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Professional development for K-12 classroom teachers

This is an excerpt from Public Scholarship in Dance by Lynnette Overby.

The reality of the lack of dance education opportunities for the majority of elementary school-age students where only 4 percent offer dance as a separate subject, taught by a specialist, prompted Lynnette Young Overby to answer the following question: How can we promote the inclusion of more dance and movement experiences in K-12 education? The answer to the question has taken several forms, including professional development workshops and seminars, independent study course work, oral presentations at conferences, and writing for publication. Overby, professor of theatre and dance at the University of Delaware, worked with the community partner of teachers from schools in Michigan, Delaware, and beyond to aid their professional development. The professional development for K-12 classroom teachers is the focus of this example.

Clear Goals

The goal of this work has been to integrate dance into the K-12 curriculum by providing models and guidance in designing, implementing, and assessing arts-integrated lessons.

Adequate Preparation

Staying current with changing educational practices, attendance, and participation in workshops and seminars is very important. A few of the training opportunities follow:

  • Train as a Kennedy Center teaching artist: All selected artists participate in annual professional development workshops.
  • Train as an adjunct professor with Lesley University in their creative arts and learning master's program.
  • Study with Veronica Boix-Mansilla from Harvard University Project Zero, which supports the concept of multiple intelligences.

Appropriate Methods

From 1999 to the present a method of professional development has been in place to guide teachers in their understanding of the dance elements, the use of local standards, and assessments in the development of these models. Teachers are provided with background knowledge and skills in dance elements and terminology. Then they are guided in developing arts-integrated lessons that include educational standards, exploratory and culminating activities, and assessments. Teachers also participate in lesson study. In this approach, teachers view and critique lessons by their peers and then teach the same lesson again for additional feedback. Finally, undergraduate students (ArtsBridge Scholars) are trained to create, implement, and assess arts-integrated lessons and become assistants to many of the classroom teachers.

Significant Results

Conducting assessment immediately after the seminars, and in some cases up to a year later, has a positive impact on the professional development, attitudes, and behavior of teachers. Grant funding to continue this work has been provided on a regular basis from a variety of funding sources, including the Michigan Department of Education, the Dana Foundation, and the National Geography Education Foundation.

Effective Presentation

One book, Interdisciplinary Learning Through Dance: 101 Moventures, has provided guidance to numerous educators throughout the world. Presentations have been given at state, national, and international venues in multiple formats, from 45-minute sessions to multiyear programs.

A website:, hosts examples of lessons and assessments. Also, the Program for Interdisciplinary Learning through the Arts supports the development and sharing of lessons, reflections, videos, and other resources.

Reflective Critique

Evaluation is a critical component of this work. Assessments occur immediately after the workshops as well as in the forms of focus groups, interviews with participants, and final letters written by teachers who are pursuing graduate degrees. Evaluations have informed Overby's current and future work with teachers. Overby reflects the following:

In reflecting on the many years of professional development with teachers, it is very clear that the teachers are very open to this type of information and that they are extremely busy with the required teaching and assessing of core content. I have also found that, once teachers realize that not only do the students enjoy the physical activity and creativity of dance activities but that the dance concepts also link so well with academic content, the students are able to learn both the academic content and the dance skill simultaneously. This is an a-ha moment that changes both the attitude and behaviors of classroom teachers. They become advocates for dance and movement in all forms - and especially as an interdisciplinary connector.

Learn more about Public Scholarship in Dance.

More Excerpts From Public Scholarship in Dance