[27] Using cross discipline teaching in Social work education: The use of contemporary dance techniques to explore non-verbal communication skills with Social work students


Using cross discipline teaching in Social work education: The use of contemporary dance techniques to explore non-verbal communication skills with Social work students

Author (s)

Beth Pearl Senior lecturer
College of Human and Health Sciences
Catherine Bennett- contemporary dancer


Teaching with impact is the goal of all lecturers, and finding ways to innovate and engage is a daily challenge. Our most impactful learning can come from being pushed outside our comfort zone and required to take part in activities we may normally shy away from. Contemporary dance is a divisive genre.. It encourages participants to be in tune with their bodies and to use their physical being to express emotions and actions, using the whole of themselves. It is both elegant and assertive, thought provoking and immersive and not for the faint hearted. The author undertook a pilot study with a contemporary dancer, using contemporary dance techniques to explore non-verbal communication skills with 1st year MSC Social work students.

During the session, which would be a presentation, the author would provide background to the project, including a short video from the contemporary dancer who took part in the project. The author would explain how the project worked, the feedback gained and the potential for using cross discipline teaching in the human sciences and with anyone who is keen to explore different possibilities for bringing subjects alive. The feedback, although limited by the size of the group (16) was unanimously positive. Students who reported anxiety prior to undertaking the project reported that they had gained confidence through the experience and thought that the teaching should be permanently on the curriculum. Stepping outside their ‘comfort zones’ was views as positive thing and the confidence they gained from taking part in the project could be taken forward into their practice placements and other areas where they experienced a lack of confidence. Students who reported that they hated participative learning reported that they were surprised how much they enjoyed it. This challenged the author to remember when planning learning that we are only limited by the scope of our imaginations and by our willingness to try.

Session Outline

The session would be a presentation. The author will start by setting the context to the learning and the need for social work students to be aware of non-verbal communication. The author would then go on to discuss the project interspersed by a video from the contemporary dancer, talking about the exercises and the experience of teaching across discipline. There will be an opportunity to describe and demonstrate how some of the exercises work and there would be scope for audience participation within this as appropriate. The findings of the questionnaires would also be discussed along with implications for future practice and how to move forward with teaching across disciplines including possibilities for innovative practice in other disciplines. There would also be the opportunity to ask questions and for discussion. This session would be of interest to those who want to try something completely different in their teaching and who want their students to have an innovative and thought provoking session in their curriculum that will help them to develop skills which will not only benefit them in the workplace but in life in general!

Key Words

Cross –discipline teaching, Contemporary dance, Non verbal communication, Innovation, Comfort zone

Key Messages

Don’t be put off by negative attitudes – several students expressed dislike of participation but enjoyed it.-nothing ventured nothing gained- If we don’t try we will never know!

Even seemingly unrelated disciplines can teach your students valuable lessons

Learning is a community event and as the lecturer you are part of that community


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