Blogs & Online Sources

Recent Posts

Heather Vaughan-Southard: Who Teaches That Way?

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment   

Years ago, I worked with a colleague who told me she had viewed the catalogue of MAEIA assessment items and wondered, “Who Teaches that Way?” I think her impression was there was a lot of...

Years ago, I worked with a colleague who told me she had viewed the catalogue of MAEIA assessment items and wondered, “Who Teaches that Way?” I think her impression was there was a lot of theory embedded in the assessments and I speculate that perhaps she felt she didn’t have that much time to dedicate to theory.

My thoughts at that time were:
1. Our goal was to create assessments which fit naturally into the curriculum you teach but also items which may push you outside of your norms.

2. Any time “how” is asked, we enter the territory of theory. Perhaps the theoretical principles presented in your class are not the same as those represented in select assessment items, but could the assessment item be adapted to address your theoretical approach or maybe it is the charge of turning “implicit” or discreet curriculum into “explicit” curriculum. With time and/or conversation with someone who does teach that way, it might make more sense and seem more feasible.

My thoughts now are:
Perhaps we would be better served to think of MAEIA as a Professional Learning Community rather than merely a set of resources. If so, the answer to her question of “Who teaches that way?” is “We do. Let us explain how, why, what, and when.”

MAEIA starts to feel more like a practice than a protocol. A lifestyle, a means to so many ends. I felt the MAEIA work helped me better understand the components of measurement, but even more impressively helped me better organize my conversations with students, my administrators, and families.

In my role now as Professional Learning Developer, I often hear from teachers who are asking why they didn’t know about MAEIA sooner. Certainly, visibility is one of our goals. Use of the assessment items, and the other resources is too. But it is connection which makes the work most meaningful.

When we connect with ourselves to improve our work and save time, we advance.

When we connect with others to deepen their work and drive the dialogues further, we advance.

When we connect with a larger community, we engage and contribute to conversations which shape the landscapes our students and our families experience. We advance.

We are advancing creativity in education. Join us. Bring others.

Subscribe to the MAEIA newsletter, use the assessment items, attend or host presentations, connect with the Leadership Fellows, share and comment on our social media posts. Watch videos from the Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness pilot or contact us for information on the Collaborative Scoring System pilot.

Continue Reading

Cheryl L. Poole: What about the lesson plans?

Cheryl Poole    Leave a Comment   

“These assessments are fine but where are the lessons?” That was the question I would sometimes hear in the conference exhibition booth when introducing the MAEIA assessments to educators attending the conference. They...

“These assessments are fine but where are the lessons?”

That was the question I would sometimes hear in the conference exhibition booth when introducing the MAEIA assessments to educators attending the conference. They were impressed with the actual assessment but, for them, something was missing.

What were they looking for that they didn’t see?
Were they so accustomed to believing that they were asked to “teach to the test” that they assumed that an assessment would be packaged with prescribed lessons? The ones who asked the question seemed to regard the performance assessments as only being half useful. Their reaction implied that I was offering something cool but a tool that only began halfway through their teaching task. The best I could surmise was that they wanted the instruction that would set the stage for these assessments. I think they wanted the ‘whole package’ and how could I clarify what I was offering quickly, before they walked past my booth? I couldn’t think fast enough to have an answer for them in the moment.

Here are four answers that I thought of later that I could have given them.

  1. 1. Using your curriculum and lessons, choose assessments that fit what you are already doing. Select the assessments that align with what you teach and how you teach. There are so many assessments that there will most certainly be ones that match your curriculum and personal instruction.

2. Using your curriculum and familiar lessons, change the assessments to make them fit. Teach the “what and how” that you enjoy. Select a model assessment that will work pretty well but needs a little tweaking to better match your teaching style, the processes your students are familiar with, or simply aligns better with the curriculum you use.

3. Find a model assessment that gives you some fresh instructional ideas and modify your lesson to make best use of the assessment. The model that you use should still fit meaningfully with your curriculum but perhaps simple tweaking to how/what you teach could clear a path to using the assessment to which you are drawn.

4. And, finally, one more option that has proven to be a big boon for teachers like Margaret Thiele who recently blogged about her experience, peruse the array of assessments created for your grade level. Search criteria for appropriateness for your curriculum and simply review the catalogue for inspiration of ways to teach concepts in new, creative ways. Find an assessment that puts a totally new spin on what and how you teach.

Have you used any of the MAEIA model assessments yourself? What was your approach? Was it different than the ones I could think of? Share your experiences that might nudge others to take the leap.

Continue Reading

Holly Olszewski: MCACA- Keeping the Lights On

Holly Olszewski    Leave a Comment   

Far too many projects in the arts have the lights ‘turned out’ because they lack the funding to continue. Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the

Far too many projects in the arts have the lights ‘turned out’ because they lack the funding to continue. Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Michigan Council on Arts and Cultural Affairs council meeting and hear the wonderful ways in which this government agency is keeping the lights on for many projects throughout our fair state. It was fitting that the council meeting took place in the Carnegie Library Building (1903) in downtown Traverse City under this beautiful lighting fixture, giving light and symbolizing a tradition of quality.

The Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) is a council made up of 15 individuals appointed by the governor. It is the state government’s lead agency charged with developing arts policy as well as grant making. The Council works to fulfill its mission by serving as champions, advocates and a point of connection and coordination for the field with legislative, corporate and other leaders with an interest in seeing the mission of MCACA fulfilled.

Through their mission, To encourage, initiate and facilitate an enriched artistic, cultural and creative environment in Michigan, MCACA in 2017 awarded 504 grants totalling $9,736,672 to fund projects, programs and regranting programs in the state of Michigan.

Programs receiving grants:

  • Operational support $4,853,153
  • Project program $903,657
  • Capital Improvements program $2,226,485
  • Regional regranters $700,000
  • Services to the field $629,000
  • Arts in education residencies $298,198
  • New leaders retention/engagement $126.179

Among the regranting partners, regional regranters in 65 counties received 252 grants.  The touring arts grant through the Michigan Humanities Council granted 148 grants in 37 counties.  The Michigan Youth Arts Association  granted 56 schools in 28 counties through their Art equipment/supplies program, and served 24 counties with 129 awards through their Arts and Culture Trek program for transportation.

Over all, MCACA shed light all over the state including 14 out of 14 congressional districts, 38 out of 38 Senate districts and 108 out of 110 House Districts.  When regranting is included, there were a total of 1068 grants awarded in 78 counties.

Using grants from MCACA and Arts Midwest, along with two other arts agencies, organizers in Flint are helping the children devastated by the Flint Water Crisis heal their community through the arts. Throughout the coming year, the community of Flint and its children will benefit from programs through Midwest World Fest, a program that facilitates week long residencies in midwest communities for world class performers.

MCACA along with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation has unveiled an app that identifies the public art nearest you. The MI Art Tours app has information about each piece, the artist as well as  directions to get there. It also has built-in tours, local and statewide.  There are 1,155 art works and 72 built-in tours.  It is free to download from the Apple app store or on Google play.

This is an impressive list, but there were projects that went unfunded and grants that were requested and not awarded. A little over half of the $18,211,616  requested was granted.  This is a call for advocacy. MCACA can distribute the funds but it is up to us to continue to advocate with our state and federal leaders for increased funding for the Arts.  There is always more we can do when it comes to advocacy. The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies has a wonderful resource entitled The Five Essential Arguments.  NASAA, has many other wonderful articles and handouts that can be used to start the conversation.  It would be amazing if MCACA could fund every grant request.

There are also many opportunities for those looking to enrich their own lives by giving back.  MCACA asks every year for volunteers to sit on review panels to read and score the grant proposals.  More information on this opportunity can be found at MCACA’s website.

Michigan Arts Education, Assessment, and Instruction (MAEIA) is funded in part with a grant from MCACA, and we are grateful for their continued support.


Continue Reading

Carrie Jeruzal: Redesign- Make it Bad, Then Make it Better

Carrie Jeruzal    Leave a Comment   

Just like great art, great art education is often inspired by personal experiences. But, not always in the way one might expect…. A couple of years ago my oldest daughter’s class was holding a...

Just like great art, great art education is often inspired by personal experiences. But, not always in the way one might expect….

A couple of years ago my oldest daughter’s class was holding a bake sale during a community event as a fundraiser for a field trip. I don’t have much confidence or experience in baking so I thought this one “treat recipe” that I found online would be cute, easy and perfect for a busy mom like me. Well, it wasn’t so easy and I messed it up terribly. Turns out candy kisses look the same slightly melted as they do burnt and one should not let them stay in the oven, “just a little bit longer!”

So I took a deep breath, ate some burnt chocolate, regained my strength and senses and decided to persist by getting creative with my odd sense of humor. So, tongue-in-cheek, I created a new recipe embracing the struggle. I called it “Mommy Can’t Bake Mix”.

Mommy Can’t Bake Mix
Step 1: Wait till the last minute to make baked goods for your daughter’s bake sale. Go to the store at night when most of the other crazies and overworked moms are out.

Step 2: Look up easy recipe on phone that literally requires two minutes of baking time. Step 3: Screw up baking and throw tantrum / blame husband for no reason.

Step 4: Pout for a minimum of 5 minutes.

Step 5: Think to self, “Failure is Impossible,”- Susan B Anthony.

Step 6: Throw failed ingredients into a bag anyway along with random treats found in cupboard like pretzels, m&ms, crackers, marshmallows, croutons, cough drops, glitter, etc.

Step 7: Get computer genius husband to make cute labels.

Step 8: Put it on social media like a legit baking mom would.

The end.

If these treats were going to be bad, I was going to make them really bad. It became fun and funny. They became a novelty. I hoped people would buy them, not for the “treat” that was inside, but for the clever concept behind them. I ended up selling 5 bags! Turns out homemade brownies taste and sell better than clever concepts, however, I still counted success points in creativity!

So, what did I learn from this “lemons to lemonade” moment, and how did I apply it to art education? I learned that when the objective of a problem becomes to make something really bad, the doors of humor and creativity become wide open. That’s where I got the idea for my middle school “Redesign” learning unit which leads to the MAEAI V.T209 Performance Task: Redesign- Make it Bad, Then Make it Better. 

“Redesign” Learning Unit

Introduction: I start by introducing my students to the concept of object/product design, design thinking and the design process. We look at examples of everyday objects and talk about the differences between good design and bad design depending on factors such as the object’s intended use, intended customer, cost of materials, durability, demand, etc. All students share a story of a time when a product broke or failed. We also look at and describe the evolution of a product’s design such as a car, the telephone and the vacuum cleaner. Students get concrete examples as to how visual arts have inherent relationships to everyday life through these product designs. Then it’s time for students to engage in a 2-4 day performance task.

Performance Task V.T209: I start the task by asking students to all select a different everyday-manmade-designed-object by having them cut one out of a magazine ad. I have also modified the task by asking all students to start with the same object, such as a shoe. I have instructed students both ways and by settling on one object for everyone to focus on I do sacrifice the variety of outcomes, but I also save on time and the need for cutting and pasting materials. Either way, once the object is selected students are asked to reflect upon and explain the current relationship of the object to everyday life.

Then begins the fun part. Instruct students to make it bad. Invite them to redesign the product so that it is truly terrible by transforming it into something impractical, unappealing, and/or harder to use.

In order to do this, the student must recognize the object’s intended use and successful design attributes and design against them. I tell my students that as long as their ideas are school appropriate, (no potty humor, nothing mean spirited or overly violent), that there are no limits to their creativity! At first some of my more regimented students don’t quite understand me, they don’t believe that I’m actually telling them to make something bad. I have to clarify that they are exercising their creativity in a new way by thinking about a design problem from a fresh perspective.

By exploring what makes something really bad, you in turn are also open to exploring its opposite design, what might make it really good. Then lightbulbs. Then students sketch truly creative results that they can’t wait to share with the class.

“Shark Shoes”

One of my favorites created by a 6th grade girl was a design that we quickly knick-named, “Shark Shoes.” What would make a pair of shoes the most uncomfortable shoes ever? Well, the answer is tiny sharks swimming in the bottom of your shoes that would bite your toes all day, of course! Pair that with slippery seaweed soles and fish hook laces for added discomfort and you have a terribly creative design!

Students overwhelmingly enjoy this part of the process. They will fly around the room to share their ideas with everyone and anyone, each trying to one-up the others. It’s like I’m giving them permission to be silly and a little naughty and they love it! They reflect on their design through this verbal exchange and then in writing.

Then the next day the instructions flip. Students are asked to reimagine the design of their object to be even better than the current design. They must solve the problem of how to improve it. Again, there are no restraints to their creativity and they must reflect upon their design once it is complete. The first image above is a “good design” for a shoe that can not only adjust the temperature of your feet cooler or warmer depending on comfort zone required, but can emit four different pleasant fragrances including lavender and grape fizz from a secret compartment in the heel.

In conclusion, instructing to develop student creativity doesn’t always take a safe and expected path. Just like in real life, approaching a problem from a fresh point of view can open our minds and force us to think in new and interesting ways. Design problems can be fun and silly. Our best ideas sometimes arise from our failures when we give ourselves and our students the opportunity to flip the measure of success.


This task is one that I wrote for the Michigan Arts Education and Instruction and Assessment (MAEIA) project. Here are links to the complete task booklets available for V.T209.

Teacher Booklet
Student Booklet

Continue Reading

Cathy DePentu: Excited and Engaged in Teaching After 35 Years!

Cathy DePentu    Leave a Comment   

Thirty-five years ago a guidance counselor asked me, “Why should we schedule a student all four years in Orchestra? Aren’t students just repeating the same class?” I attempted to explain that students continue to...

Thirty-five years ago a guidance counselor asked me, “Why should we schedule a student all four years in Orchestra? Aren’t students just repeating the same class?” I attempted to explain that students continue to grow musically and build greater facility and technique. He asked, “How do you know?” Hmmm.

Although I was able to describe the changes I saw and heard, and knew I was modifying the assignments for students at differing levels of experience, I had no way of producing concrete data. I can’t say I was too concerned about it at that stage of my life…I was a young, inexperienced teacher busy refining my classroom teaching skills, and as the kids were playing well. I thought I was all set.

Fast-forward twenty-five years. I met Ana Luisa Cardona and began my journey through formalized assessments and student directed learning. However it was not until I became a part of the MAEIA project that I began to see a transformation in both my teaching and my ability to assess and collect meaningful data. Over the past several years I have immersed myself in writing and editing assessments, field-testing and content review, demonstrating educator effectiveness/tracking student growth and am honored to be one of the Leadership Fellows. I look forward to delving into collaborative scoring next fall.

Many (okay, all) of these diverse roles have pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to reflect on my teaching. Starting with the basic—“what do I want them to know, how will I know when they have learned it, and how will I teach it”—I find myself moving more towards how can I measure an individual students growth and how will I teach them so that the material and the process of learning becomes “theirs”. I am trying to take myself out of the equation and empowering students to assume ownership for their individual and group process. The MAEIA tasks and events have helped guide my efforts, both as assessments and teaching tools.

Throughout this journey I have not seen a drop in performance quality, despite the fact that I do not direct the entire class period. Through sectionals and teacher assigned chamber ensembles, students are able to collaborate and contribute to their own rehearsal strategies and techniques. Many days I am a facilitator rather than a director, moving from room to room to observe rehearsals and occasionally offer a suggestion. It has been so exciting and rewarding to observe how a shift to seemingly “do less” has helped create empowered, independent musicians. As we debrief from these activities, students are surprised to realize they have created a learning process that can work in all areas of their life.

Using an assessment as a teaching tool: “Listen to our concert recording!”

We all remember hearing or giving those instructions. It usually resulted in a casual “hearing” of the piece while students chatted with their friends.

What was actually learned?

What was the directors’ implied goal for the activity?

Of course, the intent was to have everyone listen critically to the recording and objectively critique and analyze the performance. As teachers in the performing arts, this sort of listening and analysis is what we do every time we are on the podium, but have we taken the time to dissect what we are doing so that we can teach our students to successfully execute this multi-layered task?

So I asked myself, do students know how to listen? I know they can hear, but are they able to listen?

Can they accurately identify and evaluate the characteristics of tone, intonation and expression?

Can they construct and implement appropriate strategies to adjust and correct any problems they discover?

I have used M.T 421: Performance Critique for several years first in its newly written, untested form, subsequently as a field tester and beyond. I have modified it for use in grades 6-12 and use it as both a teaching tool and an assessment. For use as an assessment, I follow the directions as described in the teacher booklet. Modifications to the task to teach critical listening at all levels are described below.

Suggested Total Time:
This lesson can be completed in one 50-minute class period including time for discussion.

List of Materials Required:
-Recording of a short piece or excerpt of a longer piece from a recent performance and playback equipment

-The sheet music being performed

-Sufficient copies of the rubric/answer sheet for each student (I run two-sided copies, but you could project the rubric onto a white board).

-Pencils and a writing surface for each student.

Lesson Procedure:
All levels, lesson introduction: Direct students to listen to the recording and read the rubric. Play the recording.

Subsequently, have students listen to the piece and evaluate one element each time. You will listen a minimum of six times. (My students actually enjoy listening while they complete their evaluations, I just keep playing it as they write)

Modification for more advanced ensembles:
As students become comfortable with critical listening/analysis, they can be directed to evaluate two or more elements simultaneously and correspondingly, become more facile with appropriate music terminology. The number of “listenings” will also be reduced. (I explain to the classes that the goal is to listen/analyze while they play and apply these techniques to their role as an individual musician, member of their section and role in the ensemble)

Using this assessment has completely changed the way the ensembles listen to their performance recordings (even the 6th graders!) Most side conversations have stopped and students remain engaged and focused. Their developing ability to evaluate what they hear and create strategies and techniques to self-correct shifts the responsibility from the director (“Fix that!” “Too loud!” You’re sharp!”) to the students and empowers them to be independent musicians.
A Bonus Discovery! As I completed grading my three orchestras’ papers according to the teachers’ rubric, I wondered if the students were actually learning to hear/analyze to the same standard. I pulled a random sample from each ensemble and tallied responses.

All three ensembles used the top three categories…no one used the lowest standard (which made me happy, as this was a performance recording). The Middle School ensemble used all three of the remaining categories, fairly evenly spread. The Concert Orchestra also used the top three categories but clustered around ratings of 3 and 4. The Symphony (the most advanced ensemble) only used 2 and 3, demonstrating more developed critical listening skills. No one in the advanced ensemble was willing to give the top rating, while younger ensembles were less critical. This is VERY informal data collection, but it did lead to some interesting discussions in class.

I encourage all arts teachers to take a look at the MAEIA resources. Pick one or two and give them a try with one of your classes. Modify them as you see fit, share them with your colleagues and administrators. These amazing resources can provide so much to benefit our teaching and our students, take advantage of our work!


Continue Reading

Cheryl L. Poole: Co-Creation as a Process

Cheryl Poole    Leave a Comment   

Cheryl L. Poole is an educator with more than 40 years of experience in visual arts, museum administration and facilitating professional learning. She has had the honor of working with educators in the MAEIA project...

Cheryl L. Poole is an educator with more than 40 years of experience in visual arts, museum administration and facilitating professional learning. She has had the honor of working with educators in the MAEIA project over the last 5 years.

Hundreds of Educators Contributing to an Exceptional Outcome

I believe that no one of us is the ultimate expert in our field. While it makes the process slow and somewhat cumbersome, I hold firmly to the idea that the more individuals with the rights of revision that are involved in a project, the more authentic the results. The MAEIA assessments are a prime example of hundreds of educators contributing to the co-creation of a body of exceptional work.

Observing the Process

For four years (2013-2016), I was involved as support in the creation of all of the MAEIA assessments. I confess I wasn’t one of the great minds that created them but I had the privilege of observing the collaborative process from which the assessments sprung. What I observed was some of the very best work I’ve seen in nearly 40 years of working with adults.

First Steps of Co-Creation

Beginning the process required a clear sense of aspiration, a lot of inspiration, and more than a little faith.

The creation of the assessments began in the spring of 2013. Volunteers representing the disciplines of dance, music, theatre and visual arts convened to first understand the mission of MAEIA. Then work was divided among teams of 6-8 educators spanning the continuum of K-12, higher education, educational administration, and teaching artists.

Together, they:
-pondered the scope of the MAEIA project,
-learned the expectations of their roles as creators of assessments,
-received their targeted standards, and
-departed with tight timelines for finalizing assessments in each of their fields of expertise.

I recall the teams leaving that first day with more than a little apprehension about the tasks at hand. It was unclear at that point in time how many would come through with enough draft assessments needed to realize MAEIA’s mission.

Working Together Separately

Connected only through online channels, the creators of the assessments drew on the breadth of their experiences to imagine arts performances that could be measured and how that measurement could happen. They identified criteria to measure and determined what degrees would meet and surpass expectations. Every assessment was one of group effort and iterative refinement.

Through this process, practitioners became writers. Writers became reviewers. Both waded into the demands of revising, field-testing and revising again. Dozens rose to the demands of creating performance assessments where none existed previously. And as nearly always happens, leaders stepped up to drive the project forward.

Growth Through the Process of Co-creation

When I look back on the organic nature of the process of these adults learning new skills and challenging each other, I watched how most of them gradually developed new skills beyond their “day jobs”. Practitioners diving deeply into unfamiliar processes joined forces to encourage and support one another; living up to the expectations they held for themselves and one another.

The Co-creation Continues

The results of their work, 360 performance assessments in the arts, are available free.

These creations continue to be works in progress. Submitting your opinions and suggestions for improvement give them more visibility and often a greater level of relevancy. When YOU use them and revise them to fit your instructional plan, you bring your expertise to the process, and the work continues to develop.

Continue Reading

Tammi Browning: The Arts Prepare Students to Reach Their Potential

Tammi Browning    Leave a Comment   

Reading mission statements of school districts all over America, I find a universal educational purpose they seek to attain: To equip students with the skills necessary to reach their maximum potential in becoming self-sufficient, contributing...

Reading mission statements of school districts all over America, I find a universal educational purpose they seek to attain: To equip students with the skills necessary to reach their maximum potential in becoming self-sufficient, contributing members of a global society.

Depending upon the characteristics of the community in which the school district lies, the experiences provided to students to accomplish these goals can differ greatly. Such experiences must be organized effectively to match the social characteristics within the community it serves. Coupled with this, the influence of an educator’s own learning experiences can sometimes influence their view of diversity in the classroom. The advantages of such diversity can inadvertently be overlooked when creating a meaningful curriculum.

Educators must be cognizant of these factors in order to utilize the resources they have in a way that will help prepare students for a world where opportunities for success require the ability to compete and cooperate on a global scale.

To combat these challenges, educational leaders must provide an environment where teachers work as a collaborative professional learning community; where they are allowed to think outside of the box to create valuable connections with the world that enrich the lives of their students.

Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe in their book entitled, Schooling by Design, describe transfer of learning as the practice of “…learning the (self) discipline that permits prior learning to be effectively activated and used in new meaningful situations” (p.48). Heidi Hayes Jacobs (2010), in her book entitled Curriculum 21, has compiled articles written by experts in the field of education. In chapter 13, Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick describe learning processes they refer to as “Habits of Mind”. Habits of Mind are “…dispositions or attitudes that reflect the necessary skillful behaviors that students will need to practice as they become more thoughtful in their learning and in their lives” (p.212). They list 16 vital habits they have identified to be the most important to possess to be successful in school, work, and life. The majority of the vital habits involve reflection. Therefore, when students understand that prior knowledge obtained can be used to solve more complex problems and helps in the analysis of new situations encountered throughout their life; they have developed an understanding of transfer of learning and created habits of mind.

I believe that transfer of learning and key habits of mind are taught effectively through classes such as auto shop, wood shop, the arts, and home economics. Transfer of knowledge is the base of these hands-on, kinesthetic classes. As art teachers, we naturally promote transfer of learning and habits of mind through supervising student work on drama production sets, marching band props, homecoming activities, and painting murals in the building. We are conscious of cross-curricular, discipline-based art education that involves communication with other teachers and forming units consisting of projects that involve concepts being taught in their classrooms.

We provide students with real-life challenges, to which they must analyze and solve problems using mathematical reasoning and writing skills by communicating and working together in group collaboration. The arts, by nature, provide rich authentic experiences. Through creating a curriculum rich with exciting real-life experiences, we contribute to helping to solve today’s challenges.

Are you guiding reflection in your arts discipline? Search the MAEIA assessment items with key words. Or start here:

D.T406 Dance Concert

M.E103 Reflection on a Group Performance

T.E418 Performance Self-Evaluation

V.E401 Critical Reflection

This post was originally published in the MAEA spring newsletter and appears here with permission by the author.

Wiggins, Grant and McTighe, Jay (2007). Schooling by Design: Mission, Action, and Achievement. Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Hayes Jacobs, Heidi (2010). Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World. Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


Continue Reading

Margaret Thiele: Having Fun with the MAEIA Assessments

Margaret Thiele    Leave a Comment   

Last year I participated in the field-testing for the MAEIA Assessments for elementary music. In that role my focus was on the assessments themselves, the length of time it took to administer them, if they...

Last year I participated in the field-testing for the MAEIA Assessments for elementary music. In that role my focus was on the assessments themselves, the length of time it took to administer them, if they were grade level appropriate, and how well they worked to assess the concepts.

This year, I used the assessments but with a different focus—how could the assessment help me teach a concept in creative ways?

Setting Out
I took the opportunity to become even more familiar with the Catalog of Assessments and looked for assessments that I felt might be appropriate for me to use later in the spring for my third and fourth grade general music classes. Of course the catalog is so easy to navigate, I could quickly narrow down my search to music assessments for grades 3 – 5. Then by going down the list of assessments by title, I could find assessments that would match up with concepts I would be teaching in the spring. I printed out both the teacher and student booklets and set them out by my planning materials so that I had them easily accessible. Then as I sketched out my plans for the school year, determining when different concepts would be taught, I could see how and when the assessments would best fit in with my time line and work them in accordingly.

Choosing the Assessment, Choosing the Songs
For third grade, I ended up selecting the Performance Event M.E202: Singing Partner Songs and an Ostinato. I chose to teach the children the songs Skip to My Lou and Bow Belinda. Knowing the challenge that singing canons and partner songs are for this age group I wanted the students to be very familiar with the songs before attempting the assessments. Therefore, I included movement activities as students sang the songs.

Song 1: Bow Belinda

For Bow Belinda students were divided into two groups, one group found personal space in the room, standing up. These students were to remain in their spots and not travel. Students in group 2 went and stood in front of a partner of their choice. We sang the song and students bowed to one another as they sang, then on the last phrase of the song students were to “find another partner.” But instead of just bowing again as we repeated the song, students explored other non-locomotor motions they could do with a partner such as jump, hop, spin, sway, and many more. They enjoyed coming up with creative ways to move and this kept them thinking and singing the song without tiring.

Song 2: Skip to My Lou

Skip to My Lou comes from the play party tradition of 19th Century Americana. For this song, I had students get with a partner and stand next to them in a circle. I gave each pair of students a small scarf to hold so they could easily identify who were partners. One person, however, was left outside the circle and they skipped around the outside of the circle looking for a partner as we sang the song.

To make this a little easier, I had one student from each pair hold their hand behind them slightly so that the child skipping around could grab it. Then, when they grabbed the hand of someone, the two skipped off together around the circle, while the student who “lost my partner” skipped after them trying to tag the one who had stolen the partner, similar to the game Duck, Duck, Goose. The students loved this game and were willing to keep singing and playing it much longer than I had anticipated. In fact, it was quite hilarious as children became so involved in watching the student skip around the circle that they were oblivious to the fact that their partner had been stolen.

Students enjoyed it so much they asked to play it again the next week.


Combining Songs
The following week we put the two songs together. Because they sang both songs so many times putting the two together was rather easy for them. All that was left was to add the Ostinato. Both songs just use a simple I –V – I chord progression, so students sang the root of the chords (Do and Sol1) using the words “Bow” and “Skip.” After having heard the accompaniment for both songs so many times, their ears were well prepared. They also learned to play the Ostinato on the xylophones. So to prepare for the assessment, I assigned 6 students to the xylophones to sing and play the Ostinato.

The remaining students were divided into two groups: one-half singing Bow Belinda, and the other half singing Skip to My Lou. The students took turns singing on all three parts. Once students all had a turn on the three parts, I put them in groups of three. Each group was a given a xylophone and they took turns each one singing one of the parts, still as a class but they were separated from one another, not standing next to other children singing the same part.

Assessment Day
On the day of the assessment I handed out the student booklets and read through the directions explaining the rubrics to students. Students were then put back into their groups of three and given 10 minutes to decide which part each would perform and practice together. When time was up, each group took turns performing for the rest of the class as I videotaped them.

By this point the excitement was tangible; the children were so excited to demonstrate what they could do and be videotaped.

Objective Observation

It just so happened that my administrator dropped-in to observe me on the day of the assessment with one of the classes. We were both impressed by the performances but for different reasons. I was excited to see the children singing their individual part, staying together and on pitch. Children who at the beginning of the year had struggled with singing rounds and canons (evident by placing their hands over their ears as they sang) now stood up, faced the person who was singing the contrasting part and sang out with confidence.

My administrator was impressed that students were given a direction sheet and rubric so that the expectations were clear. She also noted how quiet and engaged students were as each group performed. Finally, she appreciated that the students had an opportunity to complete a self-assessment (Part 3). Later that day, when I ran into my administrator in the hall, she commented on how wonderful she thought the assessment was, how impressed she was with it, and how well the children had performed.

Using this assessment was a great experience. It gave me an opportunity to be more familiar with the MAEIA assessments and appreciate them, not just as an assessment tool for the students, but also as an opportunity to create lessons that incorporated singing, movement and playing instruments, and see their value as an educator evaluation tool.

Creating the learning opportunities that led up to the assessment were fun for me, and the students were excited about a performance opportunity where they could demonstrate their skills.

Margaret Thiele teaches in Dexter Schools and is a MAEIA Leadership Fellow. 

Continue Reading

Cheryl Poole: Watching as They Assembled the MAEIA Tools

Cheryl Poole    Leave a Comment   

Cheryl L. Poole is an educator with more than 40 years of experience in visual arts, museum administration and facilitating professional learning. She has had the pleasure of working with educators in the MAEIA...

Cheryl L. Poole is an educator with more than 40 years of experience in visual arts, museum administration and facilitating professional learning. She has had the pleasure of working with educators in the MAEIA project over the last 5 years.

Watching as They Assembled the MAEIA Tools

Sometimes you don’t what tools you need until you start the work.

In 2012, I had recently retired from an ISD position when a friend enticed me to give just a ‘bit of time’ to a new project being directed by the Michigan Assessment Consortium. It was the very beginning of the Michigan Arts Education, Instruction, and Assessment project. Ultimately, working for MAEIA became the most satisfying experience of my 40+ year career in arts and education.

I met with the early leadership team in late fall to acquire a description of the project I was thinking about joining. Over the subsequent five years, I’ve reflected on that initial description of the project…and the evolving dialogue. Although that early leadership team was describing for me the goal of the MAEIA project, they were also clarifying and elaborating on it for themselves. What I heard that day anchored my understanding of the project and has been the context of my work with MAEIA since then.

The Why
It started with a rumor. While, personally, I was in the meaning-making stage of joining this project, I was also watching four great minds with diverse areas of expertise (three of whom I knew by reputation and admired a great deal), grappling with important ideas. They had come together over a concern about a rumor circulating among Michigan educators and legislators.

The rumor was that legislation might come to pass that would force teacher evaluation to be based on student achievement data. These leaders were passionate about arts education and they were aware of the absence of formal, quality assessments that would provide the achievement data for educators in dance, music, theatre and visual arts.

If the rumor came true and law required educators to be evaluated on student assessment data, what would that mean for educators in the arts?

The worry around the table was that arts teachers would be evaluated on reading or math test data.
They all held that that would be wholly unfair. There was clearly a need for legitimate data of student performance in the arts.

The What
As the conversation evolved that day, I observed what I interpreted as their growing realization that the project would have to be a great deal more comprehensive than appropriate assessments in the arts:

-Evaluating a student would also need to be understood in the context of the dance, music, theatre and visual arts program to which they had access.

-Arts assessments would have to be created with the assumption of a quality, articulated K-12 arts education program.

-What about the many configurations of arts programs within districts?

The questions that needed to be answered were:

-What was a quality program?

-What did it look like?

-What criteria defined a quality arts education program?

-Who decided that?

-Based on what research?

Aha! The plot thickened because then the conversation came around to how to measure quality for each a dance education program. A music education program. Theatre education program. Visual arts education program.

The research had to be compiled first for each discipline and a tool for measuring programs had to be developed. Only then could performance assessments in the arts exist within an understandable context. And an understandable context was necessary before a teacher could select appropriate assessments and subsequently be evaluated on the resulting data.

So as I sat at the table that first day, making meaning of the MAEIA project, I heard the project expanding in real time.

Starting with the environmental need and the goal, the importance of developing tools became clear. To get to quality performance assessments, MAEIA would first have to define a quality program and have an ability to quantify and measure that quality.

Yet to unfold was the realization that, as we stepped forward and backwards toward the goal, MAEIA-involved educators would also need a compilation of research, to identify specifications for creating assessments, and guidelines for administering them.

The Community
We recognized, as a group, that collectively we didn’t have that expertise to achieve the task. Hundreds of educators, artists and researchers representing all four arts disciplines would need to bring forward what they knew to assemble the tools of MAEIA. And they did.

Fast Forward
Five years later, measuring educator effectiveness with student data was realized under PA 173 of 2015, over a thousand educators have contributed to what has become the MAEIA tools and resources: a Blueprint, Assessment Specifications Document, Research and Recommendations, a Program Review Tool, and 360 Assessment Items in Dance, Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts.

With support from the MCACA, fifteen MAEIA Leadership Fellows are prepared to deliver professional learning to districts, buildings, and community partners with an invitation for additional Associates to be extended soon.

The MAEIA Project Management Team along with dedicated participants, have just wrapped a Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness pilot with plans to continue the work into a second year while we also launch a Collaborative Scoring System pilot.

Continue Reading

Chunk and Bundle: The Bundled Assessment Approach for Demonstrating Teacher Effectiveness by Carrie Jeruzal

Carrie Jeruzal    Leave a Comment   

Navigating the world of assessment can be daunting, especially assessment in the arts.  Arts assessments come in a variety of forms, all dependent upon a variety of factors:  resources available, specific arts discipline, grade level,...

Navigating the world of assessment can be daunting, especially assessment in the arts.  Arts assessments come in a variety of forms, all dependent upon a variety of factors:  resources available, specific arts discipline, grade level, etc.  While information and research regarding assessment in the arts begins to mount, and the importance and pressure of reporting data from assessments becomes critical for demonstrating teacher effectiveness, I would like to offer up a “take a deep breath,” “let’s get organized and take it one step at a time,” practical approach to Visual Arts Assessment in the secondary classroom.  Chunk it and Bundle it.

I teach K-12 Art in a small rural public school that serves just under 300 students in the entire district.  I teach 2 hours of High School Art, 2 hours of Junior High Art, and 2 hours of Elementary Art each day.  Just writing that makes me tired!  Providing data on all these students at all of these different grade levels is too much and would literally become a full-time job on its own.  So to keep data management realistic, I have selected a small portion of my population from which to pull my data.  Since my High School students have a summative exam already worked into their semester schedule, the practical choice for me was to start with a selection of 16-25 high school students from which to pull data.

That’s right, instead of trying to pull data from all 200+ of my students, I focus in on a manageable set.

The data that I collect from these students is a bundle of 4 chunks:

  • MAEIA High School Level 1 Visual Art Performance Assessment Data
  • Digital Portfolio Performance Data using Google Classroom
  • Pre and Post Knowledge Data using Google Forms and Flubaroo add-on
  • Pre and Post Perception Data using Google Forms and Flubaroo add-on


This style of data collection requires forethought and organization at the very beginning of the school year.  I often incorporate my assessment plans right into my curriculum maps and I store the data digitally.  I also use an Student Learning Objective (SLO) document to serve as a kind of roadmap for my bundled approach.  Although this type of document may not be necessary in every district, I do find getting organized in the very beginning very helpful.

Also I feel using a bundled approach gives my students many options and chances for demonstrating their growth as opposed to relying upon a single assessment that may not be holistic.  It’s comforting to know that my students have multiple opportunities to demonstrate their growth by using 4 different assessment methods.

MAEIA Performance Task

This year my High School year long curriculum consists of three-dimensional art and design.  The MAEIA assessment that I selected was the V.T409 3-D Wire Sculpture.  After administering the task to my students, I collected performance assessment data by way of digital photos submitted to students’ Google Classroom Accounts.  I also collected numeric data (point scores or grades), based on the rubric included in the MAEIA assessment.  This process lasted approximately 5 class hours.  

Digital Portfolio

The second chunk of data that I collect is actually collected by my students.  Students post all of their work into a digital file organized and housed in their Google Classroom accounts.  When reporting my data I often have students select, print and document their own pre-proficient work and also proficient work.  This method allows students to visually self-assess their own learning and report that learning in a visual manner.  I use the 5 C’s strategy (Content, Craftsmanship, Creativity, Communication, Composition) to guide students through this evaluation process midway through the year and then again at the end of the year.  

20 Questions Pre and Post

This set of data regards Knowledge Data.  Think of a traditional multiple choice exam.  I select 20 questions mainly focused on knowledge of key terms, concepts and image recognition.  It is given within the first two weeks of school and then again during the final exam.  I use Google Forms to administer the test and the Flubaroo add-on to grade the assessment and then chart and report the data.  This chunk of data is collected fast; It only takes the students 15-20 minutes to complete.  Technology is a huge timesaver and the forms can be reused again when I re-teach the same curriculum.   

Perception of Growth Survey

The final set of data I collect and report is Pre- and Post-Perception Data.  

This answers the questions:

  • Does the student know and realize when he or she is meeting a standard?
  • Is he or she trying to meet a standard?
  • How does the learner perceive his or her own growth?  

This is where a student offers up a short narrative of his or her perceived growth.  

There is power not only in the numbers and visuals of student growth data, but also in the student’s own story.  Confidence, knowledge, experience, goals and learning in the arts are addressed in the student’s own voice.

Bundle up all these chunks of data in a cohesive digital dossier and present them to your administrator during your final evaluation to demonstrate your effectiveness in not one, but in four different ways.  This kind of data bundling presents visual, numerical and reflective narrative that all highlight the growth and learning of your students through cohesive methods.

Continue Reading

Professional Learning Resources and Blogs

Have a favorite blog that we have missed? Contact us to share the title!