teachers in Koutsoupidou’s (2005) study. Additionally, 75% of the music teachers from that study believe that improvisation “promotes children’s participation in the lesson” (p. 372). This implies that improvisation is beneficial for both the learner and the educator by improving classroom control.

Teachers Value Improvisation as Part of Their Pedagogical Practice

In Koutsoupidou’s (2005) study, 8% of the music teachers claim to teach improvisation as, “part of a specific method they use (Dalcroze, Kodaly, Orff, etc.)” (p. 369). Some teachers use improvisation as a result of their training. In fact, 26% of the music teachers in Koutsoupidou’s study use improvisation because of “the way they were musically trained in terms of experiencing improvisation or not” (p.369).

Improvisation may also be taught simply because it is a curriculum requirement. In Koutsoupidou’s (2005) study, “half of the teachers report that being ‘obligatory in the National Curriculum’ is an important or very important reason (rating 8-10) for using improvisation” (p. 369). However, only about one fourth –24%– actually “follow its suggestions [national standards] very often” (p. 372). So, although the National Curriculum represents a significant reason for teachers to use improvisation, there are many more teachers who do not follow curriculum design. Koutsoupidou (2005) suggests that, “Curriculum designers should perhaps consider the reasons why teachers do not follow the curriculum” (p. 374). Coincidentally, Oreck’s (2004) study on classroom teachers’ attitudes towards teaching arts in the classroom, presents a comparable finding. Oreck reports that, “The existence of national, state, or local standards in the arts was not mentioned as a rationale for arts use” (p. 63).


Teachers Value Improvisation for Themselves

Teachers may use certain arts instruction as a self-motivational tool. In Oreck’s (2004) study, the results reveal that the classroom teachers “were motivated to use the arts by a desire to increase their enjoyment in teaching (n= 25), and to enhance their own creativity (n= 18)” (p. 63). In the same way, a dance teacher may decide to teach

improvisation to enjoy becoming more creative as a choreographer. Using an art form as a motivational tool may relate to a teacher’s personal goals and satisfaction with teaching.

The classroom teachers in Oreck’s (2004) study are motivated by their personal values towards the arts. Similarly, in Koutsoupidou’s (2005) study, “The high percentage of teachers who use improvisation on their own initiative (76%) implies that they

understand the value of improvisation” (p. 373). Therefore, teachers’ personal values may be the inspiration for teaching certain subject matter.

Value Versus Practice

Even if a teacher highly values improvisation it still may not be implemented. In Koutsoupidou’s (2005) study, for instance, many music teachers are shown to value improvisation, but not all teachers use it. As in Oreck’s (2004) study, many classroom teachers value the significance of the arts, but many rarely use it in their teaching. Oreck even states that, “It should be noted that these teachers say art is important, not

necessarily that they should be the ones teaching it” (p. 59). In short, just because teachers value certain teaching content does not mean that they feel the need to teach it.


Attitudes: Reasons Not to Use Improvisation Lack of Value

In Koutsoupidou’s (2005) study, 8% of the music teachers, “…argue that

improvisation has no benefits for their teaching” (p. 370). Although it is a relatively small percentage, this opinion represents a particular attitude that exists towards teaching improvisation. Teachers may also have low regard for improvisation because it is their perception that their students are unwilling to improvise. In Koutsoupidou’s study, 12% of the music teachers declare that their students “are reluctant to improvise during the lesson” (p. 372). Although not large, this percentage could still be a significant source of negativity towards improvisation which could also be passed onto the student.

An instructor who lacks a particular interest in content may negatively influence those they are teaching (Ogott et al., 2011). For instance, if a dance instructor is teaching potential dance teachers and speaks negatively about improvisation, the student dance teachers may be inclined to have the same negative perspective. “The manner in which improvisation is taught affects how students ultimately perceive it” (Schwartz, 2000, p. 45). As an example, if the improvisational activity is not clearly explained or presented well, the learner, who may be a potential teacher, may come away with a negative impression of improvisation.

Teaching traditions may also negatively influence the likelihood of using dance improvisation. Fortin and Siedentop (1995) state that, “Critics agree that dance teaching relies heavily on tradition” (p. 5). This suggests that teachers may rely on the same method of teaching in which they were trained. According to Koutsoupidou (2005), it can be inferred that an instructor’s teaching practices are more likely to be based upon a


particular method that they have previously experienced. Therefore, if an instructor has had little or no experience with improvisation it is less likely that it will be included in his or her instruction. So, dance teachers may not teach select practices of dance (such as improvisation) because they may perceive it as being untraditional or unessential to teaching dance.

There are aspects of improvisation which are regarded by some as negative. One such “disadvantage” is that improvisation can become repetitive in nature so that it may become bland and not sustain the interest of the dancer and the viewer (Biasutti, 2013; Carter, 2000). In Biasutti’s (2013) study, there is also mention that, “Improvising too much can make one feel empty” (p. 16.), and, “no revision is possible for improvisation since it happens in real time and dancers can react, but they cannot cancel previous actions or movements” (p. 16).

Lack of Control

A dance teacher may feel a lack of control during an improvisational activity. According to Sawyer (2006), in order for improvisation to occur, the teacher has to be willing to give up control which can be both, “stressful,” and, “frightening” (p. 46). That is, a teacher may perceive giving up some control as losing classroom management. In Koutsoupidou’s (2005) study, 62% of the music teachers believe that it is not important to use improvisation because of its effects on classroom discipline. Teachers then may feel that improvisation is too upsetting to work with when there is the perceived tendency to lose control of the class.


Levels of Experience

Two principal reasons for music teachers to not use improvisation are considered by Koutsoupidou (2005). The first is that music teachers may lack personal experience and practice with improvisation. The second reason will be discussed below. In

Koutsoupidou’s study, 77% of the music teachers do not actively practice improvisation themselves which could be why they do not use it in their teaching. If teachers do not practice improvisation themselves, they may not feel experienced enough to teach it.

Koutsoupidou (2005) also claims that teaching experience itself is a factor that influences the use of improvisation. Although in the study “it was initially hypothesized that younger teachers would be more likely to use improvisation than older ones, the youngest age group (ages 18-26) proved, on the contrary, to use the least improvisation” (p. 374). In fact, the older music teachers used improvisation more frequently.

Koutsoupidou believes that as teachers get older, and gain more teaching experience, they feel freer to use more improvisation. Koutsoupidou concludes that:

Older teachers may feel freer to use any activities they want in the classroom, younger teachers usually appear more thoughtful about the requirements of the school and each lesson because they have not yet developed their own teaching strategies and methods. (p. 374)

Thus, increased experience, simply due to greater number of teaching years, and therefore greater age, could also have a positive influence on use of improvisation by teachers.


Lack of Knowledge

Koutsoupidou (2005) presents lack of familiarity as the second reason for not using improvisation. Teachers tend not to teach content if they do not feel familiar enough with it or have not had enough training in it (Koutsoupidou, 2005; Oreck, 2004). In Koutsoupidou’s (2005) study, 69% of the music teachers report lack familiarity with improvisation as the reason they do not use it. A dance teacher may not use it, for example, because they may not know “how to evaluate the product” (Carter, 2000, p. 189).

Training in improvisation may take place at the college or university level or in professional development workshops, and other professional trainings. Koutsoupidou’s (2005) study reveals that the music teachers (in the study) who have teaching

qualifications are more likely to use improvisation as compared to the music teachers with none.

Teaching qualifications included: (i) music teaching qualification (BA Music Education, PGCE Music, MA Music Education, other programmes related to music teaching), or (ii) other teaching qualifications (BA Education, PGCE other than music, MA Education, other programmes related to non-music education). Music qualifications included: (i) music diplomas (music theory, composition, performance, etc.), or (ii) university degrees in music (e.g. BA Music) or other music relevant subjects. (p. 369).

Although, “Teachers who hold a music qualification are more likely to use

movement/dance improvisation, whereas teachers whose higher education included improvisation are more likely to use improvisation in general in their own practice than


those who did not experience improvisation,” neither “effect” reached statistical significance (p. 370).

With respect to professional development, Oreck’s (2004) data shows that classroom teachers who have taken arts workshops within the previous twelve months tend to use more arts instruction compared to those who have not taken arts workshops during that time period. According to Ogott et al. (2011), researchers claim that teachers’ “attitudes are closely related to teachers' knowledge acquisition” (p. 949). It can then be assumed that teachers who go without professional development in specific content may be less likely to acquire attitudes towards teaching that content for lack of well-informed experience.

Lack of Time

Another reason teachers may not use improvisation is because of lack of time. 54% of the music teachers in Koutsoupidou’s (2005) study report that there is not enough available time to use improvisation in their lessons. According to Oreck (2004), several different studies confirm that limited time “can further inhibit teachers’ efforts to use artistic methods in classroom practice” (p. 57). Studies also show that certain concepts may not be taught because teachers feel the need, or feel pressure, to fulfill many requirements (Koutsoupidou, 2005; Oreck, 2004). Koutsoupidou (2005) states that, “By trying to implement lesson plans that conform to all requirements, and given that the music lesson in the primary school takes place only once a week, there is possibly no time left for improvisatory activities” (p. 375). Thus, time limits can be a constraint to teaching certain methods, especially when other content is considered to be more essential.


Methodological Processes Pilot Studies

Two principle quantitative studies referenced in this paper are studies by Koutsoupidou (2005) and Ogott et al. (2011) who demonstrate both similarities and differences in their referenced pilot studies. For example, with regards to the sample size, both pilot studies develop and implement a questionnaire that is initially piloted and then re-piloted using less than thirteen teachers. In the pilot study by Ogott et al. (2011) on language materials, the re-test uses the same number of teachers, but in Koutsoupidou’s (2005) pilot study there is an increase of seven participants in the re-test. While Ogott et al. (2011) states that the teachers involved “in the pilot study were not involved in the final study” (p. 950), Koutsoupidou (2005) does not mention whether the pilot study participants were used in the final study. So, while both studies create a survey and use a pilot-re-pilot method, they differ in their participant enrollment for the re-test and, in Koutsoupidou’s study, possibly re-engage the participants in the final study. It is not known in either study if the samples are randomly selected, specifically selected, or if the participants volunteered on their own.

An additional similarity relates to the test locations. Ogott et al. (2011) states that the pilot study occurs in “6 ECDE [Early Childhood Development and Education] centers” (p. 950) and Koutsoupidou’s (2005) study takes place “in primary schools in the area of south-west London” (p. 367). While both studies are conducted with young children in an educational setting, it is not clear how or why the locations were selected.


Methods in Final Studies

In analyzing the methodology used by Koutsoupidou (2005) and Ogott et al. (2011) in their final studies, the method for a pilot study for the current research can be established. For example, in terms of the instrument, both of the studies use a Likert scale. Koutsoupidou’s (2005) scale ranges from 1 to 10, with 1 being, “not at all important,” and 10 being, “very important” (p. 380). The scale by Ogott et al. (2011) however, ranges from 1 to 5, with 5 representing “strongly agree” and 1 representing, “strongly disagree” (p. 950). Besides using different ranges, distinct terms are used to reference each study’s scale. However, it should be noted that Koutsoupidou’s final section in the questionnaire does use similar terminology to that of Ogott et al. (2011) to indicate the participant’s level of agreement or disagreement with particular statements. For instance, 1 represents “strongly disagree” 5 represents “no opinion” and 10 represents “strongly agree” (Koutsoupidou, p. 381, 2005).

Regarding data collection procedures, the study by Ogott et al. (2011) presents the data collection procedures while there is no mention of data collection procedures in Koutsoupidou’s (2005) study. However, with regard to the data analysis, both studies use statistical analysis to determine frequency, percentages, and mean scores.

While Koutsoupidou (2005) states specific quantitative tests used for data

analysis, such as “A series of two-tailed chi-square tests” and “Some one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) tests” (p. 368), Ogott et al. (2011) does not give any information as to which quantitative tests are used. In terms of qualitative analysis, Ogott et al. mentions that the, “Qualitative data was categorized and reported in emergent themes,” (p. 950) prior to being presented statistically. Koutsoupidou (2005), on the other hand, has just


one open-ended qualitative question in the survey which asks respondents “how [they] use improvisation in the classroom” (p. 381). However, there is no mention of themes being developed based on responses to this question. This overall comparison

demonstrates the presence, or lack, of clearly stated methods and/or processes inthese two studies.


In summary, studies by Biasutti (2013) and Koutsoupidou (2005) examine beliefs, experiences, and attitudes towards improvisation; one relates to dance teachers and the other relates to music teachers. Koutsoupidou distributes a questionnaire to music teachers in London while Biasutti interviews dance teachers in Italy. Other differences between the two studies include the way in which the instrument is used; Koutsoupidou’s is a questionnaire which is almost entirely quantitative, while Biasutti’s is an interview which uses qualitative analysis exclusively. Overall, both studies conclude that both music and dance teachers in Europe have a positive perspective towards improvisation.

There are other studies that discuss why arts curriculum, such as improvisation, is used or not used. Teachers may value teaching arts curriculum because of issues relating to their students, their pedagogy, and themselves (Oreck, 2004). When relating dance improvisation to students, benefits include being able to freely express oneself among different environments, people, and/or situations as well as to explore and create movement (Biasutti, 2013) and be encouraged to participate in a lesson (Koutsoupidou, 2005). Literature shows that all types of students are able to engage in a creative process (Biasutti, 2013; Carter, 2000; Gilbert, 2000; Lavender, 2006). Teachers may use

improvisation if it is part of a pedagogical method that they use or because it is included



in a National Curriculum (Koutsoupidou, 2005). Finally, teachers may use arts

curriculum to increase their enjoyment and self-satisfaction with teaching (Oreck, 2004). However, some teachers may not teach specific practices, such as improvisation, even though they value it (Koutsoupidou, 2005; Oreck, 2004), perhaps because they feel that it lacks any benefit for their students (Koutsoupidou, 2005). Other reasons for not using improvisation are 1) they may have acquired negative perceptions based on how they were taught (Schwartz, 2000), 2) they teach in the same way in which they were taught (Fortin & Siedentop, 1995), and/or 3) they perceive it as having the potential to have a negative effects on both viewer and dancer (Biasutti, 2013; Carter, 2000). Still other reasons for not using improvisation could include loss of classroom control (Koutsoupidou, 2005; Sawyer, 2006), lack of experience with improvisation and/or teaching in general (Koutsoupidou, 2005), a lack of time [actual or perceptual] to teach it (Koutsoupidou, 2005; Oreck, 2004), or a lack of knowing of how to evaluate it (Carter, 2000. This lack of knowledge of improvisation may correlate with not having a teaching qualification (Koutsoupidou, 2005) or lack of professional development (Ogott et al., 2011; Oreck, 2004).

Finally, there are some similarities and differences between Koutsoupidou (2005), and Ogott et al. (2011) studies regarding methodological processes. They both test and re-test a survey that uses a Likert scale on educators that showed positive attitudes towards teaching improvisation and language materials (Koutsoupidou, 2005; Ogott et al., 2011). However, the Likert scales differ in their range and how they present their methods organization and research processes regarding qualitative data. Both studies seemed to leave out certain procedures in the presentation of their methodologies.



Research Design and Material

The purpose of this research was to develop a sound instrument which could gather data about dance teachers’ attitudes towards, and uses of, dance improvisation. To gather data for the current study a questionnaire was piloted (it was tested and then re-tested). Questionnaires are ideally used for educational purposes (Ogott et al., 2011; Thomas, Nelson, & Silverman, 2005) and can be used to verify practices and attitudes (Koutsoupidou, 2005; Ogott et al., 2011; Thomas et al., 2005). Questionnaires can also facilitate the quantitative evaluation of a large sample of participants (Koutsoupidou, 2005). The survey developed for the current study was distributed to and intended to precede distribution to a larger (statewide or even nationwide) participant base.

To determine dance teachers’ personal information, their use of, and attitudes towards, dance improvisation, a questionnaire was created. Since no questionnaire on attitudes towards and use of dance improvisation in K-12 was found, Koutsoupidou’s (2005) survey which analyzed “attitudes and practices towards musical improvisation” (p. 375) was used as a basis for the current study’s survey. Specifically, the questionnaire was adapted from “Musical Improvisation in Primary Schools Questionnaire” (p. 367) and was further developed using input from the researcher’s literature review and the graduate thesis committee. A small (local) sampling of participants (n= 20) was used to determine the validity and efficacy of the questions.



K-12 dance teachers in Los Angeles were asked to participate in the study. After hearing an announcement at a dance educator gathering, seventeen elementary dance teachers gave their e-mails to participate in the study. In addition, eight secondary dance teachers received an e-mail from the researcher asking for their participation in the study. Of these eight teachers, the six teachers who agreed to participate in the study responded to the researcher via e-mail.

The pilot’s aim was to sample a minimum of seven dance teachers from the elementary level and a minimum of five dance teachers from the secondary level. This is similar to Koutsoupidou (2005) and Ogott et al. (2011) studies, which included twelve or fewer participants in their pilot testing. As in Koutsoupidou’s (2005) study, gender, age, and nationality were not critical in participant selection since the focus was to acquire a sample population.

Consenting participants were informed about the study’s investigatory purpose, and were notified that their personal data would not be used and that their identities would be replaced with a numeric code. The participants also received information regarding who would see their data, how the data would be stored, and when it would be discarded. They were further advised that they could withdraw from the study at any time. The participants remained anonymous (via assigned code) for their protection and privacy, and only their coded data and questionnaire responses were used for the present study.


The Data Collection Instrument

The “Dance Improvisation in Dance Education Questionnaire” was constructed to gather data from the dance teachers concerning their attitudes towards, and uses of, dance improvisation in their instruction. As in Koutsoupidou’s (2005), study, the present

questionnaire was divided into two sections: (A) personal information and, (B) beliefs and attitudes towards using improvisation in dance instruction. Several questions were adapted from Koutsoupidou’s study. The researcher’s assumptions and additional questions (mentioned in the introduction) were also used to shape the survey.

Personal Information

The first section of the survey addressed the dance teachers’ age, gender, education, professional dance background, teaching credentials, and number of years teaching dance. There were also questions pertaining to the dance teachers’ job, training, and experiences with dance improvisation, instructional practice, and professional development.

Beliefs and Attitudes Towards Using Dance Improvisation in Instruction

In the second section, participants were asked how important he/she considered statements to be that pertained to the following: use of improvisation in their instruction, reasons he/she did ordid not use dance improvisation in instruction, and their familiarity with, and application of, the California State Standards in Dance. Final questions

addressed the level of agreement the participant felt towards particular statements which were modified from Koutsoupidou’s (2005) study, and encompassed information from the literature review.


Likert Scale

A Likert scale was utilized to investigate attitudes and beliefs as in prior studies (Koutsoupidou, 2005; Ogott et al., 2011). According to Grim (1936), the Likert scale is known to provide sound evidence by measuring “the expression of opinions” (p. 104), or rather attitudes, on a scale of beliefs. The scale is traditionally ranged 1 to 5 (Grim, 1936; Lavrakas, 2008; Ogott et al., 2011) with the high score determining a favorable attitude (Ogott et al., 2011). However, some prefer an even number of choices over an odd number to force the participant to express a positive or negative attitude (Lavrakas, 2008). Thus, the following scale was used for this study: 1) strongly agree, 2) agree, 3) somewhat agree, 4) somewhat disagree, 5) disagree, and 6) strongly disagree.

Pilot Study

The questionnaire was examined by members of the graduate thesis committee prior to and during the colloquium. The aimwas to distribute and administer the survey, wait a period of time, and then re-administer the same survey to confirm the validity and reliability of the instrument, following the example of prior studies (Koutsoupidou, 2005; Ogott et al., 2011). Since Chisholm, De Dombal, and Giles (1985) and Ogott et al. (2011) administered questionnaires being tested and then re-tested after a two week interval, it seemed reasonable to do the same. According to Ogott et al. (2011), re-testing will “guard against the response set, distortion of data and subjectivity of responses” and it assures that the statements are clearly understood by the teachers (p. 950). The same test, retest scenario will be used in preparation for future studies that will incorporate larger samples in a wider geographical area, i.e., statewide or nationwide.


Data Collection Procedure

The protocol submission process for this research was first completed and approved by the California State University Northridge (CSUN) Human Subjects

Committee. Next, an oral presentation about the study was given by the researcher at her colloquium to the graduate research committee.

An e-mail was later sent out to dance teachers reminding them to participate in the study and to further inform them of the data collection process. The researcher later met with many of the elementary dance teachers in person to have them sign the Human Subject’s Adult Consent Form prior to being engaged in the research. The six secondary participants were e-mailed the release form. The researcher met with secondary teachers in person to collect the release. All release forms were received prior to sending the questionnaire.

At the beginning of the following week, the researcher sent out the “Dance Improvisation in Dance Education Questionnaire” through Survey Monkey, a data collection website which was suggested by the researcher’s committee during the colloquium. The participants were given an entire week to complete the questionnaire.

A few days into the first test completion week, the researcher was informed that the Survey Monkey e-mail, with the questionnaire’s web link, may not have gone to teachers’ e-mail inbox, but rather to their spam folders. In addition, one teacher made an error which seems to have blocked participation in the survey. Due to these unexpected issues, the researcher had to send out additional e-mails throughout the first test

completion week to resolve these matters. Additionally, reminder e-mails were sent out three days prior to the last day, and on the last day, of the survey completion week, to1)


prompt non-respondents to fill out the questionnaire and 2) remind all participants of the coming re-test.

The second test questionnaire was sent out exactly two weeks after the first. An e-mail was sent three days prior to sending out the questionnaire to remind participants. During the second test completion week, a few dance teachers informed the researcher that they were not able to finish the questionnaire due to loss of internet connection or Survey Monkey not allowing them to finish the survey. As in the first test completion week, the researcher tried to resolve these issues and sent a reminder e-mail three days prior to the last day, and on the last day, of the second test completion week.

After the completion week was over for the second questionnaire, an additional week was given to all the participants since one of the questions was not included in the second questionnaire. Participants were also given the option to give feedback on their experience taking the surveys and to help the researcher improve the questionnaire.

Data Analysis Procedures

After both survey test weeks were over and data had been fully collected, the data had to undergo several actions in order to comply with the SPSS data analysis computer software. The reason for this was that the data, which was downloaded from Survey Monkey, was not formatted for use with SPSS (but rather for Microsoft® Excel™). After the issue was understood by the committee chair, the un-coded data could be coded for analysis. The analyzed data provided descriptive statistics revealing the frequencies, means, and percentages of each variable for both the first and second surveys.

Data that was qualitative in nature was also represented quantitatively in a table presenting the data in frequencies, percentages, valid percentages, and cumulative



percentages. The qualitative data was further coded according to Wendy E.A. Ruona’s (2005) method in “Research in Organizations: Foundations and Methods in Inquiry” (p. 233). The method required that the data go through a three stage process, described below, to sort information and collect emerging themes.

The first stage of Ruona’s (2005) process involved preparing tables with at least six columns (using Microsoft® Word™) to organize the data. These columns included the following: the code, participant identification number, the number of the question, a statement that stood out (Line), the data itself, and personal notes that gave hunches, insights, merges, or links (p. 235). The second stage entailed entering the data into the columns to familiarize oneself with the data and identify, “meanings,” and, “themes” (p. 236) to make memos. Finally, the third stage focused on discovering trends in the data, sorting into categories/themes, and labeling each category with a code number (Ruona, 2005, p. 255). Although Ruona’s method suggests using coded numbers, the researcher used terms instead for more clarity, as did Biasutti (2013).

The final procedure for data analysis consisted of alternating between the

categorized qualitative data and the quantitative data. This method was used to combine, compare and contrast, and evaluate responses from the two types of data.

The proportion method was used as well to solve percentage issues relating to some of the data. For instance, the researcher combined both tests and used the proportion method to solve issues relating to the beliefs and attitude statements.



Originally, there were twenty- three dance teachers who showed interest in participating in the study and who gave their consent by signing a release form. Out of those twenty-three dance teachers, twenty took the first questionnaire, and nineteen of the original twenty, took the second questionnaire.

Of the twenty dance teachers who participated, fourteen were elementary teachers and six were secondary teachers. Of these six, more specifically, one teacher was a middle school dance teacher and five were high school dance teachers. The dance

teachers’ gender consisted of three males and seventeen females, with ages ranging from twenty-two to sixty-nine years old.

As mentioned previously, there were some complications with the Survey Monkey web site which affected some dance teachers’ completion of some survey questions (Appendix A). Even so, some dance teachers reported at the end of the second survey their thoughts and experiences. Specific categories and subcategories are reported in Table 1.

Regarding the Instrument Validity of Instrument

Some of the questions did not gather specific enough information. Examples of this would be age, length of years teaching dance as a teacher, or how often

improvisation was used in lessons. Additionally, the question which asked if the participant felt comfortable using improvisation in their dance technique was

misunderstood by at least two dance teachers. Two such responses were, ‘‘I feel more


comfortable using the word: guided improvisation”, and, “is the question supposed to read "dance teaching"?” These comments underline the fact that the reader either wants the inquiry to be read differently and/or is unclear about what is being asked.

Table 1.

Categories and subcategories of the theme “survey reflection”.

Theme Categories Subcategories

Survey reflection Easy mostly easy to complete

Important this area of investigation is an important one Enjoyed I enjoyed being a part of this survey

I enjoyed it. That's all I've got.

Survey covers

many aspects

presents many interesting facets of teaching improvisation as to when and why and how to use as well as how much to use it in any given situation.

Curious about


makes me more curious about improvisation

How to improve survey

I feel the question if "I use Improvisation in my teaching" could be more differentiated by Grade levels and students' prior knowledge. I think it is important to take into consideration the grade level and experience as well as willingness of the students to improvise. There was a check box left out for other types of masters degrees- as dance educators often have diverse backgrounds 

Some questions were challenging to analyze since they combined two possible ideas into one, such as, “training” and “experience”, or, “the process of improvisation” and “the performance of improvisation”. It was also evident that a couple of open-ended questions unintentionally prompted answers for most individuals. A few questions that


either allowed for open-ended responses with the multiple-choice, or allowed the

respondent to choose, “not sure,” became difficult to analyze. One question was modified for the second survey since it did not include the term “improvisation,” after the word “dance.” Lastly, there were eleven yes-no questions to which almost all of the

participants responded the same; responses lacked differentiation. The complete list of these questions, with their main responses, is reported in Table 2.

Table 2.

Questions that resulted with primarily the same response.

Question Frequent Response

Are you fully credentialed to teach dance K-12 in your state? Yes

Are you a full-time dance educator? Yes

Have you ever seen quality examples of someone teaching dance education? Yes

Do you feel very familiar with dance improvisation? Yes

Based on the style(s) of dance which you teach, is improvisation in your dance vocabulary?


Do you use dance improvisation in your lessons? Yes

Do feel comfortable using improvisation in your dance technique? Yes

Has anyone ever told you anything negative about dance improvisation? No If given the opportunity, would you participate in professional development in dance improvisation?


Are you afraid to teach improvisation as a technique not knowing the end result? No Are you afraid to teach improvisation as a technique not knowing the time it takes? No

Reliability of the Instrument

The consistency of the survey answers, that is, the reliability of the questions, was high. The question with the most varied responses related to the information on the dance


teachers’ educational background. In fact, thirteen out of nineteen dance teachers (68%) modified their responses from first test to second test on this question. In this please-mark-all-that-apply question, most forgot to include a category in the second survey that had been included in the first. For example, on the first survey they marked that they had a dance credential while on the second survey the selection was left blank. Otherwise, the participant added a category on the second survey which was not there on the first, or the participants completely changed or partially changed their response on the second survey.

Other Observations

Some dance teachers did not respond to some of the questions or statements on the first survey, the second survey, or both. In addition, more participants skipped some questions over others, and although three participants did not complete the second survey, more questions were not answered on the first survey. The complete list, of questions which were skipped, is reported in Table 3.

Some of the inquiries were found to have no bearing on the research. Such inquiries related to gender, whether one was a professional dancer prior to being an educator, or whether they were fully credentialed to teach dance K-12 in their state. Other irrelevant inquiries related to being a full-time dance educator, the number of classes taught per day or week, the number of students in a class, and lastly, whether the term improvisation was used in their vocabulary. Some questions, as it turns out, could have been used to confirm whether the dance teacher was a full-time educator, or if they taught dance improvisation.


Table 3.

Participants who avoided questions.

Participant # Q # of Survey 1 ID # Q # of Survey 2

8, 11, 18 CM /32 6, 7, 8, 17, 18 CM /32 8, 9, 16 BD /20 9, 17 BD /20 21, 23 CI/28 23 CI /28 10 CT/39 10 CT /39 10 CW/32 10 CW/ 32 10 CX/ 33 10 CX /33

10 CY/ 34 16 (participant stopped

taking the survey here)

CY /34

23 (participant stopped

taking the survey here)

CK/ 30

17 (participant stopped

taking the survey here)

CQ /36 6 CG/26 10 CU/ 30 10 CV/ 31 10 DG/ 52 4 DE/50 4 DK/56 9 CJ /29 12 AV/13 14 U /7 23 CH/ 27 33


The Amount of Improvisation Used Among Dance Teachers

All but one dance teacher (95%) claimed, in the quantitative responses, to use dance improvisation in their lessons. However, the qualitative data gave more specific information relating to the frequency of use of improvisation in lessons being taught. Out of those who claimed to use improvisation in the quantitative questions, three of the dance teachers, through qualitative responses, confirmed using it regularly in their

lessons, six used it sometimes, and two have not been using it. The complete list, of those who use improvisation based on frequency, is reported in Table 4.

Table 4.

Statements that confirm uses and frequency of improvisation in instruction.

Uses/Frequency Background ID # Age Response

Uses Classroom teacher

1 50-59 I use Improvisation as a tool for my students

4 30-39 I use it because students need the opportunity 5 30-39 I use improvisation in teaching

8 50-59 Students I teach are always eager to improvise, they participate fully

10 60-69 I use improvisation as an instructional tool 12 30-39 enhances the creativity of dance lessons

23 40-49 Improv is a great tool for allowing the students to freely explore space, time, energy/force.

Regularly 7 50-59 I use improvisation for students to explore their

creativity in the middle of my lesson. Classroom


14 30-39 My students improvise all the time I use it as often as I can in my instruction

17 50-59 Improvisation is fully integrated into every lesson


Table 4. continued

Statements that confirm uses and frequency of improvisation in instruction.

Uses/Frequency Background ID # Age Response

Sometimes Classroom teacher

6 40-49 Sometimes if we are choreographing I allow for structured improvisation opportunities.

Classroom teacher

13 40-49 I try to use improvisation often, but many time constraints, student extreme misbehavior limit my ability to do it regularly.

Classroom teacher

16 40-49 I use it as a tool to get students to take risks, but sparingly

Classroom teacher

18 30-39 this year I am mostly teaching beginning so we have only introduced it at the end of the year.

19 50-59 I don't use it that often

I choose to use dance improvisation sparingly because my students don't always respond well to improvisation 20 20-29 I use it as needed and when it seems appropriate.

Do not use 21 30-39 I have not used it.

I don't really use it as I would like to. Classroom


22 40-49 I don't have time to include it (case in point, I did not get to improv this year).

Uncertain Classroom


9 60-69 Survey 1- Need more training and lesson examples for K-6

Survey 2- to encourage students' creativity and freedom to express while moving

11 60-69 I use improvisation to get ideas to choreograph it unlocks the key to creativity


The Amount of Improvisation Used Within a Dance Lesson

When comparing age to the percentage of improvisation used within a lesson, it appears that participants in their 30’s claimed to use most of their lesson time to teach dance improvisation. Between ages 40-69 there is a progressive increase between 0-30% of improvisation used in a lesson, and one respondent even claimed a possible 50% on the first survey. The complete list, of the amount of improvisation used within a lesson, is reported in Table 5.

Table 5.

The amount of improvisation used within a lesson.

ID # Age Survey 1 % used Survey 2 % used Want training ID # Age Survey 1 % used Survey 2 % used Want training 19 50-59 0-10% 0-10% Yes 18 30-39 21-30% 21-30% Yes 22 40-49 0-10% 0-10% No 1 50-59 21-30% 21-30% Yes 13 40-49 11-20% 0-10% Yes 7 50-59 21-30% 21-30% Yes 23 40-49 11-20% 0-10% Yes 10 60-69 21-30% 21-30% No 16 40-49 0-10% 11-20% No 9 60-69 21-30% 31-40% Yes 11 60-69 41-50% 21-30% No 20 22-29 21-30% 11-20% Yes 8 50-59 11-20% 21-30% No 12 30-39 51-60% 31-40% No 17 50-59 11-20% 31-40% No 14 30-39 41-50% 41-50% Yes 4 30-39 51-60% 61-70% No 5 30-39 71-80% 71-80% Yes

Amount of Improvisational Styles Used

Although the dance teachers may have experienced different kinds of dance improvisation, they may not be incorporating certain kinds of improvisation in their


teaching. The complete list of the kinds of improvisation experienced is reported in Tables 6, and the complete list of the kinds of improvisation used is reported in Table 7. Table 6.

The kinds of improvisation experienced. Kinds of dance improvisation experienced Responses out of total # of teachers-Survey 1 # of teachers who answered to Survey 2 + Proportion Method Percentage Improvisational/ Exploratory 19/20 18/19 37/39 95% Structured 18/20 17/19 35/39 90% Group dance 17/20 16/19 33/39 85% Free form 18/20 15/19 33/39 85% Contact 14/20 12/19 26/39 67% Table 7.

The kinds of improvisation used. Kinds of dance improvisation used # of teachers who answered to Survey 1 # of teachers who answered to Survey 2 + Proportion Method Percentage Improvisational/ Exploratory 18/20 18/19 36/39 92% Structured 18/20 17 /19 35/39 90% Group dance 13/20 15/19 28/39 72% Free form 12/20 8/19 20/39 51% Contact 4/20 7/19 11/39 28% 37


Personal Factors

Teaching experience could appear to play a role in using dance improvisation. The dance teachers expressed agreement that they “use improvisation because of [their] own training and/or experience in improvisation” ( = 4.81). Since there are two

independent issues being addressed in the prior statement (training and experience), these results may not be reliable. One teacher remarked, “I don't use it that often because I don't feel I have the experience.” This statement clearly points out that improvisation is not used due to feelingsof inexperience. However, it cannot be determined if this dance teacheris relating to teaching experience or personal experience with dance


Educational background could also play a role in using or, not using, dance improvisation. The majority of dance teachers who use improvisation were trained in improvisation in secondary school. In addition, the majority of them, and those who use it regularly, were also trained in professional workshops/training. The complete list of those who received training in improvisation in their education is reported in Table 8.

External Factor

The external factor of whether one teaches in primary or secondary education also appeared to influence the use of improvisation in instruction. The fourteen participants with identification numbers (#ID) 1 through 17 all happen to be elementary dance teachers. Those with identification numbers 18 through 23 are all secondary dance teachers. Out of the six secondary dance teachers, three (50%) use improvisation minimally and two (33.33%) have not used it at all. Thus, the majority of secondary dance teachers use improvisation either sometimes or not at all, and one secondary



teacher claims to use it. The majority of elementary dance teachers claim to use improvisation (n= 6), with some using improvisation perhaps regularly (n= 3), or sometimes (n=3), and two are unknown.

Table 8.

Those who received training in improvisation in education.

Uses/Frequency ID # Educational background

Uses 1 Undergraduate school 4 Post-graduate school Professional workshops/training 5 Secondary School Undergraduate school Professional workshops/training 8 Secondary School Undergraduate school Professional workshops/training 10 Secondary School Undergraduate school Professional workshops/training 12 Secondary School Undergraduate school Professional workshops/training 23 Undergraduate school Regularly 7 No training 14 Secondary School Post-graduate school Professional workshops/training


Table 8. continued

Those who received training on improvisation in education.

Uses/Frequency ID # Educational background

Regularly 17 Undergraduate school Professional workshops/training Sometimes 6 Undergraduate school Graduate school Professional workshops/training 13 Professional workshops/training 16 Undergraduate school 18 Undergraduate school Graduate school 19 No training 20 Secondary School Undergraduate school

Do not use 22 Undergraduate

school Professional workshops/training Unsure 9 No training 11 Graduate school

Reasons Dance Teachers Use Improvisation Value its Importance

Several respondents described dance improvisation as being an important concept:“Dance improvisation is an important factor in dance”; “I find it is meaningful for my students”; “Also important - is to see it's value in dance”; “I believe improv is an


important part of a dancers life”. These statements show that improvisation is believed to be an important concept. The dance teachers also happened to disagree that, “dance improvisation [does not have] any benefits for [their] teaching” ( = 1.28).

For Their Students’ Benefit

The dance teachers agreed that “improvisation is a valuable teaching tool for students of all ages” ( = 5.04) and that it “increases student creativity” ( =4.865). They also somewhat agreed that “dance improvisation promotes student participation in the lesson” ( = 4.295) and “promotes the development of technical skills” ( = 4.19). Some responses also described students’ perception of dance improvisation: “Students

comment that they like making up their own dances”; “they participate fully and look forward to it”; “students feel inspired by the movement discoveries through

improvisation”. These comments reveal that it is believed that students enjoy, and want to improvise, and are encouraged by their own discoveries. Other benefits from

improvisation were also described by the dance teachers. Specific categories and subcategories are reported in Table 9.

Table 9.

Categories and subcategories of the theme “benefits”.

Theme Categories Subcategories

Benefits Cognitive Skills

learn from each other by sharing ideas get inspiration by seeing others improvise

helps the students be the thinkers and do some of their own learning problem solving skills

enhance my students' problem skills

given choices in movement rather than me just teaching only steps utilize skills that have been learned




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