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Cook, Charlotte. Best Practices to Build Relationships between Students with Exceptionalities and General Education Students in a Unified Dance Class. Unpublished Master of Arts thesis, University of Northern Colorado, 2021. The goal of this study was to analyze various studies or curriculums, which included both general education students and students with exceptionalities to find best practices to build relationships in a unified dance class. For this study the researcher analyzed ten pieces of literature which focused on inclusive movement classes. These sources included five studies and five curriculums. More specifically, the researcher created the following essential questions to examine sources which included students with and without exceptionalities. Q1 What strategies and activities best foster growing relationships in a unified dance class? Q2 What creative dance content best fosters building of interpersonal relationships between exceptional students and general education students? The purpose of the study was to aid the researcher in finding best practices in building relationships in order to create a custom curriculum that could meet the needs of all students the researcher’s teaches. The researcher had three goals for the unified program she wished to create that influenced this study. First, the researcher wanted to provide students with exceptionalities an appropriate dance education. The researcher also saw a need for the general education students to have more interaction with students with exceptionalities. Finally, for all students, the researcher wanted to create a curriculum that included a peer buddy system, in order for both sets of students to build lasting relationships. Quantitative and qualitative data for all ten sources was collected and analyzed utilizing a survey. Survey questions were organized into three groups: general information, strategies and activities which foster growing student relationships, and developing curriculum content. General information data revealed commonalities in the novelty of each program and true commonalities. The researcher found the following seven strategies were discussed in numerous sources: 1) allowing students to explore and create their own movement modifications, 2) making all students responsible for one another by using safe movement practices, 3) cultivating nonverbal communication, 4) valuing each person's contributions to choreography/class, 5) using students’ first language, 6) pairing students, and 7) including peer feedback. Five activities appeared in multiple sources as well. These five activities are: 1) circle activities, 2) rhythmic activities, 3) mirroring, 4) leading and following, and 5) floorwork. Finally, the researcher found four parallels in curriculum content: 1) creating movement, 2) including the elements of dance, 3) the structure of the class, and 4) performances. This study had three major limitations. First, the sources chosen were selected with the researcher’s goals for her own class in mind. The study was also limited by the small sample size. Finally, the study could have been swayed by the survey used to collect data. Exploring best practices for building relationships in a dance class can expand literature on inclusive dance education. This study and future studies like it, can also support all educators in creating inclusive environments that strengthen students’ relationships and teach the whole child.


Dance; Exceptionalitities; disabilities; relationships