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Re-envisioning an NDEO OPDI course: M22
By Elizabeth McPherson
Posted on 1/22/2021 1:06 AM

From time to time, NDEO features guest blog posts, written by our members about their experiences in the fields of dance and dance education. We continue this series with “Re-envisioning an NDEO OPDI course: M22: Using Dance Pedagogic Content Knowledge (PCK) to Drive Programmatic and Self Growth.” This is the first of a two-part blog series about NDEO’s DELTA Exam and the related OPDI course, and focuses on the process of revising M22 in the fall of 2020.

This series is written by two NDEO members who are integral to our OPDI and DELTA programs: Dr. Elizabeth McPherson, who serves as professor for OPDI-M16: Introduction to DELTA – Dance Entry Level Teacher Assessment, and Dr. Dale Schmid, who is NDEO’s DELTA Senior Project Consultant.

If you are interested in learning more about the guest blogger program or submitting an article for consideration, please visit this link

Re-envisioning an NDEO OPDI course:

M22: Using Dance Pedagogic Content Knowledge (PCK) to Drive Programmatic and Self Growth

Dr. Elizabeth McPherson and Dr. Dale Schmid

(with borrowing of previous writings of Schmid)

In 2019, Dale Schmid designed OPDI-M16: Introduction to DELTA – Dance Entry Level Teacher Assessment, which Marcia McCaffrey and Elizabeth McPherson subsequently taught. The course was envisioned to support teachers to take and prepare their students to take The Dance Entry Level Teacher’s Assessment (DELTA) which is a collaborative endeavor between the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO), and the State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE). The conceptual framework underpinning DELTA is divided into 10 Pedagogic Content Knowledge (PCK) Skills Clusters: 

  1. Performing Dance as an Intentional, Expressive Art Form (guiding principles)

  2. Choreography (exploring, planning, revising)

  3. Integrated Approaches to Historical, Cultural & Contemporary Dance Studies

  4. Dance Language, Literacy & Critical Analysis

  5. Pedagogical Theory & Practice

  6. Knowledge of the Learner

  7. Assessment Literacy, Evaluation & Reflective Practice

  8. School-based Policies

  9. Dance Classroom

  10. Technical Production.

The vision for DELTA is that it serves as one measure of allowable proof of subject-matter competency in dance education, whether as a gateway to dance licensure or micro-credential indicating dance teachers have the requisite pedagogic content knowledge and skills necessary for success in the public schools. The need for DELTA arose from the fact that among the artistic disciplines of dance, music, theatre, and visual arts, for which there are National Core Arts Standards, only dance has no Praxis II (pedagogic content knowledge) examination required for K-12 certification in the nation’s public schools.

Funded by successive grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the DELTA examination was developed with input from dance education and assessment specialists from 17 states from among NDEO’s membership and field tested in 25 of the 57 American colleges and universities with teacher preparation programs in dance education leading to dance teacher certification.

The broad goals of DELTA are to empower new dance educators to:

1. Understand the content, skills, and knowledge required of students for literacy and fluency in dance, as set forth in the National Core Arts Standards (2015);  

2. Discern how students acquire and demonstrate developmentally appropriate dance content, knowledge and skills; 

3. Know and apply industry-standards for teaching and learning dance (including dance content, education theory and practice, and assessment methodologies), as set forth in the Professional Teaching Standards for Dance Arts (NDEO 2005, 2011), that were developed in cooperation with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS, undated);  

4. Authentically (formatively and summatively) measure dance knowledge and skills as a means to engage students and inform teaching and learning in a manner consistent with national arts standards (NCAS 2015);  

5. Function as reflective practitioners driven by self-knowledge of pedagogic strengths and relative weaknesses; and,  

6. Embrace lifelong learning via a commitment to continuous programmatic and self-improvement.  

In keeping with these goals, in the Fall of 2020, we (McPherson and Schmid) set about re-designing the OPDI course, so that instead of focusing on preparation for the DELTA exam, it would focus on providing students with a useful conceptual framework to inspire thoughtful and informed curricular decisions about the allocation of instructional time and focus in K-16 dance education (elementary school to college) and to reflect on and renew one’s personal teaching practice. First, we identified the need to add in a section on Culturally Responsive Teaching. Although culturally responsive teaching was layered through the DELTA framework, it had not been previously specifically identified. Next, we worked on streamlining the course to have consistency of structure and point value for assignments as well as lowering the workload. As the course encourages reflective practice, we incorporated prior student feedback as well as instructor reflection to make the course both more meaningful and manageable. The discussion boards, instead of introducing new topics, allowed students to discuss the topics on which their homework assignments were also based. We thought through the order of topics presented as well as which article reading assignments should be required and which offered as optional. We added some recently published articles to add to the currency of the course. 

Our collaborative process began with emails, and then we identified the need to work together in real time. McPherson met with Sue McGreevy-Nichols and Melissa Greenblatt to keep them apprised of the new direction of the course. We, McPherson and Schmid, then met on Zoom and discussed the overall changes we wanted to make, identifying specific modules of the course that we would work on individually. We scheduled another Zoom meeting where we went over the changes we had made individually. This Zoom meeting was incredibly useful as we looked through individual edits and then honed in on where more edits needed to be made. Through using Zoom and Google Docs concurrently, we talked out ideas and immediately made edits and additions to the Google Doc which proved to be time effective as well as productive. We found benefit in discussing and bantering ideas verbally to agree upon edits. Using Zoom, a fairly new platform for both of us, allowed this type of collaboration while working many miles apart. And, it also allowed for a little socializing in these socially distanced times when we are working so much in isolation. Another Zoom meeting continued more refinement and allowed us to look at the overall course as well as the individual modules. In the final stages of revision, Kari Shrade, NDEO staff, made the changes on Sakai, the learning management system used for the OPDI courses. Her expert eyes found a few inconsistencies and missing articles which were clarified and added.

We are very much looking forward to the running of this revised course. We have spent many years (including Schmid’s doctoral dissertation!) working on DELTA. It is exciting and invigorating to see it being used for development of teaching practice and curriculum, in addition to assessment. We see these areas as being, of necessity, intertwined in dance education so that there is continual, recursive, and circular give and take between teaching practice, curriculum revision/development, and assessment.

For more information about the DELTA OPDI course work, or the larger DELTA initiative (including the testing program),  contact Dr. Dale Schmid, DELTA Senior Project Consultant,

About the OPDI Course

OPDI-M22: Using Dance Pedagogic Content Knowledge (PCK) to Drive Programmatic and Self Growth  
February 8 to April 4, 2021 
Professors: Dr. Elizabeth McPherson and Dr. Dale Schmid; Tuition $350; 2 NDEO-endorsed CEUs 
This course provides students with a useful conceptual framework to inspire thoughtful and informed curricular decisions about the allocation of instructional time and focus in K-16 dance education (elementary school to college) and to reflect on and renew one’s personal teaching practice. The conceptual framework explored is the 10 Pedagogic Content Knowledge (PCK) Skills Clusters that comprise the DELTA (Dance Entry Level Teacher Assessment) stemming from the National Core Arts Standards for Dance. These clusters include: 1) Performing Dance as an Intentional, Expressive Art Form (guiding principles), 2) Choreography (exploring, planning, revising), 3) Integrated Approaches to Historical, Cultural & Contemporary Dance Studies, 4) Dance Language, Literacy & Critical Analysis, 5) Pedagogical Theory & Practice, 6) Knowledge of the Learner, 7) Assessment Literacy, Evaluation & Reflective Practice, 8) School-based Policies, 9) Dance Classroom, and 10) Technical Production.  Anyone with an interest in dance education and dance teacher preparation would benefit from this course, from new teachers to seasoned dance education professionals from any teaching environment. It is designed to support and extend dance education content knowledge while expanding personal and professional expertise.

NDEO Members can learn more about registration for the course here. Not yet an NDEO Member? Learn more about membership and sign up here.  



Elizabeth McPherson, professor and director of the Dance Division at Montclair State University, is the editor of The Bennington School of the Dance: A History in Writings and Interviews, author of The Contributions of Martha Hill to American Dance and Dance Education, and co-author of Broadway, Balanchine, and Beyond: A Memoir.  Executive Editor for the journal Dance Education in Practice, she has written articles for various other publications including Ballet Review, the Journal of Dance Education, and the Journal of Movement Arts Literacy. She holds a BFA from Juilliard, an MA from The City College of NY and a PhD from New York University. 

Dale Schmid is President of the State Education Agency Directors for Arts Education and a Past-President of NDEO. He is also the Senior Advisor for NDEO’s DELTA project and oversaw the development, field-testing and psychometric analysis of the DELTA examination. Recently retired, Dr. Schmid served as the Visual & Performing Arts Coordinator for the New Jersey Department of Education since 1999. During his tenure, he oversaw the review and revision of every set of New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Visual and Performing Arts and was part of the team that created the 2015 National Core Arts Standards. Additionally, he was a contributing author to NDEO’sStandards for Learning and Teaching Dance in the Arts: Ages 5-18 (2005 & 2011); a co-author of Professional Teaching Standards for Dance in Arts Education (2005 & 2011), and NDEO’s Standards for a K-12 Model Program: Opportunities to Learn in Dance Arts Education (2005 & 2011). He also served on the executive steering committees of the national Arts Education Partnership; the States Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards/Arts Education Consortium; the governance and advisory committees of Arts Ed NJ, and was one of NJN Public Broadcasting Authority’s Board of Commissioners. Additionally he is a member of the National Arts Education Policy Working Group (facilitated and managed by the Americans for the Arts & the League of American Orchestras, Washington, DC, 2005 to the present); the Arts Education Partnership Advisory Panel (operated under the aegis of the Education Commission on the States, Washington, DC, 2015 to the present); and has been a member of the College Board, Pre-AP Arts Development Team, New York, NY, since 2015. He is also a member of the Editorial Board: Journal of Movement Arts Literacy (JMAL).

Blog Photos by Stephen Csejtey, courtesy of The Akron School for the Arts.
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