Dancing Classrooms: A School Climate Study of Social Development

Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Exhibit Hall RC Poster Sessions (Tampa Convention Center)
Larry P. Nelson, University of TexasArlington, Arlington, TX

Information regarding the benefits of social dance programs in public school physical education is rare. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to seek out the advantages of a rapidly growing social dance program called “Dancing Classrooms” (refer to Pierre Dulaine's documentary “Mad-Hot Ballroom Dance”).


Based on the goals set forth from a steering committee eager to bring the 10-week curriculum to a large urban southwest city, 5th grade students (N = 624) participated in an experimental study measuring the Search Institute's 40 Developmental Assets. Factor analysis of the questionnaire yielded four constructs (personal efficacy, social support, school climate, and wellness) explaining 89.2% of the common variance. Thirty-six of the 43 questions loaded at .40 or higher and were retained for further analysis.


A repeated measures multivariate analysis of variance was used to determine which, if any, of the scales changed over the course of the program for the dancing classrooms experimental group compared to a traditional physical education program control group. Also, cross tabulation tests were calculated for each of the 36 item-inventories in order to seek out differences in frequency reporting and/or proportion of specific events as they occurred between the Dancing Classrooms group and control group. Findings reveal that significant program impact did occur within the social support scale only (F = 6.795; p = .022). Specifically, these differences were attributed to a significant increase in post-test mean differences within the Caucasian (p = .047) and African American (p = .031) populations. Questions within the social support scale that changed significantly include “People accept me for who I am” (p = .047), “There are people who will help me if I need it” (p = .012), “I feel supported” (p = .044), “I respect people who are different than me” (p = .034). “I get a lot of encouragement at my school” (p = .014), and “School will help me become successful” (p = .018).


The findings of this study support Dancing Classrooms as a means of increasing social development among 5th grade elementary students, specifically with African American and Caucasian populations. The significant gains regarding access to support systems and/or generally feeling supported or authenticated in the Dancing Classrooms program indeed make it an important contribution to youth development.