Parent-child Engagement Through Dance

Posted on 10/18/12

Research on Engagement completed

Outcome: Luna has been engaged in an action research on parent-child engagement through dance with researcher, Edward Warburton, PhD, University of California, Santa Cruz. Read about the professional development outcomes from our first year in the case study titled, Improving Teaching Practice Through Action Research.  After two years of extensive data collection, our research paper is complete and submitted for publication.  Overall our findings indicated that families participating in MPACT classes during the period of study (2010-12) demonstrated a notable increase in engagement at ACTIVITY and INTEREST levels.

Process:  This study examined three levels of engagement: the most basic (activity) measured by general excitement and attention; an intermediate level (interest) measured by a specific focus and connection to another; and an advanced level (mimicry) wherein people consciously or unconsciously mimic another’s gestures in conversation, creating the sense of being “on the same page.” Research has shown a high correlation between mimicry and feelings of trust and empathy. The research project was funded with an innovations grant by Alameda County Behavioral Health Services and our timeline can be viewed on their website.  Prior to receiving the grant, we worked for two years with Warburton to craft our research question and methodology.  During the period of funding, we created and tested the instrument, established inter-rater reliability, collected and analyzed data, presented two stages of findings in various professional forums and submitted our paper for publication.

Challenges: Due to the nature of volunteer participation, tracking growth of each family during the entire period was a challenge.  We gathered aggregate data of all participants in the class and also looked more deeply at two families as case studies.  We selected these families because of their commitment to regular attendance, as well as they represented the demographics of the families who typically attended MPACT classes.

Impact: Families do increase their level of engagement with each other, with dance content and with the entire class community over time.  We noticed that there seems to be progression from what we came to call “I, We, Us” engagement over the course of relationship-based dance experience.  Initially, each person needs to find dance for him/herself.  They relate to their family members but it isn’t always through dance, it is in the “inbetween” moments.  In a short while, they have dance in their own bodies and are able to use the curricular dance prompts to relate to family members in new and increasingly engaged ways.  After consistent attendance over time, families begin to engage with the class community from the point of dyad, that is the “we” of parent-child(ren) become part of a culture of dancing families and see themselves as participants, or sometimes leaders, within that space.


The full study will be available online once we receive response from the research publication.