YDance – Step it Up

Published: 13 June 2023 
Author: Linzi McLagan 
A group of children sit in a circle in a school gym during a workshop with an adult dance artist.
Dance Artist working with partner schools. Photo credit: Paul Watt.

Linzi McLagan, Head of Education for YDance discusses their project, Step it Up, a partnership with six primary schools in Scotland which aims to improve engagement, attainment and overcome barriers to learning.

Step It Up (StIU) is a YDance-led TDF project looking at how primary teachers can learn to use dance as an educational tool. It utilises a combination of practical experience, reflection and pedagogy to build the skill set, understanding and motivation of both the teachers and dance artists involved. We designed the project to allow each teacher to collaborate and team teach with one dance artist for an hour, every week, across two academic years to achieve consistency and a strong creative relationship. 

We made a conscious decision not to send in another dance artist (when the designated dance artist was unavailable due to ill health) to avoid disrupting the collaborative learning journey. Instead, after the initial Career-long Professional Learning (CLPL) sessions, we created space and opportunity for teachers to take the lead and build on their experience by delivering the dance lessons to their pupils independently at an earlier stage than planned without the dance artist present. This built their confidence enormously. For a wide variety of unavoidable reasons, teacher attendance has been a challenge over the project. 

We closely monitored teacher and dance artists’ interactions, which helped us to analyse how and when development progress had been made by teachers. Observations were strategically placed throughout, enabling the dance artist and teachers to be observed within their own environment and comfort zones. Our aim was to remove hierarchy and create space for both to be observed and to learn from each other. Informal feedback sessions were implemented by introducing a document that provided guidance and questions of enquiry.​‘Allocation of time’ was a prominent challenge and we tried to find a balance in the hours utilised by the project, which was imperative to successful collaboration. It was also important for us that each teacher developed at their own pace, therefore, personal goals were communicated and forward-planned.

A group of children wearing Y Dance t-shirts look at each other smiling.
Pupils​‘Stepping it Up’. Photo credit: Paul Watt

CLPL comprised in-person training and online reflective sessions which were a blend of synchronous and asynchronous activities. The practical and theoretical CLPL sessions allowed teachers to contextualise and deepen their understanding of the methodology rather than only learn through observation of the StIU sessions. We ensured that there was an element of experiential learning tasks for the teachers as if they were the learners, followed by reflection on the teaching approaches used and how they could be modified and adapted. 

Overall, the timing of the project has been difficult due to the changing landscape for education in Scotland. Communication with senior leadership has had substantial importance in the logistics and overall engagement from school/​teachers to ensure outcomes are met and the project stays on track. Informal discussions helped reduce stress surrounding the data collection and research aspect. Regular visits were important to build rapport, develop a common use of language and keep the focus of the research clear. The StIU team reflected and adopted empathic strategies which also made teachers accountable for their own learning. 

Consequently, we are seeing teachers grow in confidence and express that they view dance as another creative teaching method that can provide more agency to deliver the curriculum. We are excited to be in the final phase of the project and hope that the qualitative data from our interviews will provide informative findings that will help future TDF cohorts and the evolution of teacher training on dance in primary education.

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Head of Education for YDance