Teacher Training: Young Audiences Arts for Learning Professional Development Programs

Imagine a nationwide arts-in-education programming organization, where teachers can receive tailored professional development training—in the convenience of their own classrooms. Approaching its 60th year of service, the New York City–based Young Audiences Arts for Learning programs connected 4,600 artists with more than 7 million children in 7,000 schools this past year.

Over the years, YA has grown to include a geographically diverse network of 30 affiliates with trained teaching artists who aid the organization in spreading positive arts learning to schools and teachers across the country. The affiliate teaching artists bring nationally funded network projects into local schools and communities through performance demonstrations, workshops and residency programs.

Affiliate staff members also provide professional development and training for teachers to coincide with the YA program being implemented into their school. YA’s training method focuses on the artist/teacher relationship, assessment, child development, classroom management, content, motivation and presentation skills, and it’s used to assess participants’ teaching competency. Professional development is based on a signature framework—experience it, understand it, create it and connect it—to help educators explore new ways of connecting the arts with academic lessons.

“There is a layering of mentoring to build this kind of leadership. Our rubric became a springboard for how teaching artists would work with classrooms, with students and with teachers,” says Dr. Janis Norman, YA’s director of education, research and professional development. “It provides not only standards but also a framework of how and what they need to be able to do to prepare for programs.”

The two network projects most commonly implemented are Arts for Learning Lessons and the MetLife Dance for Life. The A4L Lessons project offers a training module to enhance student literacy in grades 3–5 through arts-based instruction. One of its segments is called “Words In Motion,” where participants spend three to six hours (with follow-up coaching, as needed) on teaching concepts such as forming shapes and levels, moving in place, moving through shared space and using forms of energy like swinging and shaking to create choreography.

The MetLife Dance for Life program offers residencies both in school and after school to encourage K–12 students to appreciate the physical, emotional and intellectual benefits of dance. Janice Oliver, a former program participant and teacher at Holly Ridge Primary School in Denver, Colorado, can testify to the program’s positive impact: “Watching the students learn, work together and perform with a joyful, excited spirit is certainly a measure of success.” DT

Program Statistics

Prospective participants: Nationwide dance teachers, classroom teachers, physical education teachers, college dance majors and teaching artists, seeking professional development

Date/time; registration; location: TBD by program; teachers interested in participating should contact Dr. Janis Norman or view the Young Audiences’ network list online.

Accreditation received/requirements: Varies, but professional development is usually supported by local school districts and may provide an opportunity for teachers to earn professional-development credit. The training may also be offered in collaboration with a college or university, as part of a course for credit. Teachers may receive supplemental materials such as DVDs, guiding literature and training journals.

Director/founder: Director of education, research and professional development for YA Arts for Learning, Dr. Norman is a tenured full professor at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts. Dr. Norman was also chair of the steering committee for teacher certification and training in Pennsylvania. The former Pennsylvania Art Educator of the Year is currently on the committee for the national Arts Education Partnership and the Arts for Children and Youth in Philadelphia initiative.

Fun fact:
In 1994, YA Arts for Learning was the first organization to ever be awarded the prestigious National Medal of Arts by the White House.

Contact: Janis Norman, PhD, director of education, research and professional development, Young Audiences, Inc.; 610-688-6141; jan@ya.org; www.youngaudiences.org

Lee Erica Elder is a freelance writer in New York City.

Photo by Eric Griswald, courtesy of Young Audiences Oregon and SW Washington affiliate

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