Blogs & Online Sources

Recent Blogs & Online Sources by Heather Vaughan-Southard

Visual arts educators collaboratively review student work during the MAEIA arts assessment field test. The MAEIA Project has created 350 arts performance assessments in visual arts, dance, music, and theatre for voluntary use by K-12 Michigan teachers.

Janine Campbell: The Lasting Impact of Quality Professional Development

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment    , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Professional development is an impactful tool for teachers. When it is directed in ways that allows teachers to take what they have learned and apply it in their own classrooms to engage students, it becomes...

Professional development is an impactful tool for teachers. When it is directed in ways that allows teachers to take what they have learned and apply it in their own classrooms to engage students, it becomes one of the most powerful tools we have. If you are interested in help assessing your district’s or school’s access to Arts-specific learning opportunities for professional learning, use the Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment Blueprint and Program Review Tool.

I am fortunate that I have had the continued opportunity to participate in and even lead quality Arts-specific professional development throughout my teaching career. Each conference, keynote, and presentation has made an impact on my approach to teaching in big ways and small. A key approach when I attend any conference is to take one idea, tool, or method and find a way to weave it into my practice.

Last April, I had the privilege to participate in “The Power of Art Conference” at The Lab School in Washington D.C. This three-day event gave me the opportunity to meet teachers from across the country, hear from thought-leaders in Arts Integration, and tour a school in our Nation’s Capitol that puts the Arts in the heart of their instruction. The Lab School hosted the event because of their commitment to Arts Integration and their history of sharing with teachers what is possible when you bring content and classrooms together for big, bold collaborative projects.

Over the years, collaboration is something that I have pushed more and more with my students. It has looked differently depending on what our end goals were; sometimes we did small group projects and sometimes we planned events that included the entire school. Regardless of the end result, the goals have always been for students participating to not only learn about the content covered through the creation of the collaboration, but to also feel a connection to those who are a part of making it. I often call these projects, “Legacy Projects” because of their lasting, visual impact on the school.

At The Lab School, legacy projects are everywhere. From the mosaic columns and the dragon fountain in the courtyard, to the large installation works often created with the help of well-known artists like one of the key figures in the school, Robert Rauschenberg, you can see something made by students in every area of the school. Each year before his passing, Rauschenberg would come and create a large collaborative work with the students for display in the school. Each time, something different was created and a new approach would be taken; each time, students knew they were creating something that would be left for others to view for years to come. This was something I knew I wanted to bring back to my school and weave into my teaching practice right away.

Fortunately, I did not have to wait very long before I was able to do just that. After returning home from “The Power of Art Conference,” I soon received an opportunity to use collaboration as a springboard into a large mixed-media piece my students made for one of the largest art competitions in the world: ArtPrize. The 19 day competition is celebrating its ninth year and has opened up a Youth Collaboration Award for the first time this year with a classroom grant of $5000 to those with the most votes.

Our collaborative work, “Painting Under Paper Cuts,” involves three 4x8ft panels and is a visual reaction to a week of state testing that happened to be occurring during its creation. Students started with choosing paint from a variety of colors. They were asked to paint how they felt and use brushes, sponges, and other tools, including their hands, to make marks overtop each of the panels. They then worked in pairs to create cut out images from separate pieces of colored paper that included images of their classmates and various symmetrical and asymmetrical circle patterns. These pieces were pasted on top of the painted panels. This work will be displayed during ArtPrize at Monroe Community Church in Downtown Grand Rapids from September 20th-October 8th. You can view and vote on site with your smartphone for the work at Once the competition completes, the work will find a permanent home in our Library at our school.

I am thankful I work in a school that embraces the opportunities offered through quality Professional Development. Because I use what I have learned through these experiences in tangible ways in my practice, I am able to show my students and the greater school community what is possible when ideas are put into practice and when students come together to create a positive visual impact on their environment. These collaborations are one of the best parts of my job and one that my students often comment on as their favorite, too. If you would like more information on The Lab School of Washington D.C. or “The Power of Art Conference” and how to get involved, visit their website.

Do you work with the principles Janine listed above in your Visual Arts classroom? MAEIA suggests looking at the following assessment items:

V.T304 Applying Principles of Design to Paper Cutouts

V.T407 Collaborative Compositions

V.E404 Communicating an Idea

**Janine Campbell is the Visual Arts Teacher at Byron Center West Middle School and is a Visual Arts team member of the Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment Program. Her classroom has won local and national recognition in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, as well as various grants for their use of technology. She was named a 2014 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator, 2015 Michigan Art Education Association Middle Level Educator of the Year, and 2015 National Art Education Association Middle Level Educator of the Year. You can see more of her students’ work in the classroom at

A downloadable pdf of this post is available here Janine Campbell_Quality Professional Development.


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Thinking about Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness?

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment    , , , , , , , , , , ,

It is that time of year again! With the beginning of the school year, comes the development of Individual Development Plans for teachers. Last year, we recorded multiple webinars related to Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness. Topics...

It is that time of year again! With the beginning of the school year, comes the development of Individual Development Plans for teachers.

Last year, we recorded multiple webinars related to Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness. Topics covered included: How to create a sample of students for data collection, how to collect data, writing SLOs, documenting instruction, and how to prepare to present data in a final meeting with an administrator.

You can find those webinar presentations here. Look for the Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness series preceded by numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 for the order in which they were offered.

Best of luck on a smooth entry to the 2017-18 academic year!


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MAEIA in 2017-2018

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Here are the MAEIA initiatives we are working on during 2017-18. How will you be joining us? MAEIA Professional Learning...

Here are the MAEIA initiatives we are working on during 2017-18. How will you be joining us?

MAEIA Professional Learning Community

  • Increasing visibility of MAEIA and providing further support for Michigan education professionals through Professional Learning and Communication Strategies.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @MAEIAartsednet.

Want to write about your MAEIA experience or topics in the field of education? Contact Heather Vaughan-Southard at to learn more.

MAEIA Leadership Fellows and Associates

A cadre of education professionals offering virtual and face-to-face presentations on the MAEIA tools and resources hosted by leaders in Professional Communities such as State Organizations, Arts Organizations, Districts in underserved areas, and with Teaching Artists.

Interested in learning more? Contact Ana Luisa Cardona at and/or Heather Vaughan-Southard at

Collaborative Scoring System Pilot

An program in which we explore a platform and process for uploading student work to be scored by colleagues.

Are you a Visual Art or Music Educator interested in participating? Contact Jason O’Donnell at

Program Review Tool Pilot

The exploration of a web-based version of the MAEIA Program Review Tool.

Interested in learning more? Contact Karrie LaFave at

MAEIA Re-Ignite 2018

  • Annual gathering for MAEIA Founding Contributors, Key Communicators, Leadership Fellows, Associates, Partners, and Project Management Team scheduled for August 7, 2018.
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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.

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Delivering Quality Feedback to Students and Educators

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Quality feedback is key to progress for students and educators. Developing a method which inspires the recipient to get back to work can be difficult, especially in the age of standardization and fast-paced school and...

Quality feedback is key to progress for students and educators. Developing a method which inspires the recipient to get back to work can be difficult, especially in the age of standardization and fast-paced school and office dynamics.

Choreographer Liz Lerman, founder of what is now called Dance Exchange, created a process which I have found beneficial in-part and in-whole within many educational and social contexts.

Functional for all disciplines, the goal of this process is to improve the dialogue about the things we make. I have found that by placing critical conversations into objective scenarios, or by using the product of work to lead into discussions of habits of mind and patterns of behavior or artistry, we can use the tools of art-making to develop self-actualization. This isn’t new to the art educator, but perhaps a structured process for delivering feedback may be.

From Clara Martinez, a Teaching Artist working in Dance:
“As an educator I enjoy and look forward to using Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process with K-12 students in schools, in the community, and in private studios. It allows the students who may not identify purely as athletes or technicians to have a sense of involvement beyond their bodies within physical work. This process presents an opportunity for them to delve into their observational skills and sense of inquiry, and participate in an informative discussion about how to create art and express themselves in an embodied way, and not simply criticize one’s training or physical skillsets.  After experiencing this process a few times, students are more intrigued and excited to make dances that come from a place of questioning as opposed to demonstrating competence to one another. “

The Critical Response Process (CRP) by Liz Lerman is available via The Dance Exchange or Amazon.

Roles and Process
In short, the CRP includes three roles (artist, audience, facilitator) and four stages.

The process includes:

1. Statements of Meaning; 2. Artist as Questioner; 3. Neutral Questions; and 4. Opinion Time.

For the purpose of educator effectiveness, the teacher and administrator could focus on the four stages and attempt to hold each other accountable for facilitating the conversation in the order the stages work best.

The intent of the questions within the four stages reframes the participants into roles of inquiry rather than mastery with declarations of what should or should not change. The hierarchy of audience (responder/administrator) determining the value of what is made shifts to bring awareness and discussion of to the intentions of the work (teaching) and whether the process produced an effective outcome.

An Overview of CRP within Teacher Observation and Evaluation
Within the process of teacher observation, a follow-up meeting would begin with the administrator stating what they witnessed to be valuable and could be followed by the teacher’s explanation of what was happening in relation to content, management, and standards. This stage of the CRP alone highlights what the administrator sees, perhaps revealing how the teacher could further explain their discipline and provide more information thus moving toward a deeper shared understanding.

Next, teachers could inquire about evidence of specific goals they were aiming for within their lesson or practice. Having the opportunity to drive the conversation places the teacher within a more active role within this process. In my experience, this illuminates the rigor of the preparation and depth of planning within their teaching while also creating a more dynamic relationship with the administrator.

For me, this created a more professional and harmonious balance to the experience deepening the sense that the evaluation process really is for me and not being done to me.

Neutral questions posed by the administrator continue the conversation, again highlighting the values of the administrator in a way that they are at-play-with and in consideration of the values of the teacher.

Lastly, opinions are welcomed if permitted by the artist (maker/educator). Agency continues to be one of the keys which unlocks the potential for quality feedback. If we aren’t open to hearing it, we aren’t able to apply it, making the delivery and content of quality feedback important.

In our Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness pilot meeting on May 24th, we’ll be moving through this process as a means for reconstructing Administrator-Educator Dialogue and as a tool for the arts classroom.

Interested in MAEIA Assessment Items related to Response processes?

D.T413 Critical Response Process

Critical Response Process

M.T207 Music Listening Response

Music Listening Response

M.E416 Theme Response- On Musicals

Theme Response—On Musicals

Visual Arts
M.E438 What’s the Big Idea

What’s the Big Idea?

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Introducing the MAEIA Leadership Fellows

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment    , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The MAEIA project, with generous support from the Michigan Council on Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Michigan Department of Education, assists school districts, buildings, educators,...

The MAEIA project, with generous support from the Michigan Council on Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Michigan Department of Education, assists school districts, buildings, educators, and the public in implementing a high quality arts education program in dance, music, theatre, and visual arts for all K-12 students.

We would like to introduce the MAEIA Leadership Fellows, a cadre of arts educators prepared with general and specialized professional development presentations and personalized coaching strategies to elevate the arts education programs offered in Michigan schools and beyond using the MAEIA resources.

The MAEIA Leadership Fellows work collaboratively and individually to offer presentations in virtual, face-to-face, general and specialized formats.

We proudly present the following educators with a sampling of their presentation and consulting topics:

Elizabeth Andrews: MAEIA Overview for Dance and Theatre, Moving to Learn: Kinesthetic Intelligence in the Classroom, Engaging with Community Organizations and Teaching Artists, Artful Thinking in All Classrooms, Philanthropy In and Through the Arts

Rebecca Arndt:  MAEIA Overview for Music, Using PBIS in a Music Setting, Music Curriculum

Hedy Blatt: Public Relations for Arts Educators, Organizational and Classroom Management Strategies for Arts Educators, Arts Events Planning, Arts Advocacy Strategies

Tammi Browning: MAEIA Overview for Visual Arts, Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness with MAEIA Resources, How MAEIA Tools can be used by Community Partners and Teaching Artists

Cynthia Clingman: MAEIA Overview, Literacy, Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness

Cathy DePentu: MAEIA Overview for Music, Educator Effectiveness using MAEIA Resources

Cecilia Gollan: MAEIA Overview for Visual Arts, Using SLOs, MAEIA Resrouces, Student Portfolio and Electronic Data Systems to Demonstrate Educator Effectiveness

Debra Henning: MAEIA Overview for Interdisciplinary Studies, STEAM, Collaborating with Community Partners

Carrie Jeruzal: Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness with SLO writing and Bundled Assessments, Feminist Art-Based Visual Arts Curriculum, East Asian Art-Based Visual Arts Curriculum, Empty Bowls Community Outreach Programming, Fiber Arts Education for Middle School Students

James Mobley: Demonstrating Growth of Students and Educators in Music, Getting the Most Jazz Out of your Rock Drummer, Maximizing Technology in your Music Classroom Using One Device

Holly Olszewski: MAEIA Overview for Music, Music Curriculum

Beth Post: MAEIA Overview in Dance, K-12 Dance Education, K-12 Arts Integration, Collaborating with Community Partners and Teaching Artists

Cindy Swan-Eagan: Music Education, MAEIA Resources

Margaret Theile: MAEIA Program Review Tool and Resources, Music Development and Cognition, Rhythm Instruction for Assisting Elementary At-Risk Readers, Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness using the MAEIA Resources, Public Policy and Music Education

Soon, you’ll be able to read more about each of the Fellows as well as their direct contact information on a dedicated Fellows page on the MAEIA website. For now, please contact us to schedule professional development presentations and more at the Contact Us link at the top of the page.

Thanks, again, to the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs for providing the support needed to develop the MAEIA Leadership Fellows program.


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For Your Listening Pleasure: Arts/Education Podcasts

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Podcasts are taking the world by storm and since spring break is here or near, try out the following podcasts to keep your creative embers burning.

Podcasts are taking the world by storm and since spring break is here or near, try out the following podcasts to keep your creative embers burning.

Artfully Speaking: Lectures and Workshops on the Arts and Education by ARTSEDGE: The Kennedy Center’s Arts Education Network on itunes.

ArtEd Radio by the Art of Ed

Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

The Edupreneur Podcast

Hyperallergic’s list of Art and Culture podcast episodes

Movers and Shapers by the Moving Architects

Playbill’s list of Theatre podcasts to be listening to

Tim Topham’s list of Music education podcasts creating modern musicians

What are YOU listening to? Share your favorite podcasts in the comments.

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[Mesa de 100 cuviertos] by Juan de la Mata. Image made available by Getty Research Institute

Museum Education and MAEIA: Support for Standards-Based Classroom Instruction by Debra Henning

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The Edible Monument: The Art of Food for Festivals, an exhibit on view at The Detroit Institute of Arts through...

The Edible Monument: The Art of Food for Festivals, an exhibit on view at The Detroit Institute of Arts through April 16, 2017, offers a near-perfect illustration of the manner in which museum education can support standards-based classroom instruction across the curriculum. The high-interest focus of the exhibit – Food – takes up a topic that has been a part of the American school curriculum for more than a century, a sure-fire subject used to interest students in the complexities of chemistry, biology, and botany, not to mention the visual arts, literature, and history.

Royal Banquet for the Coronation of King Carl XI of Sweden, 1672. Image made available by the Getty Research Institute.

Royal Banquet for the Coronation of King Carl XI of Sweden, 1672. By Ehrenstrahl, David Klöcker, 1628-1698 Eimmart, Georg Christoph, 1638-1705. Image made available by the Getty Research Institute.

In the exhibit, lavish court banquets and civic celebrations from the 16th through the 19th centuries are captured in finely detailed prints, rare books, and serving manuals. Elaborate banquet settings, including intricately designed table monuments made of sugar, flowers, and fruit are brought to life at the DIA by sculptor and culinary historian, Ivan Day  who has created a monumental sugar sculpture based on an 18th-century print, “Palace of Circe.” Unlike guests at Renaissance buffets, DIA visitors will not be able to nibble on a frieze from Day’s architectural wonder, but they are allowed to photograph the sugar-paste palace, set on an 8-foot table and surrounded by creatures from Circe’s bestiary. Nearby, visitors are treated to an object history of Edible Monuments. An enclosed case contains baskets and flowers sculpted from sugar paste, intricately carved confectioner’s tools, along with small bowls holding the natural pigments used to color the sugar flowers – indigo for the color blue, saffron for yellow, and, as in the early dyes used for wool, cochineal beetles for rich, fuchsia red.

Two floors above The Edible Monument exhibit, a special exhibit, Bitter/Sweet: Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate tells the story of the cultural and commercial impact these caffeinated beverages had upon European society following their introduction between 1585 and 1640. A Renaissance version of “The Story of Stuff,” Bitter/Sweet uses tableware, prints, paintings, and silver to chronicle the social and design revolutions that accompanied the commercialization of coffee, tea, and chocolate. The special exhibit includes examples of the finely crafted European silver and porcelain beverage sets that replaced beer steins and jugs on the tables of the elite and the rising middle class. True to its name, the exhibit also tells a bitter story – a history of the human cost of producing the raw materials for coffee, tea, and chocolate as well as the sugar that altered the bitter taste of the beverages and ushered in an era of colonization and plantation slavery. Like The Edible Monument exhibit, Bitter-Sweet is a visual history of social and cultural transformation which captures the global interconnections of food culture.
From Museum Exhibit to Classroom Instruction
Throughout K-12 classrooms, the interconnections that characterize the two DIA exhibits are becoming increasingly common in integrated, standards-based curricula. New reading and math standards align with grade-level content expectations in science and social studies, while recently developed state and national arts standards support the goals and objectives of core subject areas, all giving new meaning to a well-rounded education.
Not surprisingly, the content of the DIA exhibits aligns especially well with the visual arts standards and the arts assessments developed by the Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment (MAEIA) Project. For example, in the MAEIA assessment, “Celebrate! Create Art to Honor People and Events,” middle school students are asked to analyze images and descriptions of holiday celebrations and identify ways that people use the arts to express their beliefs and celebrate important people and events in their lives. Students then create a new holiday honoring a person, group of people, or an event of their choice. Like all MAEIA assessments, “Celebrate!” is aligned with National Core Arts Standards, in this case, the expectation that students will develop the ability to “Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical contexts to deepen understanding.”
For visual arts teachers, the DIA exhibits provide unique opportunities to prime students’ imaginations and deepen their understanding of the social, cultural, and historical contexts of the arts, if not with a field trip, then by viewing images and information about the exhibits made available though the DIA and the Getty Research Institute. In addition to informative blog posts  and video-taped lectures,  the Getty offers an interactive Mobile Tour: The Art of Food,  along with many images from the related exhibit, Eat, Drink, and Be Merry.
Art/Science Integration
With the assessment titled, “From Food Pyramid to Still Life,” MAEIA takes an integrative approach to arts assessment, asking students to create still life drawings that include food from each of the six food groups represented in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Pyramid, or from the five groups included in the U.S.D.A.’s My Plate. Designed for upper elementary students, the assessment enables teachers to evaluate students’ understanding of compositional principles, while reinforcing their knowledge of nutritional science.  At the DIA’s “Edible Monument” exhibit, students might test their knowledge of the food groups by categorizing some of the 1,445 dishes served at the coronation banquet for England’s King James II. With hog’s tongue, pickled oysters, bologna, pistachio cream, and more than a thousand additional dishes from which to choose, the King’s plate was no doubt full, indeed.


Amid images of grandiose feasts and lavish displays of silver and porcelain, it’s sugar that is certain to capture students’ attention and provide a gateway to standards-based instruction across the curriculum. Beginning with Ivan Day’s sugar-paste sculpture of Circe’s Temple, “Edible Monuments” provides a sweet introduction to the myths that are integral to social studies and reading standards. In Michigan’s new Social Studies Standards, “social understanding” is defined, in part, by the ability of students to “Analyze classical civilizations and empires and their lasting impact.” Students are also expected be able to “describe how trade integrated cultures and influenced the economy within empires,” a topic that informs the “Bitter/Sweet” exhibit.
Like the new social studies standards, the Common Core sets reading standards  that include knowledge of myths and legends. Beginning in grade three, students are expected to become increasingly proficient in “Recount[ing] stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures [and] determin[ing] the central message, lesson, or moral.” At the DIA, Day’s sugar characters from Greek mythology, including figures of Hercules, Circe, Diana, and Minerva introduce students to mythological characters, moral tales, and illusions that appear throughout history and literature. From Circe’s sugar-paste bestiary of gluttonous soldiers transformed into pigs, it can be a short leap, for example, to the mythological allusions in the Harry Potter series – to Circe who appears on the Chocolate Frog Cards as a famous witch or to Harry’s gluttonous cousin, Dudley Dursley who sprouts a pig tail.

Sugar is not likely to be a preferred topic for lessons in nutritional science; however, as San Francisco’s Exploratorium Museum  demonstrates, the Science of Sugar  is “a fascinating and precise science,” and a whole lot of fun. At the Exploratorium website, students can explore the molecular structure of sugar, grow Monstrous Marshmallows,  or watch educators compete on The Iron Scientist, with the secret ingredient – Sugar!

Whether meeting physical science performance expectations that require students to model the atomic composition of simple molecules or pushing the boundaries of the life sciences with studies of cross-species, or xenotransplantation with pig organs,  the study of sugar, as presented in the DIA and Getty Exhibits serves as an enticing topic for learning labs designed to meet Next Generation Science Standards.

From the arts to Day’s zoological oddities, the DIA exhibits cross the centuries and discipline boundaries to provide unique ‘texts’ for standards-based classroom instruction and the independent research projects important to self-directed learning. Through the generosity of the DIA and the Getty Research Institute, curriculum content is brought to life for students everywhere – through field trips to the DIA and virtual trips on the Internet. With an eye on standards-based assessments – whether intended, as in the MAEIA project, as formative, summative, or interim measures of progress, teachers can turn the exhibits into food for thought as nourishing as a banquet fit for King James II.

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Stuart Chapman Hill: “Creating” Better Professional Development

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment    , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

If you want to get a group of educators chattering in a hurry, walk into a teachers’ lounge and toss out a favorite educational “buzz” word or phrase. One of my favorites, as a middle...

If you want to get a group of educators chattering in a hurry, walk into a teachers’ lounge and toss out a favorite educational “buzz” word or phrase. One of my favorites, as a middle school choir teacher, was “professional development,” an idea that seemed so unimpeachably good on its face—what teacher wouldn’t want to keep growing and learning—but that so often came wrapped in unappealing packages that it prompted more eye-rolls than anything else. What does meaningful professional development look like? And what’s MAEIA got to do with it?

Our Study
Recently, my colleagues Ryan D. Shaw and Cynthia Crump Taggart and I presented a study about MAEIA at the State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE) Arts Assessment Symposium. All three of us, in our own experiences as MAEIA item developers, felt that the work of writing and editing assessments for the MAEIA project had strengthened us as teachers—and we wondered whether other item developers had experienced the same. In short, we wanted to know whether serving as item developers had functioned as a form of professional development for the teachers involved.
We recruited six music educators involved in the MAEIA project—two from the elementary team, two from the middle school team, and two from the high school team—to be interviewed about their experiences as item developers for MAEIA. We talked to these participants about how their experiences developing these assessment items had influenced their work in the classroom and we invited them to reflect on the “nuts and bolts” of the process. After jointly reading and analyzing the transcripts, we found that the participants’ commentary cohered around three themes: looking “inward,” looking “outward,” and reflections on the experience.

Looking “Inward”
The first theme, looking “inward,” refers to the reflection and growth that happened on an individual level for teachers involved in developing assessment items.

For several participants, the writing process presented a renewed opportunity to learn about national and state music standards and think about how to align instruction with them, as described here by Jessica (please note that all names used here are pseudonyms):

[Here are] the standards, here’s what we want the students to know, and so, instead of just picking a bunch of songs and then finding things to pull out from them and hoping that it’s good, I feel like, as a choral director, I’m going—Hmm, I should look at what they should be doing. I need to look at my colleague above me, see where they’re going. And I need to look at these standards and see if I’m gonna be able to meet those standards through this, and assess those through their performing and their learning of these pieces.

Some of the teachers, like Emma, felt that the process had strengthened their knowledge of assessment practices:

I got a much better understanding of what testers and assessment professionals are looking for…I know what music teachers are looking for when they listen to things or watch or do assessments, but then to have that other professionalism added in there, it made me feel like, I guess, what we were doing was a little more—I don’t want to say valuable, ‘cause that means what we were doing before wasn’t, but just a little more elevated, so that I knew going forward if I was to write my own or design my own assessment for my own classroom, I had more of these tools at my finger tips.

Many of the teachers simply described how the process had, in a more global sense, prompted them to turn a critical eye on their own teaching and assessment practices.

For Anne, an experienced band teacher, this opportunity for reflective practice might as well have been the aim of the entire project:

What I remember distinctly was it forced me…to think about what I’m already doing and also best practice, which I hope is one in the same, but it really does force you to think about that and to align, and to be very introspective about, “Am I aligning with best practice as much as I possibly can?” And I gathered through the whole process that that’s the goal, is to ask teachers who are willing to be introspective as they go clearly to get data about what’s going in their classroom but ultimately to be introspective and take that hard critical look, “Am I aligning with best practices as often as I can?”

It seems, for these teachers, that writing assessment items for MAEIA was an important part of their reflective practice as educators, strengthening their knowledge of state and national standards and giving them a constructive venue for self-evaluation.

Looking “Outward”
Teachers in this study noted how the MAEIA process made them view the larger music teaching profession, and their positions within it, differently—a process of looking “outward.”

Anne reported:

“it was really easy for me to have a bigger picture outlook…I was thinking now pretty globally about how to fit these assessments into a wide variety of music classrooms across the state.”

Several teachers acknowledged the sense of empowerment they felt, strengthening their sense of legitimacy as educators, advocates, and leaders of their colleagues.

As Sally, an orchestra teacher, explained,

We can show [administrators without arts experience] and say, “Look, this is what you’re going to be looking for in my class. This is how I’m going to collect data.”…And, because I showed the document to my administrators, they were like, Oh! … I see what you’re doing. I see that there is real teaching going on here.

Sally also described her enthusiasm for sharing MAEIA materials with arts colleagues in her building and district, joking that she feels like “the person who’s planted zucchini. People in my department run from me.”

Andrea, a middle school choir teacher, felt strengthened in her conviction that music education matters and that projects like MAEIA were an important instrument for advocacy:

What we do is really important. And to validate what we do, I think we need to be doing these hard things. I mean, this took a lot of work, but, you know, no one understands us, no one understands why what we do is important, just for people, for students, for humans. And I think that this … kinda puts that stamp—I mean, everyone knows, well, math is important. This is important. … I think it brought to the surface just how intricate music education is.

These “bigger picture” reflections helped teachers not only to see how they function within the larger music education world, but also to feel renewed commitment to their work and to advocating for their field.
Reflections on the Experience
Finally, teachers offered reflections on the experience of being a MAEIA writer in general. They shared that having the opportunity to work with colleagues in an authentic professional learning community was productive, helpful, and even joyful.

Sally said, “MAEIA—I tell my students, it’s like, imagine being part of a group project where everybody in the group is equally passionate about their subject and equally informed. And it’s so rewarding.” Participants enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate and walked away with new ideas to implement in their teaching.

Not everything was perfect, of course, as the newness of the project made it a learning experience for all. Some participants hoped for more specific training in how to write a good item. Others pointed out that it was hard to keep up with changing procedures as the process evolved. And, for many, it was challenging to keep up with MAEIA work and deadlines while also tending to the responsibilities of their full-time jobs at their schools. Still, these bumps in the road seemed outweighed by the enjoyment and inspiration that teachers were able to derive from engaging in this thoughtful, collaborative work.
What can we learn from these teachers’ insights? Although the pat on the back for the MAEIA project is nice, that perhaps is not the moral of the story. The model of collaborating on the MAEIA team to write assessment items differs from many typical professional development activities—conferences at which teachers listen to sessions and keynote speakers, school-level professional learning communities in which teachers discuss a common reading or the latest teaching fad.

One important difference here is that these teachers were engaged in the process of creating something together, a hands-on experience that prompted valuable critical reflection and real inspiration for classroom practice and advocacy.

In addition to creating valuable assessment tools for arts educators, projects like MAEIA may furnish a helpful model for schools and districts to use in designing meaningful, high-impact professional development activities for teachers.

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Bookshelf: 20 Books to Stimulate Thinking for the (Arts) Educator

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment    , , , , , , , , ,

I am a reader. I am at my best when I have new information to process and to apply to my teaching and my life. Recently, a mentee asked me to provide a list of...

I am a reader. I am at my best when I have new information to process and to apply to my teaching and my life. Recently, a mentee asked me to provide a list of reading materials to shift her from her standard thinking and teaching patterns. Here is a list of resources which have shaped some of my professional and personal development in recent years. Though the list here is non-fiction, I also recommend fiction, fiction, and more fiction. – Heather Vaughan-Southard (Dance)

What books would you add?

For Getting Students to Respond Critically to Their Art and the Art of Others

Critical Response Process by Liz Lerman and John Borstel

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler

For Engagement, Creativity, and Productivity

Flow: The Pscyhology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Sparks of Genius: The 13 Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People by Robert and Michelle Root-Bernstein

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport

Mindsight: the New Science of Personal Transformation by Daniel J. Siegel

Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential in Us All by Tom Kelley and David Kelley

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam M. Grant

Food for Thought in Reaching Hard to Reach Kids (and Adults)

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk

Teach, Breathe, Learn: Mindfulness In and Out of the Classroom by Meena Srinivasan

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Teaching with Love and Logic: Taking Control of the Classroom by Jim Fay and David Funk

For Thinking Like an Artist:

The Elements of Story: Field Notes on Nonfiction Writing by Francis Flaherty

Story/Time: The Life of an Idea by Bill T. Jones

Hiking the Horizontal: Field Notes of a Choreographer by Liz Lerman

For Re-thinking the Status Quo

The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly by Seth Godin

Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education by Sir Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica

For Remembering What it is Like to Learn Something New

How to Bake Everything by Mark Bittman


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