Dance Education and Problems with Teacher Training Programs in North America

A Case Study

Case Study, 2014

27 Pages, Grade: 1


Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Introduction
Introduction to Topic and Personal Narrative
Research Methodologies

Chapter 2: Historical Background
Dance Education in Universities
Credentialing and Teacher Training

Chapter 3: Teacher Preparation Programs and the Credentialing Issue
Graduate Degrees by the Numbers
Dance Education [In]visibility
For the Future

Chapter 4: Case Study - York University
An Outsider Perspective
Strategies, Practices and Perspectives
Outstanding in the Field

Chapter 5: Next Steps
What We Know Influences Where We Go / Conclusion



Currently, in education, there is a movement towards the necessity of a greater representation of highly qualified teachers in schools. Why is there a lack of representation of dance education in the certification of educators for K-12 students? I propose that many states will not allow these programs to exist for fear of lack of enrollment (which is a real problem), and for the fact that governments tend to focus on what is wrong with the inclusion of dance education in training programs, and ignore what is already working. It is much easier, for example, to say that there are not enough schools which offer dance to justify a dance teacher training program than to admit that teacher training programs in dance could, possibly, help raise the number of schools who have dance programs. There is a shift in the idea of educational reforms which exist within this context, and these shift are spearheaded by a few educators that truly care about the state of education today.

My research explores what sort of reforms can happen when the United States, as a nation, push towards finding an exemplar example of what works in the teacher training programs (in dance, in particular), and examine the philosophical and curricular viewpoints that are working. To do this, I will be conducting a close case study on a successful BEd dance program that thrives in Toronto: York University - the only accrediting dance education program in Canada, and certainly one of the most successful in North America. I will focus on what sort of practices York uses to be so successful - including curriculum uniqueness, contact with students, holistic relationships and the creative approaches they take towards dance teacher education. I will then take these concepts and see how other teacher training and BEd programs across North America can adopt these as well as some philosophical viewpoints into their curriculum in an attempt to possibly shift the view of dance education in society as a whole.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Introduction to Topic and Personal Narrative

Today, I believe there is a divide which exists in dance education between the faculty of education and the faculty of dance. That is to say, there is a lack of communication between the two are contributing factors towards why there are very few certification programs for dance educators in America. Coming from a town near Toronto, Canada, I was always aware of a dance education program offered at York University, and thought this was common practice in University. My experiences in higher education across Canada and the United States, however, have proven this to be untrue.

My journey in this field is somewhat non-linear and nurtured by many experiences in the dance performance and educational dance world, and has shaped my view on this subject exponentially. In the year 2012, I got a tattoo across my ribs that reads “dance first, think later; this is the natural order”. This quote is one that drives me to do what I do every single day; it feeds my love of scholarship and ignites my passion for dance. Although at first, this quote may seem somewhat anti-educational, I believe that the true meaning is to promote the idea that dance and education can and should exist in the same spectrum. Further, it may seem quite unorthodox to begin this research paper by discussing body ink, however I believe it truly can give some insight into the very depth of passion I have when it comes to this subject. So much passion, that it literally has been etched into my skin - my path - my story, and my relationship with dance and education.

I mentioned that my life in dance and education has been a non-linear one - and perhaps that seems somewhat difficult to believe. Indeed, many others have followed the path I have been on; others who feel the way I do. I think that experiences have a way of impacting people in very different ways, and manifesting themselves in unique places. I’ve been dancing since I was 3 years old, when my mother decided I needed an outlet for all my hyperactive and creative energy. I danced competitively from the age of 11 and was dancing every single night of the week from then until I was 18. I taught dance to 3-15 year olds, I befriended all of my dance teachers, and I lived in the dance studios.

When I was in grade 5, my teacher told me about a high school in the next city which had a Regional Arts program where one could audition and then specialize your high school education in dance. This was a dream come true for me - dance all day AND all night? What could be better! I successfully auditioned and was accepted into the school and spent four years with amazing people who saw dance as more than simply another pasttime. What stuck with me the most, however, was the fact that there was more to dancing that just simply dancing. Dance education had subjects in it - there is dance history and current events and choreography, music and healthy body/injury prevention studies and kinesiology and choreography. There was so much about dance that you just don’t learn simply dancing in a studio every day, and I was fascinated. After I graduated from high school, I realized that there was more scholarship to be done, and so decided to continue my dance education and decided to go to Concordia University for Contemporary Dance.

As I advanced closer and closer to the culmination of my degree, the more I realized that education and dance were related more than just on the surface; there are many aspects of dance within the field of education that I believe are underdeveloped and unexplored. At Concordia University, I majored in Dance but also studied two minors: English Literature and Education. At this point in my life, I was convinced that I was going to be a certified high school dance teacher. I began to look at the state of dance in higher education, and the state of credentialing programs in North America. Did you know that there is only one credentialing program for high school dance teachers in all of Canada?

My confusion and interest in the subject caused me to realized I needed to commit myself to this field and broaden my knowledge in this area. This is where grad school arose as an option for continuing my educational research. Specifically, my interests lay in the state of credential programs for K-12 teachers, and where there is a divide between education programs and dance education programs in higher education. I became obsessed with the reforms that are happening in this field, the societal expectations, and why dance and choreographic programs are so popular and celebrated while dance education programs fall to the side.

Research Methodologies

My research methodology includes gathering data and compiling information from several documented sources regarding the history of dance education in society and help me to arrive at a more complete understanding of the current situations and reforms which exist. I attempt to shed light on the following ideas during my research: 1) how did dance education shift towards its current place as an undervalued and underrepresented program in society? 2) what credentialing programs exist for dance education teachers, and what is stopping other states from implementing more programs like these? 3) what are the characteristics of a successful dance education credentialing program, and what philosophical ideas can be implemented into other programs? Will this approach help to guide other states towards the implementation of more/more comprehensive dance education programs?

This project will use both qualitative and quantitative data compiling and collection tools, however the case study will be framed by existing historical information while still being rooted in qualitative epistemology. It also takes into account the social construction of the issue, as well as the place in which it currently exists within these conceptual frameworks. For data collection, I am using existing data on the subject, as well as an interview with a recent graduate of the program (that I will be focusing on) and a program facilitator. I also plan on utilizing my observations of the program from a long distance, outsider perspective to frame my ideas within the historical and theoretical contexts.

Literature Review

Many of the articles that I have reviewed and used for the purpose of informing my subject were either written or co-written by a dance education advocate and professor at Wayne State University in Detriot, Michigan by the name of Doug Risner. Doug has also served on the board of directors of the National Dance Education Organization where he held the titles of Executive Secretary (until 2006) as well as Editor of Conference Proceedings. He is currently the Senior Program Consultant for NDEO’s Online Professional Development INstitute and a leading researching in dance education policies and practices.

M.E. Anderson and Doug Risner wrote an article for Arts Education Policy Review in 2012 entitled “A Survey of Teaching Artists in Dance and Theater: Implications for Preparation, Curriculum, and Professional Degree Programs”. In this article, the authors suggest that (1) lack of preparation, (2) workplace issues and challenges, and (3) mixed attitudes regarding teaching artist professionalization and credentialing are the biggest negative factors that exist towards dance education in schools. I believe this will be a very important resource that talks about credentialing programs and supports my argument that teacher preparation programs in dance are not only under represented, but in serious need of retuning. Similarly, the article gives an excellent overview on the direction which dance in higher education has travelled from its inception, and offers some insight onto the reasons behind this direction.

In an article entitled “Dance Education Matters: Rebuilding Postsecondary DanceEducation for Twenty-First Century Relevance and Resonance” written in 2010, Risner discusses the four primary challenges within the field of dance education that exist today: curricular equity, the expansion of dance education programs, graduate study opportunities and national/international leadership and awareness. Specifically, this article deals with specific opportunities that do and do not exist in the field of dance education. It explains why these programs are underfunded and basically nonexistent (because professional development is hard to facilitate in small programs, such as dance).

Risner wrote an article in 2007 entitled “Current Challenges for K-12 Dance Education and DevelopmentL Perspectives from Higher Education” which was the driving force behind my choice of topic for this research paper. In this article, Risner discusses the current state of dance within education, and how we need to take a more top-down perspective towards fixing the issue. In this, the author discusses how fixing the state of education needs to begin at the University level and work its way down. This article is my inspiration behind the whole idea of my research, and it feeds my passion for further knowledge. It helps me to put into words why this issue is, indeed, an issue.

Curtis L. Carter is a professor of Philosophy at Marquette University, focusing on aesthetics and behavior. In 1984, Carter wrote an article entitled “The State of Dance in Education: Past and Present” which, though dated in some aspects, contains relative historical and linear information that is still true to this day. In this article, the author discusses how dance in the education system has be realigned and repurposed throughout the years in ways that are detrimental to the form. Although there is a positive increase in public acceptance of dance in education, this is not reflective in the curriculum. This article is incredibly useful for background knowledge in the state of dance within the field of education, and the historical reforms which have happened.

Chapter 2: Historical Background

Dance Education in Universities

Look at the historical timeline of dance education within the university spectrum, there is a distinct pattern emerge within its journey; there were initial ambitions that ignited the field, a steady growth, some diversification of the subject followed by a return to the original ambitions (Risner, 2010, p. 123). The historical voyage, although somewhat new, follows a path which many fields in the upper education spectrum follow. What is interesting, however, is the emphasis that many dance scholars have upon the lack of history (or abbreviated history, as it were), that exist within the field, whereas Risner (2010) suggests that by “paying more attention to where we are is crucial for dance education’s role in higher education” (p. 123). As Risner states, dance scholars place too much emphasis upon where we have not been, and why we are not where we think we should be (in academia and society), instead of where we are and how we can get to where we want to go. Keeping this in mind, Risner (2010) discusses four unique challenges that the arts in higher education - and, in particular, dance - are currently facing: curricular equity complications, the expansion (or lack thereof) of dance education, nominal graduate study opportunities and lack of national leadership (p. 124). For the sake of clarity for this research paper, I will be focussing mainly upon the lack of graduate programs that exist in dance education today, however the other three problems (that is curricular equity, lack of expansion in dance education and lack of national leadership) will be addressed within the context of the exploration of this topic.

Prior to delving into the current state of dance in education, the history of this field should first be outlined in order to understand why the challenges that were discussed in the previous paragraph exist. In 2004, Berkely reported that the extent of dance education within US schools, colleges and universities between 1900 and 1945 were mainly co-curricular or extracurricular in nature (as cited in Risner, 2012, p. 2). These participants understood the importance of involving dance within the education system, and so the initial ambitions of finding a place within academia arose. During this period, there was a steady growth in the number of dance participants that wished to study at the higher education level, although the directions were somewhat split. There were a group of students and educators who used their relationship with dance as a way to develop personal experience and engage in artistic performance (Carter, 1984, p. 294). It was only after World War II, when dance instruction began officially as a field of study in universities, where there was a marked shift in thought towards the professionalization and distinct diversification of the fields of study one could follow within the discipline of dance (Risner, 2012, p. 3). Yet, as Carter (1984) discussed, although there has been much progress within the field, there is still a stigma found and limits set within the field of dance education - much the same as it is for any other ‘specialized’ subjects. Dance is not considered a “high priority” in curriculums and becomes one of the first to feel the strain of economic cutbacks (p. 295). The field has returned to its beginning: dance and dance education have come to a place where the original ambitions are still on the forefront of scholar’s needs, but they are supplemented by the journey and process that has happened for the subject.

One of the main problems that specialized fields, including dance, must face within the university spectrum is a lack of representation. Warburton and Stanek (2004) have summarized this feeling, reminding us that “of the 1.1 million faculty in postsecondary institutions in the United States, dance faculty represent fewer than one quarter of 1 percent of the total faculty population” (as cited in Risner, 2007, p. 18). To put this into perspective, this means that of the 1.1 million faculty, only (approximately) 2750 are associated with dance. Governing bodies then use information such as this to justify budget cuts and lack of representation within the school system, whereas these statistics should, in fact, encourage the implementation of more resources in order to help a small faculty survive in the postsecondary education world. Similarly, there are significant variances when it comes to course content in each individual dance program across America. Many programs tend to offer classes in technical movement training, composition and creative process, history and anatomy. Others often include aesthetics awareness, notation, anthropology and therapy (Carter 1984, p. 294). The variances create a barrier between programs that can be hard to infiltrate - how can we compare one dance program to another and justify budgets when there is a lack of terminology and standards in the curriculum?

It is important to understand that, as a whole, dance in higher education must come to terms with where we sit in society and on governing committees; variances in the field create an amazing sense of diversity, but can also succeed in isolating each program from one another. This is particularly relevant when discussing the presence of dance education programs when compared to dance composition or dance performance programs. When it comes to the funding of dance departments and providing staffing opportunities, developing and sustaining BFA (performance and composition) programs tends to draw most of the resources, often “at the expense of teacher preparation programs and faculty hires in dance education” (Risner, 2007, p. 18). This practice is a deliberate one; dance performance and composition programs tend to draw more interest than education programs, and so more funding can be negotiated if higher enrollment is assured. Following this train of thought, however, creates a never ending circle for dance education programs that will be increasingly more difficult to come out of; this is directly due to governing bodies incessant “demands for increased productivity that emphasize credit hours generated and numbers of majors. [This pushes] departments [towards] ever-increasing, quantifiable, and measurable outcomes [and] for people in the performing arts with heavy production seasons and needs, this one-size-fits-all corporate mentality ignores the extensive resources and personnel that are needed to nurture and maintain quality programs” (Risner, 2010, p. 125). In a department such as dance education, where the concepts lean towards academia yet the faculty is rooted in the “special” (arts) programs, there is a need for a language that will encourage enrollment and foster the confidence of University governing bodies for future funding and growth.

I began this section discussing the importance of understanding where dance in postsecondary education currently stands in order to negotiate its’ future, however what constitutes the “future” is still somewhat disputed. The six dance education departments which exist in the United States (New York University, SUNY-Brockport, Temple University, University of Hawaii at Manoa, University of Idaho and University of North Carolina-Greensboro), stand to gain a lot of ground within the postsecondary school system provided they begin to create a case for their necessity and negotiate their academic survival. Risner (2010) outlines this idea well, stating that “while the journey model for dance in higher education has experienced significant growth over the past twenty-five years, it has not been sure of where it is going either” (p. 123). Dance educators constantly face a dilemma regarding whether or not to follow the business model that is implemented into the University structure, while still tending to their needs as creative artists. Now is the time for action, and dance educators as well as enthusiasts who support the inclusion of dance education in more upper level schooling need to pay more attention to where the field currently exists. What needs to be put into action are ideas that will provide governing bodies with a peace of mind, knowing that the funding is going to good use.

Credentialing and Teacher Training

All full time teachers who work in public Kindergarden to Grade 12 (K-12) schools are required, by law, to have some sort of training with the proper credentials; and of course, if a parent is entrusting another human to provide the knowledge their child will receive, it is only fitting that that person be highly qualified to teach. Although there is much debate regarding the teacher training process and credentialing issue for typical (non-arts) teachers, the matter is even more complex when you discuss what should be required training for specialized (arts) teachers. Do the arts need to be taught by state certified teachers? Can teaching artists suffice? These issues, along with many others, are the driving questions behind several of the dance education issues that exist today. There is a certain paradoxical situation which exists solely for arts teachers in K-12 classrooms: in order to be hired as a full time teacher with benefits and higher pay, an individual must be qualified as per state regulation, with content knowledge in their teaching area. In America, however, very few states actually allow dance to be a ‘teachable subject’ in their state’s teacher training programs, and so dance educators rarely have a place to get certified in their field. Often, dance teachers in K-12 schools are hired as ‘teaching artists” or “teachers aids” - if they are implemented at all - and do not enjoy the benefits fully qualified teachers have. Schools are lacking trained dance teachers because the programs to change them do not exist; the programs do not exist because there are not many schools who hire trained dance teachers.

For schools who are interested in hiring full time dance teachers, finding ones that are both highly qualified and highly motivated to become and stay qualified has become an increasingly daunting task. Dance teachers often fall victim to “the academic pressures [in] which the arts in education have been subjected” and often these pressures “detract and diminish aesthetic experience” (Curl, 2005, p. 53). Further, there is an issue behind what, exactly, determines the concept of a “highly qualified” teacher in dance; is this dependent on technical ability or pedagogical practice, or a mix of both? The term ‘highly qualified’ developed out of the No Child Left Behind Act, and is defined by the National Education Association as follows:

1. Teacher has obtained full state certification (including alternative certifications) or has passed the state teacher licensing exam.
2. Teacher holds a license to teacher in the state they are practicing in.
3. Teacher has not had certification or licensure requirements waived on an emergency, temporary or provisional basis.

In addition to these standards, there are requirements for demonstrating subject matter knowledge that differ depending on what grade level you teach, and is dependent on whether you are a new teacher or veteran teacher. These guidelines are the driving force in assisting dance education enthusiasts to work towards reaching their goal of implementing dance as a ‘teachable subject’ throughout America.

Nevertheless, justification of these ideals is a difficult task as “it is well known that arts educators during the past decade have been under increasing pressure to justify their subject and to demonstrate their academic respectability - especially to university degree validating bodies” (Curl, 2005, p. 54). Validation committees use current standards to judge the significance of a degree program, and the current standard do not take into consideration the uniqueness of the arts. Although there have been many independent organizations - in particular, the National Art Education Association - who have produced a set of national standards for dance education (Kinderberger, 2010, p. 41), there is still a need for “administrators, educators, arts councils, and parents to support strong policies for funding, curriculum design, staff development, and program evaluations to educate the ‘whole child’ in quality art instruction” (Kinderberger, 2010, p. 43).

Chapter 3: Teacher Preparation Programs and the Credentialing Issue

Graduate Degrees by the Numbers

In order to understand the depth of the issue regarding lack of dance education programs in America, I will reveal some relevant statistical data. Educational statistics are somewhat hard to track due to its exclusion from large national assessments and reports, however the National Dance Education Association (NDEA) uses information that it collects from several sources to compile the statistics that I will be using here (Risner, 2010, p. 128). The Higher Education Data Services (HEADS 2009) reported a 33% increase in the amount of BFA degree programs in dance between 2004 and 2009 (as cited in Risner, 2010, p. 125). During this same period, the amount of dance education programs (both BA and BEd) have reported a decrease by 13% (Risner, 2010, p. 125). Moreover, in this same period (2004-2009), HEADS has reported a 22% decrease in general initial masters programs (MA, MEd, MS), whereas MFA programs have increased by 15%. MA dance education programs, however, have reported a 50% decrease (as cited in Risner, 2010, p. 128) (See Figure 1). This means that half of the MA dance education programs in America have been shut down since 2004.

Of the 62 masters degree programs which are currently operated in the US, MFA degree track programs account for 53% (for a total of 33 programs); MA (non-education) degree track programs account for 37% (for a total of 19 programs); whereas MA (education) degree track programs account for only 10% (for a total of 6 programs) (See Fig. 2). The only masters programs in dance education which exist today are offered at New York University, SUNY-Brockport, Temple University, University of Hawaii at Manoa, University of Idaho and University of North Carolina-Greensboro. As for degrees awarded, between 2004 and 2009 MFA degrees rose by 39%; MA, MEd and MS degrees dropped by 26%; and MA dance education degrees were down by 100%. (Risner, 2010, p. 134) (See Figure 3). Also, of the four - yes four - doctoral programs in dance which are offered in America, none are offered in the field of dance education (Risner, 2010, p. 128).

Figure 1:

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Figure 2:

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Figure 3:

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Dance Education [In]visibility

Despite the growth that non-education dance programs have had over the past few years, dance education programs are still continuously forgotten. Risner (2010) explains this concept: “dance education teacher preparation programs [...] remain on the periphery of postsecondary arts. [...] Dance education is significantly dwarfed by [other] dance disciplines in higher education, both in terms of student enrollment and faculty and staff. [...] Even among the largest units [...] that offer dance education degree programs, few have more than one dance education position on their faculty” (p. 124). Although the increase of dance programs is something to celebrate, dance education is continuously regarded as something less than other dance programs; this is a stigmatic place which dance educators need to work towards removing themselves from. It is an unfortunate reality that “dance in academe over the past decade has negotiated its competitive survival, often at the expense of arts education programs, staffing and curricular integrity” (Risner, 2007, p. 17). One way to change this, according to Risner (2010) is to establish the viability of dance education programs by creating an articulate vocabulary to discuss the importance and width of dance education and pedagogical values that exist within current programs, as well as work towards developing new programs that focus upon dance education and professional degree credentialing content (p. 125-126). It is only through continued conversation about embracing and sharing the importance of dance education programs that this lack of visibility can shift.

Visibility, regarding how well known and relatable a program is both within the academic institution as well as society, can be the main cause of the deterioration of smaller University programs. The credentialing and teacher preparation issue cannot be addressed until there is more visibility for the field itself; what the administrating bodies do not understand cannot be changed. That is to say, in order to gain ground in higher education, dance educators must establish their viability in a way that governing bodies of universities as well as the general public can understand. Indeed, as mentioned, one of the largest issues with post-secondary dance programs is that administrative bodies are continuously forced to “negotiate dance’s competitive survival, often at the price of dance education programs” (Risner, 2010, p. 125). Graduate study in America has become more and more popular, and in order to ensure the survival of dance education within the graduate realm, there is much work to be done. One way to increase the visiblity is simple - increase the amount of graduate degrees in Dance Education by implementing new programs at Universities which do not already have one, and strengthening the programs which currently exist.

So what is stopping Universities all over North America from implementing new Graduate Dance Education programs in order to increase visibility and validity of the subject? There are extensive processes that all newly proposed graduate programs must go through before they are allowed to exist within the University, of course, yet these procedures seem to be particularly difficult for arts programs to overcome. The various procedures and requirement are sometimes leaning towards larger, more academically driven programs while they ignore what is considered “smaller” less academically intensive or ‘necessary’ (I will go into more detail on this).

After reviewing the procedures for implementing new graduate programs from several different universities across the United States, including Fresno State University, University of Massachusetts Boston and University of North Florida, there are several things which exist within each that are similar and noteworthy. First, each program must have a fully written proposal which is complete with write ups on every course required for the degree, as well as the basic syllabi that will accompany each course. Second, there needs to be an expressed need for the program; although the exact requirements of this aspect vary from school to school, the general consensus shows that any person wishing to implement a new graduate degree needs to provide a variety of information which can prove the need for this program at the University. This supplemental usually includes information on nearby existing programs in the subject being proposed, enrollment figures for similar programs across the continent, a survey of the area which assesses interest in the area as well as a write up of the professional use of the degree program upon graduation. Due to its lack of visibility in academia (see 2.2 Graduate Degrees by the Numbers for more information), this aspect may already be incredibly difficult to compile. However, if a program director is able to find all of this information from one of the existing programs and prove the value that this degree has in their geographical location as well as society, there are still a few hurdles that the program needs to overcome before becoming a reality.

Generally speaking, each program should submit a list of (on average) 5 full time faculty that have credentials related to the area for consideration of hire. Also, a list which outlines space and facilities needed and other resources that are required is generally necessary. Further, all of the program requirements that I reviewed stated that priority is generally given programs which use existing resources, staff and facilities. For many schools which do not have any sort of existing dance program, new spaces for study would be required. Dance studios, lecture rooms, qualified teachers (which, due to the lack of programs currently in existence, there are very few), library resources (IE. dance librarians/dance collections) and textbooks would be needed to be made available, and these do tend to cost quite a bit of money. For many other programs, all of the aforementioned necessary resources generally already exist within the university - or are readily available - and so approval is much easier to obtain than for a program which requires extensive funding and outside support.

Aside from the physical and academic needs that a program must have in order to exist, there is a stigmatic view upon the inclusion of arts in schools which makes those who wish to train as dance teachers rethink their objectives. In most schools, due to the No Child Left Behind Act, if a student is not testing well in English or Math, they are usually required to take an extra course in the area they are struggling in; this generally causes the elimination of an elective. In many schools, due to pressures to create highly intelligent students, arts programs are being eliminated entirely for the implementation of english and math acceleration programs. Thus, it is not only the issue of being unable to physically implement a dance education teacher training program into a school (even schools with existing dance programs or existing teacher training programs), but the general sociatal need is not what it used to be. The sheer underwhelming necessity of full time dance teachers in schools negates the need for fully trained, highly qualified dance teachers.

For the Future

It is an unfortunate reality that “the significance of informed teaching skills and expertise has been underrated in the training of dancers, especially in professional degree tracks” (Risner, 2010, p. 126). It is a common belief that dance teachers must know only how to dance; why then, should pedagogical skills be necessary? Are dance educators in all fields (K-12, after school programs and university programs) providing the same skill sets that non-arts teachers in the same areas provide? I would argue that any skill needing to be transferred from one instructor to a student requires some degree of skill; if this is the case, why are non-arts teachers required to undergo pedagogical training and credentialing? The visibility of dance education importance, as mentioned previously, is a significant hurdle that dance educators must overcome in order to grasp their place firmly within the educational society. Even more so than the visibility issue and problems regarding enrollment and attendance, there is a lack of interest for professors to engage within the dance education field to the marginal status of dance education within the higher education realm. These marginalized mindsets also have sever and direct negative influence in regards to administrative responsibilities, and in discussions around tenure, promotion, research credibility and funding (Risner, 2010, p. 124). How can dance educators rise up from this oppressed state? Looking forward, dance educators and dance education enthusiasts have a tremendous amount of work ahead of them in order to rise up from the current marginalized status and become more commonplace within higher education circles. Risner (2010) suggest a myriad of ways to achieve this result, the most relevant I believe is to re-envision dance education in order to make it more widespread and expansive. Dance education as a field must devise ways to encourage potential and influence dance education policy in order to foster promise for dance education curricula and degree programs in postsecondary dance departments (p. 126). How can dance education programs prove their worth and increase visibility? I believe looking at successful programs and using their strategies to promote the importance may be one of the best ways to encourage widespread acceptance of dance education programs within the higher education system.

Chapter 4: Case Study - York University

An Outsider Perspective

York University has long been an entity in my own life, living only a forty minute drive from the city of Toronto. There is an incredible mall within walking distance of the University and, prior to accepting Concordia University as my choice of school for my undergraduate degree, York had offered me a place in two separate programs at the school. One such program was the BEd concurrent senior teaching training program, where my teachable subjects would include dance and english. The sole reason I chose to study these subjects as well as education at Concordia was in the hopes that once I had finished my degree, I could apply for the consecutive BEd senior teacher training program in the same area.

As I touched upon in the last paragraph, the program consists of two options for students to choose from: 1) a five year concurrent degree program where you would obtain a bachelors degree in your first teachable subject, a minor in your second teachable subject and the BEd in education upon completion and 2) an extended one year consecutive BEd program, where student already have obtained a bachelors degree in their intended first teachable subject, with a minor in their second teachable subject (York University, 2013). Upon completion of either of these degrees, successful graduates are recommended for the Ontario Certificate of Qualification, which is the necessary license needed for all teachers practicing in public school systems across Ontario (York University, 2013). Current accepted teachable subjects include: Business Studies (Accounting, General, Entrepreneurship, Information & Communication Technology), Classical Studies (Greek or Latin), Computer Studies, Dance, Dramatic Arts, Economics, English, Environmental Science, Family Studies, French as a Second Language, Geography, Health & Physical Education, History, International Language (German, Italian, Spanish), Law, Mathematics, Music – Instrumental, Native Studies, Philosophy, Politics, Religious Education, Science (Biology, Chemistry, General, Physics), Social Sciences – General, and Visual Arts (York University, 2013).

Along with a variety of ways to achieve this degree, York University prides itself on having many professional development opportunities for current students, graduates, and practicing teachers who currently hold Ontario certification in education. The department has an incredible research department and have implemented many important research projects which benefit not only the University, but the society as a whole. Further, there is a push towards implementing a graduate program in education that will be more inclusive for all subjects involved, and may include the arts in the near future (York University, 2013). The University, though the smallest of the three currently situated in Toronto, Ontario, has an incredible reputation for creating quality teachers and having a high success rate. As of 2008, the graduation rate in the department of education was at 97.7%, with 96.7% employed within the first 6 months of graduation (CSRDE, 2013). What, then, makes this program so special? Why is the graduation and employment rate so high? I needed to find out more, and so conducted an interview with a recent graduate to gain an insider perspective on what makes the program so successful.

Strategies, Practices and Perspectives

For my case study on York University’s Dance Education teacher training program, I interviewed Andy Filipowich, a recent graduate of the program, and asked each him the following questions:

1. How do you feel dance in education is represented, as a whole, in todays society? In your opinion, what presence does dance have in elementary/middle school education? In your opinion, what presence does dance have in post-secondary education?
2. In your opinion, how important are teacher training programs and/or credentialing or professional development programs in general? How important, do you feel, is it to have highly qualified and fully trained dance teachers in the K-12 school system? Is it necessary?
3. In your opinion, what are the attributes of highly qualified teachers? Are there any attributes that highly trained dance teachers must possess that differ from teachers of other subjects?
4. Thinking about York University’s dance education / teacher training program specifically, what successful practices, philosophies and/or strategies do you believe are used? To your knowledge, are any of these practices, philosophies, and/or strategies unique or significantly different from other teacher training programs?
5. Why do you (or do you not) believe that York University’s teacher training program for dance educator’s is successful? Why do you think many other teacher training programs do not offer dance as a teachable subject?

His answers to these questions helped to me create informed inferences upon the program, its place in society, and what this program is doing that makes it so successful. The following are excerpts of answers Andy had to the first three questions listed above:

Interview with Andy Fillipowich, Pt. 1

Me: How do you feel dance in education is represented, as a whole, in today's society?

Andy: Dance education is really only represented in the dance studios. The average person only thinks of the ballet classes they see in Black Swan and Step Up and do not understand what happens in other dance forms. It’s an unfortunate reality, but I feel dancers and dance teachers alike need to work together to change this stereotype.

Me: In your opinion, what presence does dance have in elementary/middle school education?

Andy: Honestly, usually none. If there is dance in elementary or middle school it is either the teacher saying “Lets create a dance! Work on a dance for 2 weeks! Go!” or “Lets learn Michael Jackson’s Thriller!” There is little educating actually happening.

Me: In your opinion, what presence does dance have in post-secondary education?

Andy: Very little, but more than elementary/middle school. There are some universities and colleges that offer dance as a major, and most universities have a dance class offered as an elective. I can’t begin to offer information on what this is like in the United States, but here in Canada it seems like we are trying so hard to be creative in University but the programs are really not entirely there.

Me: In your opinion, how important are teacher training programs and/or credentialing or professional development programs in general?

Andy: They are important as a link between the teacher and what is happening in the wider dance community. I wish every teacher had to take at least one PD course over the summer to refresh their teaching practice and get new ideas. I, personally, try to take as many pedagogy classes as possible whenever I see them offered in my area. That isn’t very often, though, come to think of it.

Me: How important, do you feel, is it to have highly qualified and fully trained dance teachers in the K-12 school system? Is it necessary?

Andy: I think dance is another way to get children active while at the same time getting them to be creative. A qualified dance teacher helps with this process and guides students through the creation. The qualifications shouldn't be unachievable. A simple course over the summer and a support system during is good enough for elementary/middle school, but high school should have someone who has dance experience. I wish there were more options for dance teachers, though. I mean, I had to come all the way to Ontario from Quebec to get certified, and here I am teaching in Ontario because the certificate doesn’t directly cross back over to Quebec. It’s a weird process, really.

Me: In your opinion, what are the attributes of highly qualified teachers?

Andy: Great class room management skills, ability to create interesting lessons, on the fly problem solving skills, and intense compassion.

Me: Are there any attributes that highly trained dance teachers must possess that differ from teachers of other subjects

Andy: Of course, they have to have a knowledge of dance, knowledge of where to find dance resources to help their teaching practice, and the ability to pass these on to their students in a way that is relatable in the dance field.

Outstanding in the Field

When it comes to specific practices that York does, in particular, Andy had this to say:

Me: Thinking about York University’s dance education / teacher training program specifically, what successful practices, philosophies and/or strategies do you believe are used?

Andy: York instills a belief in the creative process instead of technical skill. It is more about getting kids moving instead of sitting and listening, incorporating dance for all skill levels and training students in more than technical dance. It is about fully understanding everything to do with the dance field - whether it be history, anatomy, music, etc.

Me: To your knowledge, are any of these practices, philosophies, and/or strategies unique or significantly different from other teacher training programs?

Andy: The main thing that I have noticed that is different in this program than others across Canada is the sheer amount of support the program gives its students. There is always an air of we will succeed, and not if we will succeed. The tools are there but the faculty is fully engaged in the passion of teaching - as it should be. Educators teaching educators should be direct models for how they wish us to act in the future.

Me: Why do you (or do you not) believe that York University’s teacher training program for dance educator’s is successful?

Andy: I think it is successful for teaching the curriculum, particularly in the ways that I mentioned above. They truly wish for all students to succeed, and you don’t fall aside as just a number in a lecture hall like so many business and other programs do. It isn’t severely competitive either, which makes you feel like you are doing this truly for the students, and not just to land a better job then your peer.

Me: Why do you think many other teacher training programs do not offer dance as a teachable subject?

Andy: Not enough people are confident they can teach dance, so there are not enough students in a teacher education programs to fill up the spots. I think that, ultimately, there are many people who wish to teach dance at this level, but when they are hired for a few weeks at a time and they are able to get by that way, many do not see the necessity in going back to school to get a degree in order to do the same thing full time. What we need to do is rally up all of these people and show the world we need a place to study, and promote the program to our high school and undergraduate student more rigorously - its not all about performance. Someone needs to be able to teach performers how to get where they need to go.

Chapter 5: Next Steps

What We Know Influences Where We Go / Conclusion

Although I would have liked to have had a few more interviews with professors, graduates of the program and facilitators, the information that I have received from Andy is still incredibly useful and a significant for my research. A few things that I have discovered from his answers and supplementary research is that the main difference York University has in regards to its Teacher training program is the promotion of all students to truly be the best teachers they can be. It is understood that in order to promote dance in education, we - as educators - need to be able to fully comprehend everything we do within the field. There is a term that english language learners use called “whole language instruction”, which is where the learners are taught not only the direct meaning of a word, but implications, social meanings, context and origins. This strategy, when applied to any concept, can help students become fully engaged in what they are learning, retain information for longer periods of time, and become truly aware of what they are learning. Whole language instruction lessons promote not just the knowledge of a concept or subject, but full understanding of the topic that they are studying. I truly believe that York is incredibly successful at integrating whole language instruction into their lessons, and this is a prevalent reason for the success of their program.

Overall, one of the most important factors I believe that York contributes to the future of dance education programs in America is the focus on process based research and outcomes as opposed to product based research and outcome. In a world where we want to being to include more students in the art of dance and promote dance education as a field that many people can study, we need to encourage our educators to adopt this process based approach and understand that people of all skill levels can be included in the art. Although I believe that in some cases - for example, arts specific schools and programs whose foundation is upon the creation of technical and professional dancers - educators need to be more rigorous when it comes to performance, there should still be emphasis on the process itself and understand how you get to where you want to go is just as important as where you end up.

Though I could speak for days regarding the importance of programs adopting this style of teaching, what I believe is more important, after all of this, is the importance of dance educators sticking together and working towards finding their place in higher education. York has done an amazing job at finding and maintaining their place in society, and - one day - many other school will get there too. I am sure of it. As an educator, as an artist, and as a lover of the arts, I will work towards allowing this to happen all across North America, and it is up to us - arts educators and lovers - to stand alongside one another to make this happen.


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Dance Education and Problems with Teacher Training Programs in North America
A Case Study
University of Hawai`i at Mānoa
Research in Dance
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Breanna Harvey (Author), 2014, Dance Education and Problems with Teacher Training Programs in North America, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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