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Applying 21st-Century Skills to Teaching Dance

This is an excerpt from Teaching Children Dance-3rd Edition by Theresa Purcell Cone & Stephen Cone.

Applying 21st-Century Skills to Teaching Dance

The best news about the educational buzz surrounding the 21st-century skills is that creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, self-direction, problem solving, and global awareness are taking center stage in education. These skills are inherent to dance education. They form the foundation for content and pedagogy. Future employment and products will rely on the creative capacity of people to think in new ways and create new solutions that improve our lives. Through dance, children have the opportunity to explore diverse ways of moving, find multiple ways to express an idea and feeling, and use their imagination and creative-thinking skills to create a dance. Our current students will create the future in which we will live. Developing their abilities to use critical reflection about what they have learned and created will guide them to see multiple perspectives and be able to discover alternative outcomes. Children who are growing up in the 21st century need to manage the complexity and diversity of everyday living and their careers. They will need to be more fluid, more flexible, more globally aware, and more innovative (Cookson 2009). Each time a teacher asks students to find various ways to make a round shape with their bodies or move across the space using various directions and levels, the students engage in creative thinking to discover solutions to the task. As the students make the shape and move across the space, they evaluate the success of their solutions and increase their knowledge of the ways the body can move to express and communicate a concept. This self-directed moment builds on previous creative experiences and develops the children's understanding that many solutions exist through using the exploration process.

When children dance together, they collectively share in the cognitive process of remembering a movement sequence and collaborating to create or perform a dance. Students learn that each group member can offer new ideas that benefit everyone. This generation of students has opportunities to observe, create, and perform dance through new technology that did not exist a few years ago. They can see dance at any time through Internet sources from around the globe. New ideas, dances, moves, and forms of dance are created and available for viewing and invite interaction. Static, traditional definitions of dance are challenged as the body and technology blend to birth a new generation of dances and dancers. Dance educators who encourage children to voice their own ideas, embrace cultural diversity, and view dance as a conduit to teaching innovation provide learning experiences that prepare their students to be productive members of society. The body and its movements are what we all share as humans. Knowing how to collaborate with others, seek fresh insights, and value ingenuity is an achievable outcome in a dance curriculum that offers authentic learning experiences and challenges students to think beyond the conventional response.

Learn more about Teaching Children Dance, Third Edition.