Blogs & Online Sources: dance education
Powerful Voices in Michigan Arts Education
We offer hearty congratulations to two MAEIA contributors who have received prominent attention this month. The National Dance Educators Organization convened in San Antonio, TX this November. Executive Director, Susan McGreevy-Nichols, annually awards a dance...
We offer hearty congratulations to two MAEIA contributors who have received prominent attention this month.
The National Dance Educators Organization convened in San Antonio, TX this November. Executive Director, Susan McGreevy-Nichols, annually awards a dance educator for their significant contributions to the field. This year, Michigan’s Nicole Flinn, received the award for her leadership and “grit” in advocating for K-12 dance in the state. Nicki is an assistant professor of Dance at Hope College and a long-time MAEIA contributor serving as Team Lead for many of the phases of the MAEIA work. Our congratulations to Nicki and appreciation for her leadership and dedication.
MAEIA Leadership Associate, Barb Whitney, has had her research published in the Americans for the Arts’ State Policy Pilot Program Summary Findings and Final Report. Barb is the Executive Director of the Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center and is on faculty in the MSU Residential College for Arts and Humanities. You can read her research here: Americans for the Arts: SP3 Summary Findings and Final Report.
Do you know MAEIA has a bragging board? Notify us of your professional accolades or those of your colleagues by adding to the board or email Heather at firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to celebrate the brilliant contributions Michigan Arts Educators are bringing to the field!
Elizabeth Andrews: “Why Are You Always So Happy?”
It is 8:00 in the morning. I left my house at 6:30 to drive over an hour in order to be ready when my less-than-exuberant high school students enter the dance studio. They are here for Dance...
It is 8:00 in the morning. I left my house at 6:30 to drive over an hour in order to be ready when my less-than-exuberant high school students enter the dance studio. They are here for Dance Explorations – a multi-style, beginning level dance course designed for any 9 – 12 grader in the county.
I start the warm-up trying to motivate them with expressive music, witty comments & critique and overall excessive cheeriness. At a break in the movement, one girl raises her hand and asks a very grouchy, angry question that I am sure others in the class were also thinking: “Why are you always so happy?”
She caught me off guard. Did I overdo it with the morning coffee? Was I happy because I really love to dance and therefore it just comes out in my teaching? Nope. It took me a few seconds to form the answer: “Because it’s my job,” I said.
I do believe this. As a teacher, part of my job is to convey an attitude of positivity – of hope for not only the work we do in the arts but for my students as human beings. Part of my responsibility is to cultivate kindness, empathy and understanding for others – I do this through dance. Others do it through music, visual art, or drama.
Here is my wish for all teachers (and especially those of you in the arts): May you have the courage to do what you know is right, the energy to inspire your students with the passion you have for learning and creating, and the patience to do all that is asked of you!
On behalf of the MAEIA community, thank you for all that you do.
National Dance Education Organization Conference
This year's NDEO conference was held in Washington, D.C. with the theme of advocacy through dance. Presenting on the MAEIA resources and model assessments were Nicki Flinn and Heather Vaughan-Southard. Most participants were curious...
This year’s NDEO conference was held in Washington, D.C. with the theme of advocacy through dance. Presenting on the MAEIA resources and model assessments were Nicki Flinn and Heather Vaughan-Southard.
Most participants were curious about the role of the MAEIA work within Teacher Effectiveness. We referred them to this document found on the Teacher Effectiveness Methods page of the MAEIA site. Other questions related to differentiated instruction, the use of assessments within arts integration, and the use of items as common assessments among colleagues at building and district levels.
These topics and others will continue to addressed in live and web-based presentations as well as MAEIA blog posts.
What are your questions?
Michigan Dance Council: Elevate Dance!
This past Sunday, dancers leaders from around Michigan gathered at the Happendance School to address new initiatives and to gather input about what Michigan Dance Professionals need, including in the K-12 sector. The MAEIA tools...
This past Sunday, dancers leaders from around Michigan gathered at the Happendance School to address new initiatives and to gather input about what Michigan Dance Professionals need, including in the K-12 sector.
The MAEIA tools will play a role in MDC’s advancement of program supports and education for all dance students. We were excited to share these resources to a room of professionals ranging from higher education, private studios, K-12, dance in healthcare, and commercial dance sectors.
Photographed: Greg Patterson, Chair of the Department of Dance, Oakland University and President of Michigan Dance Council.
From the MAEIA community: Nicki Flinn
My career in Dance Education started in the K-12 sector and advanced to higher education as I guide students into the field of Dance Education at Hope College. My experience with MAEIA over the last...
My career in Dance Education started in the K-12 sector and advanced to higher education as I guide students into the field of Dance Education at Hope College. My experience with MAEIA over the last four years, truly changed my understanding and attitude towards assessment.
What has been your experience with assessment?
When I was teaching in K-12, finding meaningful and purposeful ways to measure student growth in the dance classroom was difficult. I was consistently grappling with how to improve my teaching and assessment methods.
Am I providing adequate ways for students to demonstrate proficiency, confidence, and dance literacy?
The expectation of dance assessment was to to show evidence of what my students were learning through participation in kinesthetic and creative performance-based experiences, but finding resources and tools to do this well presented a challenge.
Assessing students seemed to be a chore versus a celebration of teaching and learning.
What would you like educators to know about the MAEIA model assessments?
The experience of working with MAEIA- developing and using the resources personally, then observing students in the assessment process first hand, changed my understanding and awareness of the importance and impact of quality assessment. It has improved my teaching, providing more authentic ways to assess my students, and thus a more accurate measurement of growth.
MAEIA assessments function differently than traditional assessments. The shift towards performance assessment that demonstrates authentic measurement of student learning transforms traditional assessment. Performance assessment enables students to use complex, higher-order thinking skills versus a focus on isolated facts and memorization requiring little demonstration or application. Opportunities for students to problem-solve, create, design, and collaborate has become a more widely used method to assess student competency.
Today’s schools place emphasis on the implementation of quality assessment to demonstrate both student growth, as well as, teacher effectiveness. Reaching and measuring the growth of a classroom of diverse learners requires careful planning and execution.
Through the MAEIA assessments, students are involved and demonstrate their ability to perform, create, respond and connect, which reflect national, state, and performance standards. The Dance assessments, specifically, include domains of physical, cognitive, social and affective learning, offering a breadth of experiences that develop the whole person.
If you are ready to upgrade your teaching and your students’ learning, do it with MAEIA model assessments. They have the potential to bring new life to the challenges and rewards of quality assessment.
Measuring Success: Data Driven Dance
As dancers, we are consistently assessing performance- individually, technically, artistically, collectively, and so on.
As dancers, we are consistently assessing performance- individually, technically, artistically, collectively, and so on.
We put our content and concepts together like brick and mortar and present for all to see and judge.
Judgement is often based on aesthetic or taste, usually informed by exposure, and it tends to limit the conversation to “like” or “dislike”. This also emphasizes performance, as a product, to be of more importance than performance as a learning experience. In the scope of the educational experience, particularly in the arts, this is important but it isn’t the whole story.
Our goal, instead, should be to guide and instruct performers and audiences in how to evaluate the quality of a product beyond an actual performance- including how to lead to performance and advance beyond it. But how do we best determine what those include?
Here are some basic points to consider:
What is being assessed?
The layers I examine are: program philosophy, performance goals (by groups of grades such as K-4, 5-8, 9-12), teaching methods, class achievement, and individual student growth. I tend to think of this series like a keyboard with progression occurring whether I am moving up or down the keys.
To me, it is important to be adapting all layers as more information, or data, is gained. I have a hard time doing this with areas in isolation, such as strictly focusing on class achievement without taking into consideration individual student growth or performance goals for a group of grades.
Hopefully, you see this as a layered project that cycles as everyone involved spirals into advancing levels.
What will be done with the data?
Will you alter content and delivery? Make practical adjustments to schedule and structure of day, reflect on personal skills, determine strengths, weaknesses and how to support both?
As in anything else, it is important to choose thoughtfully as to what will be challenging but also achievable. This can be a good exercise in prioritization. It can also be a good reminder of how process can work for you. When creating, we often accept that trial and error helps us identify problems to be solved. I don’t think most artists consider the creative process to be one of distinct success or failure but one of give and take, shifting here and there.
Assessing programs and the growth of students and teachers should strike a similar chord. It isn’t necessarily about passing and failing, but keeping the momentum building. This can speak to major changes that need to occur or fine detailing.
You may find yourself really exploring the grey area of what is required to make meaningful change. In my world, this tends to include identifying methods for additional support of instruction or groups of students, determining key points and times for intervention, possibilities for enhanced focus or more advanced differentiation. Sometimes we can be so worried about assisting struggling learners that we forget to challenge advanced learners. Challenging the accelerated students may also serve as a motivation for those that aren’t quite at that level.
Who does the assessing?
We all understand the food chain: District administration to building administrator to teacher to student. What if we treated the feedback we obtain from students just as importantly as we do from our superiors? How would our perspective really shift and how would it change what we do and how we do it? If the community of the classroom has been a specific area of focus in your teaching goals, it is natural that this element be included. Not only that, it truly reinforces to students that you care about what they have to say and view your own adventures in education to be ever-evolving.
What does the test look like?
Tests don’t have to be about about pencil and paper, nor must they feature audition-like quick studies. Think about offering students a range of opportunities to demonstrate what they know, as well as how they know it. And again, think about the process. Perhaps the steps for obtaining new information is just as, if not more, important than memorizing terms and steps.
My students maintain portfolios that draw from the three categories used in the National Benchmarks and Standards for Dance by the National Dance Association:
In this, we use composition to demonstrate knowledge as well as perspective. Composition has a its own place within the dance experience but don’t be afraid to use it in less conventional ways, too.
When viewing dance to support a discussion of history or theory, I often ask students to write notes regarding their observations and connections, but then I ask them to dance their notes when it comes to class discussion. This allows us to not only have a very quick snapshot of what the student “took” from the video, we also see how their thoughts connected to ideas from other conversations, dances, processes, or images.
Performance, or presentation, offers a traditional approach for any performance-based art form but what if you change the expectations. What if students create an entire dance but instead of presenting the dance, they present their research that helped them arrive at their dance. What if, for at least one unit, they never actually present the dance. Think about what this tells them about the value of investment in a process.
For students that may not have a rich movement vocabulary to draw from, consider allowing them to open their definitions of dance. What if they filmed varying types of human (or non-human) movement in multiple contexts and presented an emotional narrative, utilizing tools of composition, in a dance setting. Just think of the conversations that could be stirred!
What if students responded to the “video dances” by writing, drawing, or dancing their sides of the debate of whether the videos could be defined as dance, why or why not, what would be required in order to be considered dance (or not).
What if students create a dance response to Martha Graham’s Letter to the World, or a current day recession-inspired sequel to Paul Taylor’s Black Tuesday? Or maybe students write letters to choreographers, inquiring about their works, their processes, their lives, their inspirations.
What is the real test?
The data should provide a portrait of where we are in the path toward our objectives and should reflect the overall program philosophy. I find the following criteria useful:
- developing a community within the classroom
- advancing technical ability and progression
- nurturing creative ability and progression
- bolstering of higher order thinking skills
- improving awareness of social justice, global citizenship
How are you assessing progress in your classroom?
(This article originally appeared on Dance Advantage on May 9, 2013 and featured in ArtsJournal).
What About “And”?
I continually find myself in a situations appearing to be dominated by “either, or”. It has prompted me to think about this in terms of dance education. In (dance) education, consumers- and many providers- seem...
I continually find myself in a situations appearing to be dominated by “either, or”. It has prompted me to think about this in terms of dance education.
In (dance) education, consumers- and many providers- seem stuck on classifying everything. Rating everything. Judging everything. (Read my article for Dance Advantage on why I refer to the current generation of dancers as “The Hybrids”. ) I find myself frustrated.
Why either, or? Why this and not that? Why what I like and not what I could use more of? Why me instead of you?
What about “and”?
Liz Lerman has been the the most recent “guest thinker” in my classroom. (By this, I mean that I shared some of her words from Hiking the Horizontal, described her work, showed video excerpts, and some of her lectures available online). As a class, we explored dance as a means to connect to self, self to group, group to group. We were examining what we have to express and how to go about expressing it. We entered conversations about value, purpose, and measurement.
I shared this talk by Lerman at Simon Fraser University.
In it, Lerman talks about shifting the spectrum of measurement from top down or bottom up to sideways- making room for everything to be seen and valued. She also beautifully explains the catalysts for her varied aspects of work which has simultaneously produced high art and community engagement in separate and connected spheres.
I used this as part of the students’ final exam:
Create your spectrum- what are at the polarized ends? How do you measure it- vertically, horizontally, circularly? Where do you fall right now? Why? Where have been before and where are you headed next?
Some of their ideas bridged concert and commercial dance, dance composition and performance, dance as a career path and as recreation. All expressed how interested they were in this project and were grateful for the opportunity to think through their (dance) education. As a class, the dialogue was rich in terms of identifying how dance was meaningful to each of us in varying ways and I was impressed at my students’ language in sharing their differences and commonalities.
There is power in “and”.
My career has depended on it. My life experience has depended on it. Hasn’t yours?
(A version of this article originally appeared at EducatingDancers on June 16, 2015.)