Complex examination of groups of young people with special education needs in reflection of dance and movement therapy

Αbstract

The aim of the thesis is to present the research possibilities of dance and movement therapy (DMT) processes in groups of young pupils with special educational needs (SEN). For two school years six DMT groups were followed in five different special schools.

The purpose of our research questions and our aims are to get a deeper and sophisticated understanding of the given process (Babbie, 2001). We follow the path of inductive logic to approach the phenomena in question, accepting and undertaking the diversity of reality images, as well as the constructed, meaningful and interpretative principles of pedagogical and social activities (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011).

During DMT, we use a different “interaction language”, other than in everyday life. Both the predominance of movement and non-verbal communication (gestures, mimics) and the possibility of touch are rules produced and used in a creative way in situations, which enable the participants to provide a wide range of interaction acts and events.

Our analysis is based on process analyzing strategies in the context of Grounded Theory (GT), while the transdisciplinary nature of our theoretical starting points; the application of DMT method in a special field; the exploratory nature of our research; the possibilities of our data collection processes and qualitative research paradigm defining our research are being monitored all the time.

The concept of GT fits in the research of a therapeutic process, as it offers a systematic approach to studying the development and changes of individual and interpersonal processes. GT follows interpretative traditions and is linked to the participatory paradigm. It is based on internal knowledge, so the process of research and analysis is initiated from the knowledge of the person collecting experiences (Charmaz, 2013).

As a summary of our research and analysis, we believe that the research focusing on the methodology of DMT (PMDT) and the therapeutical processes focusing on the group as such have relevance in the specific field of special education, keeping the transdisciplinary nature and holistic approach of the theoretical bases.

Aims of research

The aim of the thesis is to present research possibilities of dance and movement therapy (DMT) processes in groups of young pupils with special educational needs (SEN). For two school years six dance and movement therapy groups were followed in five different special schools. Our therapeutical processes are based on the Hungarian DMT method called the psychodynamic movement and dance therapy (PMDT).
One aim of the study is to bring theory closer to practice: “Practice and science are connected by the method itself. Practice is the application; science is the explanation of the method.” (Illyés In Gordosné, 2012, p. 57). This analysis is about the applied method in the first place.

The aim of the therapeutical processes with dual group leadership is to give chance to the members to get in touch with their own body and with each other in a supportive, non-judgement environment, so they can realize and communicate their own needs. Besides, the fact that their experience is becoming part of their personality can help them to socialize easier, thus when they leave the supportive environment of school, social integration can become less demanding for them.

Principal research question(s)

The two main questions of the research – closely related to the aims – are the following:
- How can non-verbal, collective dance and movement therapy be followed in groups of SEN members by research?
- How can the methodology of dance and movement therapy be adapted to groups of SEN members?
Further research questions also concern several aspects adjusted to the methodological paradigm and exploratory nature of the research. We are interested in mapping group forming (group dynamics, group cohesion, inter-group relations, the individual’s position in the group), individual affective skills (expressing emotions, self-regulation, aggression, anxiety), free moves (improvisation) in the process of DMT.

Principal findings

Our analysis is based on process analyzing strategies in the context of Grounded Theory, which concept fits in the research of a therapeutic process, as it offers a systematic approach to studying the development and changes of individual and interpersonal processes.
Creating theory can be defined as a circular process: in this concept data collection (participatory observation in the dance and movement therapy process), the therapeutic process, process analysis, the reflection of the researcher’s previous professional experience and source analysis are simultaneously displayed and built on each other. Their combined presence and their interaction with each other provide the main basis of our analysis.
Our analysis in the context of GT using process analysis strategies has three parts.
Presentation of the groups and dance and movement therapy processes

The groups taking part in the research are handled separately and we present the following about them: general characteristics of each group (class, grade, gender, age, average age, type of disability); the initial group structure based on our first observations; a description of group members’ personality characteristics based on their role behaviour (Rudas, 2016); the main exercises of DMT sessions and the realization level of the sessions; the involvement patterns of group members during each session. The latter two elements provided the basis for our group dynamics analysis, with the help of which one of our theoretical aspirations became visible: in fact, we could create a group dynamics model, valid for our groups.

Coding process in the context of Grounded Theory

As a result of the participative observation in our group processes, the analysis of the reflective and research diaries and the opinions of the teachers, two main categories and 4-4 analysis units (codes) were identified.
The results of our analysis confirm the concept of universality as one of our starting points and prove that we could put the six groups with different ability structures, that is with different types of disability into a shared analytical focus and we could treat these groups as one in terms of Group/Relationship or Movement categories. With the help of these categories and codes, we presented the activity patterns of the six groups involved in the research, including their preferred interpersonal relations, group dynamics, changes in their space management or their motivation for movement.

Relevant therapeutic factors

By analyzing dense dots and group dynamic elements of the process, 6 out of the 11 therapeutic factors as defined by Yalom (2005) were found to be more relevant than the others for our groups: Interpersonal learning, Socializing techniques, Universality, Altruism, Imitative behaviour and Group cohesion. Meanwhile, new therapeutical factors appeared, which could be related mainly to dance and movement therapy and our special field: Understanding, Providing models, Trust and Participation.

As a summary of our research and analysis, we believe that the research focusing on the methodology of DMT (PMDT) and the therapeutical processes focusing on the group as such have relevance in the specific field of special education, keeping the transdisciplinary nature and holistic approach of the theoretical bases.

Research Collaborators​
Anikó Illés PhD habil., associate professor, MOME University, Budapest
Research Supervisors
Anikó Illés
Client group
Six different groups participated in the research, that is, two groups of physically disabled people with multiple disability, a group of mentally able people with hearing impairments, a group of people with moderate mental disability, a group of people with learning disabilities and a mixed group of people with learning disabilities and moderate mental disability. The six groups (volunteer, SEN pupils from junior high schools) took part in the DMT process in five different special educational institutions for two school years.
Nature of data collection
In accordance with our research aims, the applied methods and theories should be interwoven with complexity (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011), therefore the participants of the research were approached on several levels and all groups involved were taken into consideration when selecting our data collection processes. In our study we adopted participative observation, reflective and research diaries and semi- structured interviews together with other methodology techniques.
Ethical board approving research
Scientific and Research Ethics Committee; Bárczi Gusztáv Faculty of Special Needs Education, ELTE University (No. KEB/2017/11)
Research design
As far as the specific aims and methods of the present research are concerned, this study can be defined as an exploratory, prospective basic research and the methodological and interpretation framework is provided by qualitative research paradigm. The focus of the research is the method itself, whereby the question is not “what therapy works with whom, but why and how the given process is working” (Levy et al, 2012, p. xv). We follow the path of inductive logic to approach the phenomena in question, accepting and undertaking the diversity of reality images, as well as the constructed, meaningful and interpretative principles of pedagogical and social activities (Szabolcs, 2001, 2004; Héra & Ligeti, 2014; Babbie, 2001; Horváth & Mitev, 2015; Denzin & Lincoln, 2011). Out of the different qualitative paradigms it was the concept of Grounded Theory (GT) that had the most influential and important impact on our work, aiming to nuance theoretical conceptions and also fitting in the interpretative paradigm.
Registered Academic Institution
Eötvös Loránd University; Faculty of Education and Psychology Doctoral School of Education; Special Needs Education PhD Programme
Academic level of research
PhD
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