top of page

3.c. Children as Activists: Responsive issue-based methodology

My examination of issue-based pedagogy focuses on child-centered activist instructional methods. This method promotes the personal and social integration of knowledge through the organization of curriculum around significant problems and issues that are collaboratively identified by educators and young people without regard for subject area lines. The underlying assumptions to this approach are that knowledge and understanding are shared constructions by teacher and students (Vygotsky, 1978) and that when a lesson is collaboratively planned and carried out by teachers and students together, students develop skills related to communication, problem solving, research, and social action. Developed over the last 15 years, issue-based activist methodology for dance asks teachers to locate issues at the center of their curriculum, to create contexts, and use strategies that recognize, appreciate, and build on children’s diverse perspectives, learning patterns, and modes of communicating. This model for pedagogy is influenced by the research of Gay and Banks and applies principles of responsive teaching (a) collaboration in the structure of learning situation; (b) construction of shared meaning and (c) the utilization of various methods of teaching ranging from non-directive to directive. This methodology highlights the concerns of early adolescents and the larger world; it serves the adolescent population where they are developmentally; and it appreciates that adolescents are “real” people with genuine concerns (Parrish, 2007; Parrish 2009).


Responsive activist curricular themes my students and I have investigated include: global warming, bullying, defining healthy relationships, ageism, refugees, depression, outsider artists, deforestation, and pollution. Collaborating teachers expressed that the curriculum demonstrated a value for diversity where all students were viewed as individuals and thus shared responsibility within the classroom culture. These instructional methods are currently being employed in the MA DE DCE 646: Reflective Practice in Dance Education course. Recent student work includes Dance and Social Justice (2015) and The Flint Michigan Water Crisis (2016). Curricular discoveries have been presented at seven national and international conferences.


I continued this investigation of responsive activist curricula and artmaking informed research with modern dance choreographer and NEA/Guggenheim Fellowship recipient David Dorfman and his creative work, “Here.” Dorfman and I used this opportunity to analyze a community-building approach and discovered the significance of personal reflection, collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, genuine caring, respect, and honesty in relation to the pre-service teachers’ thoughts on the profession (Parrish, 2009; Parrish, 2014).

Compassion Dance website

migration .jpg
aerial 2.png

Video of Aerial Dance Curricula Project

List of Research Presentations

So…When are we going to start dancing? An inclusive approach to dance pedagogy    

Session lead Dr. Mila Parrish with MA DE Graduate students Amy Crow, Jennifer Florey,

Katrina Brown, Lisa Wilder and Caroline Keys

NDEO Conference. Cultivating Equity and Access Dance Education for All Connecting.

San Antonio, Texas. Adjudicated. (November, 2017).

Community practice and assessment

Session lead Dr. Mila Parrish with Emily Enloe

National Dance Education Conference. Focus on Dance Education:

Speaking with Our Feet: Advocating, Analyzing, and Advancing Dance Education.

Arlington, VA.  Adjudicated. (Oct, 2016).

Collect, Collide, Collaborate, Create! Building responsive cultures in the dance class

Lead Presenter: Dr. Mila Parrish with UNCG student Anthony-Taylor Davis UNCG Graduate Students Stacey Enart, Leslie Parrin, and Jessica Cadby.

NDEO Conference. Focus on Dance Education: Collaborations: A Mosaic of Possibilities

Chicago, Illinois. Adjudicated. (October, 2014).

Celebrating Critical Thinking- Ending the “Shut Up and Dance” cycle                                        

Presenter: Dr. Mila Parrish

National Dance Education Conference. Focus on Dance Education:

The Art and Craft of Teaching. Miami, Florida. Adjudicated. (October, 2013).

Street Moves: Hip Hop curriculum.                                                                     

Lead Presenter: Dr. Mila Parrish with ASU dance education students

Saza Dimmick and Kelly Martell.

National Dance Education Organization Conference.

Lansing, MI. Adjudicated. (October, 2004).

bottom of page