The arts lead us to our preferred future
Now in my fourth decade of education, and as an educator experienced in curriculum and assessment development projects for every subject area (except for World languages), I feel confident offering these observations:
- Authentic assessment and assessment practices designed to support learning live most comfortably in the arts and athletics.
- The 21st century skills we most prize for our students are the 4 Cs: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication. These are fully realized in and through arts education.
- Social-emotional learning and the capacities we have come to understand as necessary to support our abilities to learn and grow have ready pathways for development among arts educators and their students.
- What we are coming to understand as culturally responsible instruction and assessment has its most fervent ally in arts education.
These observations combined support my strong belief that the arts lead our education system in the best practices we aspire to embrace for all of our students.
The flywheel analogy
In my MAEIA Looking Back on 2022 blog post I offered that in 2023 our “flywheel” is ready to catch. You may be familiar with author Jim Collins; he popularized the notion that in organizations experiencing success, it is driven not by a single innovation or plan but rather through the act of turning the flywheel, slowly gaining momentum and eventually reaching a breakthrough. This concept applied to organizations and making change was introduced in Collins’s now classic book, Good to Great.
“Picture a huge, heavy flywheel—a massive metal disk mounted horizontally on an axle, about 30 feet in diameter, 2 feet thick, and weighing about 5,000 pounds. Now imagine that your task is to get the flywheel rotating on the axle for as fast and long as possible.
“Pushing with great effort, you get the flywheel to inch forward, moving almost imperceptibly at first. You keep pushing and, after two or three hours of persistent effort, you get the flywheel to complete one entire turn.
“You keep pushing, and the flywheel begins to move a bit faster, and with continued great effort, you move it around a second rotation. You keep pushing in a consistent direction. Three turns … four … five … six … the flywheel builds up speed … seven … eight … you keep pushing … nine … ten … it builds momentum … eleven … twelve … moving faster with each turn … twenty … thirty … fifty … a hundred.
“Then, at some point—breakthrough! The momentum of the thing kicks in your favor, hurling the flywheel forward, turn after turn … whoosh! … its own heavy weight working for you. You’re pushing no harder than during the first rotation, but the flywheel goes faster and faster. Each turn of the flywheel builds upon work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort. A thousand times faster, then ten thousand, then a hundred thousand. The huge heavy disk flies forward, with almost unstoppable momentum.” *
Keep the flywheel spinning
MAEIA started the flywheel rotating with the foundational pieces necessary to support quality K-12 arts education programming including:
- indicators of success,
- the catalogue of performance assessments aligned to state and national standards, and
- a program review tool to assist a district interested in planning and innovation.
In the recent past and in the near future MAEIA is focusing on instructional support and resources aligned to standards and assessments, with a special interest in targeting integration of social emotional learning and culturally responsible instruction and assessment. This will no doubt speed up the flywheel’s turning.
To keep the flywheel spinning it takes people power, and that is provided by MAEIA’s partner organizations joining with Michigan Department of Education and the Michigan Assessment Consortium. Additionally, with regional networks being identified and supported, together we continue to move resources into the field that help the wheel rotate at exponential revolutions across the state.
The call to action in 2023
With your engagement and action in MAEIA, we can maintain the momentum of the wheel that continues to move towards quality and excellence in arts education.
- Do you have the capacity to promote custom-designed professional learning opportunities for arts educators?
- Do you use any of the MAEIA resources and tools? Can you provide us with feedback on their efficacy?
- Are you able to promote the use of MAEIA resources and tools?
- Is your organization a MAEIA Partner?
I’m hoping your answer is a “yes’” to one or more of those questions and that you will connect with us in 2023 to keep the flywheel turning.
We are looking forward to hearing from you. Contact us at MAEIA.
*Excerpted from an interview with Jim Collins from the website Sloww https://www.sloww.co/start-here/
Kathy Dewsbury-White serves the MI Assessment Consortium as current president and CEO. The MAC is the organization commissioned by MDE to develop the rich and robust resources developed through the MAEIA Project for arts educators. Kathy has provided project direction for MAEIA and is a self-described, resource wrangler, and advocate for arts education.
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