Advancing Dance Education through Online Professional Development

At the National Dance Education Organization, we believe that “It All Starts with a Dance Teacher!” Research and anecdotal evidence indicates that the impact of a dance teacher can be life changing for students and transformative for schools. In order to have such an impact, however, dance educators must receive support, guidance, and continued training throughout their careers. As part of our mission to advance dance education centered in the arts, NDEO provides quality professional development that supports dance teachers working in every sector of the field. NDEO’s Online Professional Development Institute (OPDI) offers online courses that are accessible, affordable, flexible, rigorous, and designed to meet the unique needs of dance educators.

Professional development (PD) enables dance teachers to broaden their content knowledge, improve their teaching skills, and stay up to date on research, trends, and development in the field in order to maintain employability, advance their careers, and meet the evolving needs of students. For teachers in the PreK-12 setting, PD is often required to earn highly qualified teacher status, a pay raise, an endorsement in dance beyond their certified K-12 area, or to retain their certification. All too often, however, teachers do not have access to the kind of continuing education that they need most, as what is offered through schools and districts is not specific to dance content or pedagogy.

OPDI courses are designed and taught by experts in the field, including university faculty, researchers, authors, and program directors. Participants work closely with the professors, receiving feedback, guidance and support. As one participant noticed, the professor “took the time to give me personalized advice and critiques for each assignment submitted. It helped guide me through (the course) in a positive, engaging way.” Having the opportunity to be taught by these experts makes OPDI unique among PD programs.  

The OPDI curriculum includes courses that are pertinent for dance educators but not readily available elsewhere. According to Dr. Jane Bonbright, the Founding Executive Director of NDEO, “OPDI courses are driven by the various needs of the field, (and) provide scope and depth in dance content and pedagogy.” Topics include unique perspectives on dance pedagogy, history, research, kinesiology and injury prevention, in addition to specialized offerings like dance integration, standards, and assessments. Because the courses are designed by and for dance educators, they provide the content knowledge, teaching methodologies, and professional skills that are most effective and impactful in the classroom and studio. According to an OPDI student, “Assignments often required me to reconsider how I plan my classes and work with my students, and it was so helpful to be applying the principles learned in a real way as I worked through the class.”

Courses are conducted online, in sessions ranging from four to twelve weeks. Students are able to log in at any point during the week to review materials, complete assignments, and participate in online discussion. This provides the flexibility educators need to fit PD into their demanding schedules. Participants have significant opportunity to network through discussion boards, allowing them to share ideas with fellow educators from across the country.

Participants earn NDEO-endorsed continuing education units (CEUs), which may be accepted by their location education agency, school, or district toward maintaining their credential or earning highly-qualified teacher status. There is the option to work toward the NDEO Certificate in Dance Education (CIDE), designed to enhance credentials and attest to a well-rounded training experience through OPDI. As CIDE recipient Sonya Monts affirms, “Throughout my three and a half year journey in OPDI, I continuously took lessons directly to my students. The end result is a stronger education in dance arts for our students.”

This fall, NDEO is offering a new course, “Developing Strategic Leadership in Dance and Life,” ideal for dance educators interested in advancing their careers through leadership. Other fall 2018 courses include “Teaching Dance to Students with Disabilities,” taught by Dr. Teresa Cone, “Introduction to Dance Education Research,” taught by Dr. Doug Risner, and “Dance History: Global, Cultural, and Historical Considerations,” taught by Patricia Cohen.   

NDEO is proud to work alongside partners like SEADAE to ensure quality arts education for all students. Providing access to online professional development is only one way that we support the dance teachers who deliver that education in our schools. Through OPDI and our other professional development programs, we help teachers better their skills, maintain their credentials, and achieve highly-qualified teacher status. Most importantly, the teachers can take back what they learn in their professional development to their studios, classrooms, and communities, allowing them to impact their students through the art of dance.

To learn more and apply to the OPDI program, visit

Guest Blog Author:
Shannon Dooling-Cain, Special Projects Coordinator
National Dance Education Organization
8609 Second Avenue, Suite 203B
Silver Spring, MD 20910
P: 301-585-2880; F: 301-585-2888 
National Honor Society for Dance Arts:

Posted: 06/28/2018
Blog Tag(s): Dance, Networking, Partnerships, Professional Development