Research Findings: Recommendations for Pedagogy

As Associate Partners, the University of Leeds were involved throughout the project, evaluating the impact of the project on the dancers and pedagogical practice. A presentation of the findings can be found here. Here is a summary of the research findings and recommendations for pedagogy it highlighted.

Key Challenges, Impacts and Benefits

Individual and focus group interviews were conducted with all participants, across all companies, alongside observations of practical training sessions. These identified key challenges that were generally faced by individuals with additional learning support needs (ALSN), and the impacts and benefits of the dance activity. Feedback was extremely positive and many challenges mapped positively onto the benefits.

Psychological Challenges

Experienced negative emotions

Low/negative perceptions of self

Struggled with change

Often overloaded by information which impacted processing time and concentration

Psychological Benefits

Enjoyment of dance/positive and pleasurable experience

Positive/improved perception of self and increased confidence, self-esteem, self-acceptance, pride

Growth mindset – Rising to challenges, changing outlook/rigidity, positive self-talk, goal-setting, readiness to embrace change

Internal processing/navigating of emotion

Meaningful activity/providing a sense of purpose

Social Challenges

Found it difficult to create and form social connections and relationships

Negative attitudes to adults with additional learning support needs

Had experienced poor accessibility to activity and non-inclusive environments

Difficulties with communication and expression

Issues with travel to the dance sessions

Social Benefits

Found it easier to create and form social connections and relationships: relating and interrelating

Experienced positive attitudes to adults with additional learning support needs

Experienced an inclusive and supportive environment where they felt visible

Found that communication skills and ability to be expressive improved

Cultivation opportunities

Health and Physical Challenges

Movement and coordination could be difficult for some individuals

Found conserving energy difficult- tired easily

Found aspects of movement and activity painful

Overeating and Weight Management​ – Found weight management difficult

Health and Physical Benefits

Fostering Physical Improvements

Improving physical activity levels​




Learning new things and skills​

Improved posture and alignment​

Strengthening (core, arms, ankles)



Dynamic shifts/dynamism in movement and qualities  ​

Weight loss, management and muscle tone

Fostering Awareness and Knowledge of the Body​

Providing dancers with a more detailed embodied understanding of, awareness, and connection to, their bodies ​

Discovering and opening physical capabilities/ expanding movement vocabulary

Pedagogical Recommendations

The following areas were identified as being important in terms of good pedagogical practice. The recommendations listed below are suggestions that practitioners may wish to use or refer to as part of their on-going development.

Teaching strategies

Favoured teaching strategies were those that:

* Had potential to develop and grow

* Could be layered, built up, and can build in complexity

* Offered a multiplicity in interpretation, approach, entry points in a singular activity

* Moved away from exercise into dancing i.e. not perfunctory or formulaic, became exploratory

* Can become choreographic, improvisatory, involve partner work etc

* Have a simple idea/starting point

* Exercises that build week on week with subtle shifts in focus/foci to shift dancers orientation/navigation/experience of exercise/concept

* Allow dancers space/time to respond to, connect, and engage with a task on their own terms, and source their own intrinsic motivation to do so.


Across all groups (dancers, tutors and parents) feedback and how it was delivered was considered an important aspect of good pedagogical practice. This included how dancers were spoken to and the importance of variety in terms of how feedback was given.

The following are aspects of good practice that could be considered:

* Giving clear feedback after, not during the activity

* Giving feedback to dancers as equals in the dance process

Giving feedback in a variety of ways

Giving individual (very important) and group feedback

* Engaging the dancers in giving feedback to each other

Health and Physical Aspects

Numerous health and physical benefits were identified as a result of engagement in dance. The following are aspects of good practice that could be considered:

* Ensure that sessions are physically challenging and that there is a progression over time and on an individual basis

* Use appropriate terminology to describe movement

* Use appropriate terminology to describe muscles and joints

* Encourage dancers to challenge themselves physically

* Comment on individuals’ physical improvements

* Talk about the health benefits of exercise and activity

Time spent focusing on ankle strength/conditioning was identified as a key route into improved balance/stability and elevation for dancers.


Treating dancers as individuals and ensuring that each dancer was considered as an individual was important. This included allowing independence, choice, and giving dancers time to practice alone as well as within the group.

The following are aspects of good practice that could be considered:

* Consider how you differentiate within the session so that all dancers have both access and opportunity

* Be patient – allow dancers to explore movement, make mistakes and experiment

* Give clear instructions

* Consider use of voice/non-verbal communication/who demonstrates movements and when

* Allow each dancer to be the star at some point during the session (however this must have integrity)


Treating the dancers with respect and providing practice and structure that mirrored a professional dance group gave the dancers integrity and made them feel valued. The context of where the classes took place (in professional dance studios) boosted confidence and was motivating as they perceived they were valued to the same extent as professional dancers.

The following are aspects of good practice that could be considered:

* Have high expectations of the dancers as you would with a professional dancer

* Talk to the dancers about their professional responsibilities as an individual dancer

* Talk to the dancers about their professional responsibilities as a group

Psychological Aspects

Dancers with ALSN face a range of psychological challenges and involvement in dance clearly brought many benefits and helped the dancers grow in terms of confidence and self-esteem.

The following are aspects of good practice that could be considered:

* Set goals for the dancers but also encourage them to set their own goals

* Involve the dancers in the planning of the session – ask their views on what works and what does not

* Be positive and encourage the dancers to be positive to each other

* Give time for reflection

* Encourage the dancers to be active in the process

* Encourage the dancers to record or verbalise what they have achieved

Social Aspects

The social challenges faced by adults with ALSN are extensive and varied. It is clear that the social benefits that the dancers experienced through engagement in dance were very positive and the importance of this cannot be underestimated. The sense that dance created opportunities, was supportive and inclusive, enhanced social confidence and positive interactions was supported by the dancers, tutors and parents.

The following are aspects of good practice that could be considered:

* Ensure that the sessions are fun or have some aspect where the dancers can relax and laugh together

* Think carefully about how you group dancers – consider how pairings might facilitate social interaction

* Allow and encourage dancers to work together and coach/teach each other

* Plan activities that facilitate social interaction

* Allow dancers to lead

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