SEND schools research project Year 2 update

In 2022, we embarked on a research project to better understand the potential benefits of the South Asian dance classes run by Akademi for autistic learners in the SEND schools as part of our Reach Out and Reveal project. This blogpost is written by the researchers on the project, Claire Farmer and Dr. Ashley McGill.

Akademi’s Reach Out and Reveal programme began in 2017 and has introduced classes in South Asian dance to children in special educational needs schools. In 2022 the programme received further funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to expand the work and include a longitudinal research project to better understand the potential benefits of the dance classes for autistic learners in the schools.

Claire Farmer and Dr Ashley McGill commenced a pilot research study in the 2022-23 academic year.

Building upon the exploratory start to the research component in Year 1 of Reach Out and Reveal research project, summer term 2023 was spent collecting some preliminary data to refine our methodology for the 2023-24 academic year. This included data collected by the schools on their progress in relation to pre-curriculum and curriculum goals, dance artist feedback and video analysis. 

Whilst the figures collated from year 1 data all demonstrate improvement, albeit at different rates, for all the learners, it was difficult at this stage to provide any causal link with the dance activity. We therefore intend to collate this information into individual case studies to demonstrate change over time in individual learners.

Following pilot data collection in 2022-23, we were able to enter 2023-24 with renewed ideas for methods that would work effectively with this group of learners.  This new academic year began with an artist meeting at Akademi’s office to explore the best methods for collecting feedback from the artists regarding their interactions with the learners. 

A multimodal approach to data collection in year 2 of the project, building on the learnings from year 1, has led to a wealth of rich data across the Spring 2024 term. Researchers Ashley and Claire are currently analysing this data with a hope to publish results in an academic journal in late 2024/early 2025, as well as presenting results at an international conference in autumn 2024.  

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