Creative movement is an active approach to teaching, using the body to learn numerous topics. It can be defined as an approach in which children use movement to express, form and create a variety of learning content in a range of school subjects. When talking about creative movement as an approach to teaching subjects on the school curriculum, the focus rests firmly on the following two areas: movement, on the one hand, and arts concepts, on the other. When implementing creative movement in the classroom these two areas are inseparable, since this approach encourages the use of movement in the learning process, while understanding that movement is also a means of self-expression and personal growth. Accordingly, this method achieves the objectives of both the movement and arts fields, insofar as it offers cross-curricular integration.
In Slovenian primary schools this method is not practised very often or in many subject areas, and it is not widely known among teachers, because a formal and systematic way of teaching creative movement has not yet been implemented.
The research focus of this doctoral dissertation is the definition and justification of teaching and learning through movement – creative movement as a holistic and experiential way of learning that has a positive effect on all areas of a child's development.
In the theoretical part contemporary teaching methods are presented, along with teaching and learning concepts that highlight complex and dynamic knowledge and support holistic, cooperative learning, while focusing on an active and experiential learning process. The role of physical activity in learning and teaching is presented in terms of embodied cognition – the connection between a person's physical activity and mental processes. By implementing a comparative analysis of modern approaches and concepts of teaching and learning, creative movement is justified as a holistic and experiential teaching method. Additionally, teacher’s self-efficacy and burnout are defined.
In the pilot study, an example of good practice is examined at a school where expressive movement to music is included in class within the framework of convergent pedagogy. A semi-structured interview was conducted with a focus group of teachers, who have been successfully integrating movement into their classes for a number of years. The results helped us to design questionnaires and a creative movement educational programme for teachers.
The main goal of our research was to determine teachers’ ideas and viewpoints on using creative movement in teaching, to explore various ways of including creative movement in class, and to document the student outcomes noted by teachers before and after attending the educational program. A battery of questionnaires was prepared specifically for this research project to research teachers’ viewpoints and beliefs on the role of movement activities in teaching and learning, and on the various methods for cross-curricular integration of creative movement in primary schools, before and after the teachers’ inclusion in the creative movement educational program. These results were compared with the teachers’ perceptions of their self-efficacy and burnout while teaching. The sample included 112 teachers from various regions of Slovenia, who all took part in the creative movement educational program. The program was designed and executed as continuing professional development for education practitioners. To examine the stated hypotheses, both quantitative and qualitative research approaches were employed.
The main results show that the creative movement educational program encouraged teachers’ positive outlook towards teaching with and through movement. After the educational program, the teachers’ attitudes towards using creative movement in classrooms, with or without special needs students, changed in favour of holistic and experiential teaching and learning. The teachers reported the positive effects of this teaching method in the social-emotional and cognitive development of the children in their classes. After completing the program and using creative movement, the teachers noticed a change in their perception of self-efficacy, while their feeling of burnout lessened. The results suggest that using this method benefits the feeling of inclusiveness and the mental wellbeing of teachers and pupils.
In conclusion, the research findings on the role and use of creative movement as a learning approach are relevant in the wider implementation of creative movement in elementary schools as well as for the further education of teachers and student teachers on creative movement. These findings belong to a global trend of researching holistic approaches to education, teaching and learning with and through movement and arts, and contribute to the theory and methods of experiential and holistic learning.