Social Dialogue Magazine
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Project from the Applied Arts and Social Justice Certificate, University of New England
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Prof. Renate Kuehnel, Ostbayerische Technische Hochschule Regensburg (Germany), head of the Bachelor course "Music and Movement in Social Work“, Faculty of Applied Social – and Health Sciences

The arts and the study of social work (Germany)

The Bachelor course "Music and Movement in Social Work“ at the University of Applied Sciences in Regensburg is unique in Germany. It was developed by the music pedagogue and eurhythmic teacher Renate Kühnel and was started in 2008. In this study course, music and movement as a means of artistic and aesthetic expression are closely linked with social work practice. An intensive training and the joining of artistic expression and social work offers students the possibility to develop their own personality and their social work education and opens up new horizons and perspectives in social work practice. The labour market has readily absorbed students who have successfully finished this study course. In the course of developing this study course the following considerations were of primary importance: What competencies do students of social work need nowadays? How can universities support the acquisition of these competencies? What role can music and movement play in this?

The three basic tenets of the study course

Successful social work practice requires

Only if these requirements are fulfilled can social work be successful. The non-verbal media of music and movement play a central role in acquiring these competencies and penetrate all three areas.

The study course

After seven semesters (a semester generally comprises 18-20 weeks in Germany) and after having collected 210 Credit Points (ECTS), students acquire a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and are qualified for professional and interdisciplinary social pedagogics and social work practice. Every semester there are about 300 applicants for the study course of which 20 are taken. Apart from a visible interest in social work, applicants are required to make an internship of six weeks before starting the study course. Moreover, they have to prove:

  1. that they play one instrument and can sing in tune;
  2. that they have experience in physical expression/dance/ movement; and
  3. that they are interested in artistic and creative activities.

Applicants can get in-depth counseling or may take part in visiting days at the Faculty.

Interdisciplinary education

70% of the study course is social work education, 30% deals with music and movement pedagogics as well as the use of cultural tools in social work. For students this means that:

In addition to the preparatory internship before starting the study course, students have to make a 22 week internship which is supposed to prepare them for their future job and the possibilities of employing music and movement in fields of practice. Possibilities of artistic learning and development

Students generally have an intuitive knowledge that reflection about their own artistic and physical capabilities must be the starting point. The basic modules in this study course are the pedagogics of movement, dance choreography, voice development, musical improvisation, work in music bands and percussion. Reflecting on artistic expression and one’s interaction with other individuals and groups is an ideal stimulus for developing one’s own identity. Moreover, students are required to critically question their own abilities and performance and compare their own perceptions with that of others so that they can employ the methods learnt later on in their practice fields without being fearful or judgemental and in order to be able to approach others and build relationships. Further modules include artistic projects such as the use of social issues or autobiographical experiences for developing artistic projects. The results of these projects are presented in public performance evenings.

The size of working groups in this study course is small and groups are generally stable over some period of time so that an atmosphere of trust and openess can develop within which mutual criticism is possible. The aim is for students to have an intensive experience of group dynamics. Critical discussions and comments by others are translated into dance and/or music thereby sharpening a sense of artistic expression and enabling students to use artistic means in a purposeful and focussed way. Thus, students are required to undergo a variety of personal and artistic processes before they are considered capable of dealing with clients in cultural social work practice.

Transfer of theories and methods into practice

The cooperation with kindergardens, youth centers, homes for psychologically impaired or for disabled people, organisations for adult education or homes for senior citizens is important in order to be able to develop leaderhip qualities. Modules dealing with methodologies and didactics support these cooperations. Moreover, basic social work principles such as analysing the practical situation, focussing the objectives of practical work, choice of methods and tools are also central in the study course described. Only if students know why they are doing what they are doing can they offer professional social work. Therefore, they need to constantly undergo critical self-reflection, develop an understanding of theoretical discourses, have knowledge of the history of music and movement pedagogics, including the pedagogical approaches of Orff and Jaques- Dalcroze, and of aesthetic education and cultural social work. Students work either on their own or in teams and have discussions in their courses and, on that basis, develop theory- based concepts for their professional work. Other modules are cultural management, public relations, law courses on specific legal issues and courses on how to set up a business.

Art as a medium?

Without doubt the arts have a value of their own. They have always been part of human existence. Nevertheless, the arts can also be employed for specific purposes in social work. The study course described here is inbetween an understanding of the arts as „l’art pour l’art“ on the one hand and their employment for practical purposes on the other. The study course is not aimed at therapy but wants to make use of the many chances for human development and understanding that are opened up when humans get in touch with music or engage in artistic movement either actively or receptively.

Music and Movement in Social Work

music movement graph

Important basis: Carl Orff and Emile Jaques- Dalcroze

The composer Carl Orff (1895-1982) wanted to make the arts accessible for all people in an elementary manner. He developed a pedagogic of music and dance by encouraging people to improvise and to artistically express themselves with their own bodies. He thought that the use of simple instruments and of expressive language could turn people from being passive consumers into active producers of art.

Thirty years earlier Emile Jaques-Dalcroze (1865-1950) had already revolutionized music education. The core of his pedagogical approach (called „eurhythmics“) was that musical paramters were to be translated into human movement.

This „embodiment of music” was to help to understand music and to produce veritable artists. He developed exercises for reacting physically to music and for shaping bodily coordination and train auditory senses which are still fascinating nowadays. He investigated all aspects of music such as time, energy, space and form and made suggestions or let his students find out by improvisation how they could be translated into human movement. The body itself should become an instrument.

Analogies between the arts (Kühnel 2004, S. 164)


Merging the arts

Jaques-Dalcroze tried to merge various art forms (as nowadays music videos and video clips use modern technology in order to achieve the same result). Humans are fascinated by the synchronisation of sensual impressions. As illustrated above, there are elementary analogies between various art forms. Jaques-Dalcroze as well as Orff used them to intensify artistic expression and also to make pedagogical work more effective.

Over the years, these two approaches have been influenced by modern dance, interaction pedagogics and social pedagogics as well as relaxation techniques and music, art or dance therapy. In recent times, this wide discipline has sprung up integrating music and movement as well as language and visual arts making all these fields the objective, the medium or the contents for social work practice. These considerations are a central basis of the described study course.

Clients and their ressources, their present situation, the topic they are interested in, and the processes that can be initiated in working with them are all central to artistic social work practice.

At the same time, these activities are interactive, aimed at addressing all the clients‘ senses, at clients’ social integration and at giving them a pleasant experience. They should have positive emotions when engaging in music and movement which, in turn, will strengthen the effectiveness of the objectives we want to achieve.

A practical concept for teaching and learning: Experiencing – recognizing – describing

Integration of body – soul – mind: This is the basic idea in the pedagogics of music and movement and at the same time a paradigm in learning psychology. How can students be expected to encourage their clients to engage in movement, if they do not display dance or movement themselves? How can they stimulate interest in the arts if they have never explored what meaning the arts have for themselves? How can they lead a band or a percussion group if they have never played in one themselves?

From what has been said above, it follows that the students in this study course have to be open-minded and prepared to enter this teaching and learning concept based on partnership. Often students that have just started this study course get confused because what is required of them is unexpected, surprising or challenging because it goes beyond learning with books or a laptop. Finally, the students enjoying an open group atmosphere are generally highly motivated and willing to achieve.

Cultural participation

Cultural participation, inclusion, the prevention of violence and illness, the increase of educational chances, accessability – these are frequently empty words. In order to turn these concepts into social reality, experts are needed who know how to do that. Music and movement oriented social work aims at achieving all that by making arts available in different kinds to clients of social work. Music and movement are omnipresent in our societies and are, therefore, media that can be accessed easily and can be used to empower people and activate their resources. The big advantage of the approach of this study course is that it does not focus on the deficits of clients but tries to stimulate and activate what they are capable of doing, what they feel and how, what is unique in each human being, can be used as a resource. Joint cultural activities put people into contact with each other beyond language barriers. This can create a basis of trust for further counselling. Moreover, artistic projects are also an important basis for political education and intercultural exchange.

Job perspectives

Social workers with a „double qualification“ have good prospects in the labour market. A survey of graduates of this study course undertaken in 2014 testifies to that. Students reported that the following activities were central in their practical work:

Study courses on a Master level

After having acquired the Bachelor’s, students have the possibility to advance to a Master study course at university faculties for music, at universities of applied science or other university faculties. They can register for other study courses in the realm of culture-aesthetics-media or study performance, eurhythmics, cultural diversity in musical education, cultural pedagogics or cultural management.


The demand for analyses of the effectiveness of social work methods is rising, as is the demand for investigation of transfer effects, the demand for practical research and for alternative research designs. The first study Marquardt and Krieger undertook in 2007 investigated the potentials of aesthetics in social work and its use in teaching and social work practice. Colleagues of the working group „culture- aesthetics-media“ at universities of applied sciences in Germany founded 2010 a network on research in cultural education with the aim of stimulating exchange about valid and new pedagogical research methods (including quantitative research, qualitative research in education, neuroscientific and artistic research).


Studying at a university should make it possible for students to strengthen and enhance their own personality. The arts offer broad, multi-dimensional and educational opportunities for developing personal, professional, methodological and social competencies. Therefore, they should have a place in any social work study course.

Personal growth and intense reflexion require time and the participation of others with whom to have debates and discussion.

Professional social workers generally are eager to acquire further artistic and aesthetic qualifications which more often than not they lack. Master courses dealing with culture-aesthetics-media are springing up inceasingly and offer graduates of a Bachelor course the possiblity to acquire a further qualification and specialise in specific fields, as well as to engage in research.

„For me, studying was preparation for life“ – is a comment of one of the students in the study course. She saw herself as having acquired professional competencies, the capability of being empathetic, a sense of responsibility, an eagerness to learn and enthusiasm for using arts in social work practice. In short, she gained more maturity while studying at the university. Isn’t this what a university education should achieve?


Bachmann, M.-L. (1991): Dalcroze Today. An Education through and into Music. Translated by David Parlett, Oxford: Clarendon Press
Bühler, A./Thaler, A. (2001): „Selber denken macht klug“. Rhythmik, ein gestalterisches Verfahren in der Heilpädagogik. Luzern: Edition SZH/ SPC.
Hoffmann, B. et al. (2004): Gestaltungspädagogik in der Sozialen Arbeit. Paderborn u.a.: Schöningh.
Jäger, J./Kuckhermann, R. (Hrsg.) (2004): Ästhetische Praxis in der Sozialen Arbeit. Wahrnehmung, Gestaltung und Kommunikation. Grundlagentexte Soziale Berufe. Weinheim/München: Juventa.
Jaques-Dalcroze, E. (1972): Eurhythmics, art, and education. Translated by Frederick Rothwell. Edited and prepared for the press by Cynthia Cox. New York, B. Blom.
Kühnel, R. (2004). Rhythmik, In: Hartogh, T./Wickel, H. H. (Hrsg.) (2004): Handbuch Musik in der Sozialen Arbeit, Weinheim/München: Juventa, S. 151–173.
Kugler, M. (2000). Die Methode Jaques-Dalcroze und das Orff- Schulwerk Elementare Musikübung. Bewegungsorientierte Konzeptionen der Musikpädagogik. Frankfurt/M.: Lang.
Marquardt, P./Krieger, W. (2007). Potenziale Ästhetischer Praxis in der sozialen Arbeit. Eine Untersuchung zum Bereich Kultur-Ästhetik- Medien in Lehre und Praxis. Baltmannsweiler: Schneider.
Meis, M.-S./Mies, G.-A. (Hrsg.) (2012). Künstlerisch-ästhetische Methoden in der Sozialen Arbeit. Kunst, Musik, Theater, Tanz und Neue Medien. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.

Further information: (html)
Information flyer in german of the BA degree programme: (pdf)