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Recent Blogs & Online Sources by Cheryl Poole

Cheryl L. Poole: What about the lesson plans?

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“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.

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Cheryl L. Poole: Co-Creation as a Process

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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.

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Cheryl Poole: Watching as They Assembled the MAEIA Tools

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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.

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