Looking Back – MAEIA 2021

By Kathy Dewsbury-White

I know we hoped the story arc of 2021 would be different from 2020. We were eager to turn the page at this time last year, but COVID-19 persisted and the inequities that were already in place in society, in our education system, and for our children continued to become more apparent. Times of crisis have a way of solidifying what matters most to us. Through the MAEIA Project, we focused our efforts on supporting the teachers who take care of the children, and our fulcrum remained teaching, learning, assessing, and living through the arts.

The chapters we wrote in 2021 provided the opportunity to learn new things, develop and deepen alliances, and explore new and innovative structures.

Chapter 1: New Learning

In 2021 we explored how engagement with the creative process and the disciplinary demands of the arts intersect with the five core competencies of social and emotional learning. To learn more, watch this three-minute Learning Moment video with Heather Vaughan-Southard, MAEIA Professional Learning Director, and read her insightful five-part blog series Social Emotional Learning and the Arts.

Disruptions to learning meant we developed curriculum maps for arts teachers (dance, music, visual arts, and theatre) to highlight disciplinary content and accompanying performance assessments that could function well in virtual or hybrid learning environments. We also curated resources designed to support remote, hybrid, and modified in-person learning models.

Culturally responsive assessment is a concept we began investigating. Much of what we know about how to use the formative assessment process and performance assessment supports a culturally responsive and responsible teaching framework. To learn more read Nafeesah Symonette’s four-part blog series on culturally responsive teaching and listen to Ed Roeber’s two-minute Learning Moment video explaining which assessment practices and approaches support the development of capable learners in the arts and other disciplines.

Chapter 2: Strategic Alliances

We understand how important it is to form alliances to deepen the relationships that permit us to achieve together what we can’t achieve alone. In 2021, Arts Education Partnership (AEP) accepted MAC and the MAEIA Project as a partner. AEP is the premier national organization supporting arts education research and advocacy. The Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) expanded their commitment to MAEIA and together we will work to develop and support regional arts education networks in the state. Michigan Education Association has been a strong partner to the MAEIA Project, hosting and co-facilitating learning engagements for their membership. And our MAEIA Partners program has continued to develop with leadership offered by Barb Whitney, MAEIA Partners Coordinator. To learn more, read this blog post MAEIA Partners and Friends: Shared Values, Shared Resources.

Chapter 3: Innovative Structures

We strongly supported our community of learners through a number of varied offerings. Better Together in the Arts (BTA), monthly Sunday afternoon synchronous support sessions are offered October 2021 through June 2022 and you are invited to join. To learn more and register, check out Better Together in the Arts. We also offer the MAEIA Arts Lounge, an asynchronous discussion board contributed to and maintained by arts teachers and MAEIA Arts Fellows. And to nest arts education seamlessly within the structure of K-12 education, we have articulated how the MAEIA Program Review Tools and Process can work hand in glove with the new Michigan Integrated Continuous Improvement Process (MICIP). For more information, see Planning Tool: MAEIA Arts Ed Program Review Tool.


Having survived 21 months and counting of pandemic, teachers were tired and, by extension, the organizations designed to support the teachers were tired, too; but the unity of purpose and commitment to provide quality arts education for Michigan’s children accounted for making what was innovative at the time, mainstream and normal now.  I am confident that 2022 and the years to come will understand the arts as an essential part of every child’s growth and development.

Our story continues. Read the sequel blog-post by Kathy, Looking Forward – MAEIA 2022 coming January 14, 2022.

Kathy Dewsbury-White serves the Michigan  Assessment Consortium as current President and CEO. The MAC is the organization commissioned by the Michigan Department of Education to develop the rich and robust resources developed through the MAEIA Project for arts educators. Kathy has provided project direction for MAEIA and is MAEIA’s self-described resource wrangler and advocate for arts education.


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