Collaborative Data Collection in Step It Up: A Journey of Insights

Published: 5 March 2024 
Author: Linzi McLagan 
Woman with blonde hair leads dance-based learning session with primary school pupils as part of Step It Up, supported by the Teacher Development Fund.
Step It Up. Photo credit: Paul Watt

Collaborative evaluation approaches were key to the success of the YDance programme, Step It Up. Linzi McLagan, Head of Education for YDance, discusses the importance of their collaboration with the Robert Owen Centre (ROC) at the University of Glasgow and shares some of the approaches used within their programme. 

What is Step It Up?

Step It Up, which ran from 2021 to 2023, is a YDance (Scottish Youth Dance) initiative which aimed to support teachers to integrate cross-curricular dance into Scottish primary schools, fostering interdisciplinary approaches, and enhancing pupil attainment. Through Step It Up, YDance strived to empower 18 primary teachers with the skills and knowledge to deliver engaging dance-based lessons to enhance the delivery of Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence. The project’s blended approach incorporated practical sessions, online discussions, and resource sharing to accommodate teachers’ schedules and foster continuous learning.

Teachers as co-researchers

Step It Up’s success was captured through our collaboration with the Robert Owen Centre (ROC) at the University of Glasgow, which played a pivotal role in collecting and interpreting qualitative data from both teachers and dance artists. Although we commissioned an external partner to lead the evaluation, we were keen to ensure we were actively involved in the evaluation process throughout the two years. This proved to be a really important element of the evaluation because it allowed YDance to support teachers to be active co-researchers and ensured partners could respond to the findings live during the project. Through a variety of methods, including surveys, interviews, reflective journals and case studies, we captured insights into participants’ experiences and learning journeys alongside diverse perspectives on the project’s outcomes and effectiveness. This collaborative approach enabled us to meet the evolving needs of teachers and schools.

Embedding reflective practice

Throughout the project, we ensured that continuous feedback and reflection were cultivated, enabling project adjustments and refinements to the data collection process. We scheduled regular debriefing sessions between YDance and ROC which facilitated ongoing dialogue and knowledge exchange, ensuring that the project was on track and that any issues were resolved. The meetings were significant as they allowed us to share our insights when we encountered unexpected changes which we could then act upon promptly. This iterative approach allowed us to work flexibly and navigate the complexities of teacher development. As a result, we were able to respond effectively to the project’s evolving needs and challenges that oftentimes arise within a primary school. By partnering with ROC, teachers were able to confidently share their experiences which allowed anonymity. The online reflection sessions, involving teachers and dance artists, in preparation for the ROC interviews and surveys, removed a hierarchy, which encouraged a culture of continuous improvement and unlearning from all involved.

Overall, we found that our experience of a collaborative data collection process through Step It Up demonstrated a successful example of a cross-sectoral partnership in educational research. By empowering teachers as co-researchers, we motivated them to be proactive in their professional development. The process also allowed us to curate accurate insights into the impacts of interdisciplinary dance pedagogy on teacher development and pupil attainment.

Through the lens of Step It Up, we acknowledge the importance of collaboration, flexibility, and continuous improvement in driving meaningful change in education. We valued the partnership with ROC and the teachers to collaboratively capture data and evaluate the authentic experiences and learning journeys of the Step It Up participants.

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Head of Education for YDance