Blogs & Online Sources: MAEIA
Cathy DePentu: Career-long Learning
I have been in school for 58 of my 63 years. Granted, I’ve switched roles a few times and moved back and forth from the front of the room to behind a desk (...
I have been in school for 58 of my 63 years. Granted, I’ve switched roles a few times and moved back and forth from the front of the room to behind a desk (or music stand), but still, the end of August is a turning point of each year. Even after all these years, I still toss and turn the night before school starts wondering what the year will bring. Much of my excitement is the same as when I was in elementary school: Who will I see the first day? What adventures we will share about summer? Will the people I work with be kind? Will they like me?
Every year, I am privileged to share my passion for music and music-making with a new group of students. We work together and learn from each other. Even though only a few of these students will choose the Arts as a career, I know that the thought processes and learning strategies involved in the performing arts classroom will benefit them all throughout their life.
We learn patience, collaboration, cooperation and persistence. When we fail, we try again. We value each others contributions and celebrate our differences. We are accepting and welcoming; our classrooms are safe spaces. Of course we will encounter obstacles to success–perhaps budget, administrative or legislative. While we may not be able to control the situation, we CAN control of how we choose to respond to it.
I say “we learn” because after all of these years, I truly feel once the unique process of teaching and learning through the Arts is shared, we are all both students and teachers.
Being willing to adapt and continue to learn while I teach keeps me from teaching the same year, over and over again…and so every year can be exciting and fresh.
Have a great year everyone, and remember that MAEIA is just a click away!
On that note, we’d like to invite MAEIA-informed community members to join the Facebook closed group: MAEIA PLC. Look for us under “groups”. Request to join and share in professional dialogue with like-minds about MAEIA and arts education.
Cathy DePentu is a MAEIA Leadership Fellow and serves as Director of Orchestras for Plymouth Canton Community Schools.
A downloadable pdf of this article is available here: CathyDePentu_Career-long Learning.
Amy Lynne Pobanz: The Perfect Place to Teach and Learn
I dream about it. The perfect place to teach and learn. A district that celebrates the arts. I fantasize about amazing arts facilities and resources for my students. I long to feel valued and supported...
I dream about it. The perfect place to teach and learn. A district that celebrates the arts. I fantasize about amazing arts facilities and resources for my students. I long to feel valued and supported as a teacher. I am a bit jealous when I visit a school district that has an amazing gallery space, a well outfitted recording studio, an orchestra, a black box theatre, or a dance studio. If you are an arts educator, chances are you can relate. Too many of us teach in underfunded programs with meager facilities and resources. It’s easy to complain about all of the challenges that face us as arts educators. Believe me, I am guilty of my fair share of complaining. I am sure you won’t be surprised to learn that venting my frustrations did not help to improve the arts in my district or community.
I found myself with a choice. I could either complain or I could be an agent for change. I asked myself this question, “What actions could I take that would positively change the landscape of arts education in my school district and community?” At first it felt like a loaded question and a daunting task. I wasn’t even sure where to begin. Could I even articulate my vision for a perfect place to teach and learn in the arts?
Don’t feel overwhelmed. I began by using MAEIA (Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment Project) tools. MAEIA resources are free for your use and have been designed to support your work advancing arts education in your schools and communities. You can always reach out to MAEIA personnel and request additional support.
I have come to value the word- “place.” It is a powerful word. “Cultural geographers, anthropologists, sociologists and urban planners study why certain places hold special meaning to particular people or animals. Places said to have a strong “sense of place” have a strong identity that is deeply felt by inhabitants and visitors.” Consider the impact of place as you envision your perfect place to teach and learn. Here are some steps that may guide your journey.
Step 1. Assemble
Assemble a team of people who are passionate about the arts in your school and community. Be inclusive; invite all arts teachers, invite students, invite parents, invite administrators, invite community organizations, invite community leaders. I believe collaboration is an essential component to any great endeavor.
Step 2. Envision
Read and reflect on the Michigan Blueprint of a Quality Arts Education Program tool (see link below). Have dialog as a group about your greatest dreams and vision for your district arts program. Imagine what could be.
Michigan Blueprint of a Quality Arts Education Program—a goal-setting document for arts education program and school improvement purposes. The Blueprint describes the highest standards of successful arts education programs in dance, music, theatre and visual arts along seven criteria that are aligned with the Michigan School Improvement Framework.
Step 3. Reflect
Complete the program review tool (see link below). This tool collects data that can be used to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your current arts program. This is a wonderful process that provides insight into your program and promotes healthy dialog about program improvement. I cannot stress the importance of this tool. This process empowers arts educators to have conversations with administrators and school boards about the quality of their arts program. Arts educators can make statements that are supported by data from a State funded arts assessment tool. Share your findings with colleagues, administrators, and the school board.
Note: The PRT tool is moving from paper and pencil to a web-based assessment tool. Please contact the MAEIA administrative team before beginning the PRT process to see if your team is able to use the web-based version.
Step 4. Develop
Develop a District Arts Plan. Communicate the vision of your arts team with all stakeholders. Ask to meet several times a year with your school board members and present annually to the school board. Here is a link to my favorite reference resource for developing an arts plan. http://www.artsed411.org/files/Complete_Insiders_Guide_2017_Updated_Cover.pdf
Step 5. Connect
Connect with other arts educators and be involved in arts education and advocacy in Michigan. Meet artists, take classes, go to performances, create.
Amy Lynne Pobanz is a visual arts educator and MAEIA Leadership Fellow with over 20 years of experience teaching in traditional, virtual, and blended learning environments.
A downloadable pdf of this article is available here: Pobanz_ThePerfectPlacetoTeachandLearn.
Barb Whitney: Advocating for Students through the Arts
Access to the arts for students in schools offers an avenue for self-expression and a source of inspiration. Beyond that, the arts develop students’ critical thinking skills. Additionally, numerous studies prove the arts benefit academic...
Access to the arts for students in schools offers an avenue for self-expression and a source of inspiration. Beyond that, the arts develop students’ critical thinking skills. Additionally, numerous studies prove the arts benefit academic performance, including that of standardized testing.
A wealth of relevant data exists proving that students regularly exposed to the arts are more successful both inside and outside of school. In the landmark 2003 Critical Links publication, 62 academic research studies collectively demonstrated that arts education improves not only academic skills, but students’ motivation and achievement.
Moreover, students in low-income schools are affected more significantly than their counterparts. James Catterall’s large-scale longitudinal study titled “Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art” found that in particular disadvantaged students with arts involvement showed strong associations with voting and volunteerism, college enrollment, and better earning within careers.
Arts programs are proven to correlate with improved attrition rates and increased participation in school communities. In other words, schools benefit, too. Beyond the value of the arts for individual students, the arts build community within schools. Arts experiences provide students a non-traditional opportunity for academic success and often, a reason to stay in school.
Data from the UCLA’s Imagination Project, a longitudinal study of 25,000 participants, reported positive statistics related to arts involvement. This research recognizes the arts as a driver for increased self-esteem, as well as decreased dropout rates. In terms of application, by offering arts curriculum, schools can use the arts to effectively attract or retain families.
As illustrated by countless studies, accessibility to the arts enables individuals to succeed. However, in recent research published in 2017 by Americans for the Arts in which my research was cited, statewide leaders revealed that due to narrowing of the curriculum, standardized testing, and other factors, the arts are seen as a nicety, rather than as an integral factor in student learning.
Unfortunately, the categorical devaluation of the arts is a factor when schools are faced with difficult budget decisions; cutbacks of the arts are often considered as a potential cost-savings measure. Elimination of arts specialists has occurred in many districts across the country. This trend of unequal access relates to valuation and resources, disproportionately affecting rural and inner-city youth. Critical opportunities for self-expression and upward mobility are overlooked. Unequal access to the arts underscores a need for advocacy measures to ensure arts education access for all students.
To be clear, students do have a right to arts instruction in schools. States are required to provide arts instruction as a part of a well-rounded education within the Every Student Succeeds Act, which was passed in 2015. To reiterate, the right of arts education for all youth in the USA is currently guaranteed by law, and the right to equal treatment in education is also guaranteed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In addition, a variety of state policies require school districts to provide students with arts instruction. However, surveys indicate discrepancies between policy and practice. Despite legal recognition and policies upholding the vital role of the arts in appropriately educating the nation’s students, a review of relevant scholarship and state surveys indicate that students throughout the country have not received equal access to the arts over the past two decades.
As an example, the Arts Education Partnership’s ArtScan database currently illustrates that nearly all states have developed content standards for elementary and secondary arts education; yet oversight for the provision of arts education at a school, district, and statewide level is relatively limited, as very few states offer means to monitor policy. In other words, students across the country are not equally receiving regular, sequential, curriculum-based arts instruction, which is proven to help them succeed in school, work, and life.
In some cases, schools or districts assume that volunteers, artists, and community arts organizations will provide increased arts education programming. However, these supplemental tactics require additional resources to upscale arts and cultural programs.
Certainly students benefit from supplemental arts education through community arts education providers. As one example, the recent study of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas included a large-scale randomized lottery selection of youth to tour the museum. Findings revealed causal relationships between increased critical thinking, social tolerance, empathy, and interest in the arts. However, occasional field trips or site-visits from teaching artists ideally supplement classroom coursework and instruction in conjunction with arts specialists. A model without arts specialists supporting the other roles diminishes quality arts instruction for all youth.
Pictured you will note a guiding document provided by national partners that supported the stance on the value of each role pictured, the important providers of arts education, including: Certified Arts Educators, Community Arts Providers, and Certified Non-Arts Educators.
The shared endeavor is best understood by examining the intersections of the Venn diagram. Certified Arts Educators and Certified Non-Arts Educators or classroom teachers, working together, offer students sequential, standards-based arts curriculum. Classroom teachers and community arts providers offer students standards-based connections between the arts and other content areas. Finally, community arts education providers intersecting with certified arts educators offer students deep expertise and professional experience.
As another resource for deepened understanding of our roles within the arts education ecosystem, the Arts Education Field Guide from Americans for the Arts illustrates spheres of influence. As a prescriptive document, the field guide encourages stakeholders in arts education to build more effective relationships in school, community, and statewide that will allow arts education to thrive. By viewing the student as the primary stakeholder at the center of the ecosystem, examination may be made regarding current relationships and opportunities for new connections. Policy and funding decisions should ideally be made with the view of how it will affect a student’s learning experience.
To reiterate, the benefits of an arts curriculum without regular, sequential exposure are qualitatively and quantifiably less successful for students and for school communities. The decision has implications to potentially hinder students’ future success. While the reduction or elimination of specialists can mean a reduction in salary expenditures for schools or districts, decisions such at this are made at great cost to students and school communities.
Recognizing the vital importance of arts education is an important first step in a journey toward advocacy. Stakeholders can look to the excellent work from Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment project (MAEIA), Creative Many Michigan, and Americans for the Arts to build networks, providing connections and communications about the benefits of arts education and potential crises in reduction or elimination of specialists. We can research, facilitate and build consensus about best practices, solutions and models of excellence. We can understand and participate in policy, which drives measures toward arts education equality for all students.
As we begin to truly understand the value of the arts for students, schools, and communities, we can share this message: the arts matter. We can publicly support arts education and the roles of educators within a shared endeavor. We can interact with and coach others to become advocates in the arts education ecosystem, such as legislators and elected officials, administrators, parents, and even students. Based on the legal mandate for the arts, we can actively promote its inclusion in schools and combat its reduction or elimination. We can identify as champions for the arts and advocates for arts education.
As a MAEIA Leadership Associate I am hoping to make a bigger impact by sharing the vital role the arts play in supporting children’s learning, educational experiences, and future prospects as United States citizens. My goal is that by providing data and recommendations for how the arts can help students, communities, and our society, I will help create a new group of advocates in students, educators, administrators, and more.
Barb Whitney serves as Executive Director for the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center, on the faculty in two departments at Michigan State University, and as a MAEIA Leadership Associate.
A downloadable pdf of this post is available here: BarbWhitney_AdvocatingforStudents.
Michael Letts: Art as Energy!
One integral aspect of many MAEIA assessment items is time limits. Sometimes this may seem unnatural, high pressure, or “test-oriented.” But in the arts, limiting time can often...
One integral aspect of many MAEIA assessment items is time limits. Sometimes this may seem unnatural, high pressure, or “test-oriented.” But in the arts, limiting time can often be good, can even be liberating, and can spur creativity.
Creativity is not just coming up with new ideas. In fact, there are few if any truly new ideas. Usually creative concepts are changes to existing ideas. We can invert an idea, or synthesize it with another idea, or magnify it, apply it to a different purpose. Creativity is change.
Time limits are part of many art forms. Music, drama, and dance are all time based. In visual arts, time limits may seem less appropriate. But, a common question from new art teachers is “what do I do with students who finish early?” That can be a real concern, until we learn to structure visual arts lessons in terms of process, to consider that time is of the essence.
Creative Process as Time and Energy
It is often said the first idea is the worst idea. It is the first thing that comes to mind. It may even be a cliché. It is first because it is the idea we already know. But, it does have some value: it is a start.
So, we change it, we modify, combine, repurpose, transform, extend, or oppose (flip) it. Creative ideas don’t come to us like magic, fully formed. Creativity is what we do with ideas, how we edit, transcend, and develop them. Creativity is really about process. Great works of art come from artists so committed to process that they cannot stop processing ideas until something fresh emerges.
Therefore, we need be sure to teach process, not just product. A product goal is a goal already conceived. Creativity is also finding a new goal. We don’t always just want to get to a product, we want to create a process that leaves artifacts as evidence of a unique trail of thought. Then we arrive at creativity that can flow without a beginning or end.
The great artist/educator Thomas Hirschorn took the idea of a monument and redefined it. Traditional monuments are permanent structures that create and honor memories. Hirschorn flipped the “permanent” part of monuments and came up with the idea of a temporary monument. And he didn’t design it himself. He designed a process and let the people of the community create their monument. The idea was “monument”, but also was “temporary”; it had a time limit. A time limit can be a very empowering idea: we know when it is over. It eliminates the pressure of judgement of the “final product”. It is done when it fills the time, when the energy has been applied and sustained, and the artifact or outcome is the experience: the power of process, the real memory, not the object.
Hirschorn also came up with a great concept to define art: “Quality no, Energy yes!” He says quality is a characteristic of a product, but art is about energy. This is true when we consider that art is communication of ideas and emotion, empathy and expression; the true completion of art lies in also presenting (one of the process categories of the National Arts Standards), not only creating. The impact art makes in experience and ideas is the ultimate value. We make art to communicate and express.
Energy can take the form of time spent. The real goal of most artists is to spend their time making their art. When one piece is done, they don’t quit with relief, they start another. The value for the artist is in the creative thought, the time spent. The goal is to be creative, not to be done being creative. And more and more, for contemporary artists, the real creation is of a process which produces an artifact.
Oliver Herring, in his Art 21 episodes, says he doesn’t care about “the medium or the object…I really care about the process.” His “Task Party” process is one of play; “Play- it’s a thing we put on hold because we get distracted by so many things.” As educators, we know play is a primary learning process. Daniel Pink has identified play as one of the “Six Senses” of right brain creative thought. Picasso famously said “Every child is an artist…”. Herring says “everyone is a creative agent.” Children love play time. Tell a child to go play for an hour, and give them something to play with, and they will fill the hour with energy. Herring simply provides time and materials in his Task Parties and people bring the energy and infectious play.
Time is a major component of systems to structure energy. Ask any musician. Time in the art studio also is identified in Harvard Project Zero as a key benefit of visual arts education, one of the “studio habits of mind”: “engage and persist”. Inspire to play, to explore ideas, we engage and persist. The process of art is often playful search and research, an exploration. Exploring is grounded in play. It doesn’t end when you have a product, it ends when you run out of time.
How can we structure a visual arts lesson to target systems of time and energy as an objective?
Some of my most successful visual arts lessons use structured systems of time and energy as objectives. I think of them as creative systems and as “art problems”: play with a purpose, a structured exploration rather than an “assignment.” Assignment sounds like something you do for work, not play. I like the word “problem.” In math, a problem is about learning a process as much as finding a solution. The successful math answer is evidence that the student knows the process. Why not think of an art project of the evidence of engaging and persisting in a process? Energy, yes! Many less than successful art pieces look like they just lack real engagement or involvement by the artist, for whatever reason.
Time limits can force us to be more creative. If we have all the time in the world, we will search our mind for that next decision, that next best move, the right answer. But the answer is not there. In our mind is only what we already know. With a time limit, we must go back to our play state, make a random decision, go with it, play with it, and then decide what it means and see how it works: the process of discovery. Limits of time and of materials will force new analogies.
As my young son once told me when I asked him what he would do if he wasn’t so lucky to have all his cool toys- he didn’t miss a beat: “It’s okay dad, I’d just go outside and play with sticks.” Play was the experience, not the object, the process not the toy or artifact.
Time limits also give your students freedom and deniability. They do what they can with the time given, the goal is to make it through the process and have something to show for it, and to describe the decision-making process. The art from each student can be unique and surprising, not a replica of something that some other artist already did better than they can. It will be their voice.
In one of my recent MAEIA presentations, I had a group of teachers do a timed collage, based on a MAEIA visual arts performance event. At the end, much of the group discussion was around the feelings and outcomes we encountered because of the time limit. The teachers were interested and surprised by the effect of a timed project. The project was loosely based on the collage-based Performance Event “Communicating an Idea”. If art is about communicating, then this item gets right to the core of our purpose! Don’t be afraid of timed projects and assessments, and take a look at the MAIEA assessments to inspire your own use of time systems to inspire your teaching and students.
Michael Letts is an Associate Professor of Art Education at Northern Michigan University as well as a MAEIA Leadership Fellow.
A downloadable pdf of this post is here: Michael Letts: Art as Energy!
Holly Olszewski: MCACA- Keeping the Lights On
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.
Cynthia Clingman: “Drop Everything”
The MAEIA Leadership Fellows present general and specialized professional learning presentations to educators, administrators, and community organizations who interact with K-12 schools. Below, Cynthia Clingman outlines what is was like developing her...
The MAEIA Leadership Fellows present general and specialized professional learning presentations to educators, administrators, and community organizations who interact with K-12 schools.
Below, Cynthia Clingman outlines what is was like developing her first virtual presentation as a MAEIA Leadership Fellow with colleague, Liz Andrews.
How are you dropping everything, taking risks, and promoting the arts? Share with us in the comments.
As I remember from years ago, I read Beverly Cleary books to my 3 daughters and son.
Beverly Cleary wrote about D.E.A.R. in Ramona Quimby, Age 8. We even have a copy of this book signed by Beverly in 1976. Since then, “Drop Everything and Read” programs have been held nationwide on April 12th in honor of Mrs. Cleary’s birthday.
As we approached the Drop Everything and Read day, I couldn’t help but apply the “Drop Everything” philosophy to our first MAEIA webinar!
The proposition for each of us planning a webinar as MAEIA fellows, is really to “drop everything” and think about how to support the Arts through professional development. Our first challenge was to plan and deliver an overview webinar for interested Arts Educators.
My presentation partner, Liz Andrews, and I discovered this was no easy task! We did have to drop any previous notions that we had about webinars, and really start from scratch.
Here are all the challenges we faced as well as successes we experienced;
Finding a host site
I met with the Professional Development Consultant, Mary Nell Baldwin, at Kent Intermediate. She helped me set a date, reserve a room, and assisted in creating the flyer. She also posted them on the ISD online registration catalog.
How to publicize?
She and I also met with the Assistant Superintendent to request time on the agenda of the upcoming area-wide monthly administrator meeting.I met with 40 administrators on March 2 to provide a MAEIA “pep talk,” encouraging them to share the webinar invitation with teachers.
I then scheduled a meeting with the technologist, Mark Raffler, to ask for suggestions for setting up the webinar. He suggested using Adobe Connect or Google Hangout. We decided to go with Hangout and scheduled a practice date with Liz. A practice session is critical! What support will the technologist give? Did we have the correct dial-in link? Are we visible, can we be heard? Will we know who has dialed in? Who will advance the slides? It took awhile to sort all of this out.
Develop the Collaborative Responsibilities
In the meantime, Liz and I worked on the presentation PPT slides, created notes for each slide and assigned speaking roles. We printed the slides with notes. We were ready to “drop everything” and go live on March 22nd!
Of course, there were a few setbacks – the link that we sent to registrants the morning of the webinar, was no longer active in the afternoon! So we put a second technologist to work to help contact the registrants with a new link. Those that dialed in late, though, were unable to connect and had to watch the recording of the webinar the next day. (We sent out the webinar recording, the PPT presentation and evaluation survey the next day).
Do your homework and promotion work!
Secure a location that will give you some technical support, and help with registration. This was so helpful to us.
“Drop everything,” keep a smile on your face, and hope for the best!
Liz Andrews: “Jump in- take a chance- try something new.”
The MAEIA Leadership Fellows work individually and collaboratively to create and present professional learning on the use of MAEIA resources in face-to-face and webinar formats. For some presenters, virtual sessions are new formats which lead...
The MAEIA Leadership Fellows work individually and collaboratively to create and present professional learning on the use of MAEIA resources in face-to-face and webinar formats. For some presenters, virtual sessions are new formats which lead to new understandings of how to create dynamic engagement.
We have invited the Leadership Fellows to write about their experiences as they engage the creative process in developing this work. Liz Andrews and Cynthia Clingman recently collaborated to present a virtual session. Here, Liz shares her thoughts on the process and the product of making her first MAEIA Leadership Fellows virtual presentation.
“Jump in – take a chance – try something new.”
These are encouraging words we give to our students and last month we got a chance to model this behavior. In creating and presenting our first webinar, my colleague Cindy Clingman and I did just that: jumped in, took a chance and tried something quite new. The result? Great experience for us and groundwork laid for future presentations.
Thanks to Cindy’s outstanding preparations, the technical aspects of the presentation including set-up and delivery were spot-on and easy for us to facilitate.
What I learned from the general lack of participant interaction is that we as presenters can improve our methods of instruction to adjust to the technical, online format. Basically, webinar participants can hit the mute button, walk away from the screen and tune out all together without the presenters ever knowing they left the room. Is this a high-quality arts professional development presentation? Without any engagement is any learning happening?
We need to adjust our planning leading to a webinar that brings the MAEIA project to life.
The challenge is how to make webinars: Engaging, Relevant, Interactive in ways that lead the participant to pursue the MAEIA resources further and want more .
After doing a bit of google research, here are some tips I’ve gleaned to pursue a more collaborative, inspiring webinar:
1. Make it personal.
Make some time at the very beginning of the webinar to find out some interesting facts about each attendee.
Begin with some type of question that requires an investigative answer. This can be anything from how much they currently know and/or use the MAEIA resources to other types of arts assessments they are familiar with.
2. Involve them with the content.
This can be like a guessing game – instead of presenting information on a slide and then moving on, show a photograph of a student in action and ask them to guess or make a prediction about the outcome relevant to the content.
3. Check in.
At several points within the webinar, stop and ask for specific feedback to check for comprehension. Present a thoughtful question that requires more than a “yes” or “no” answer.
I am looking forward to putting these ideas into action, making my next MAEIA webinar an engaging, inspiring presentation that arts educators will want to share!
Do you remember what it is like to try new things? Tell us about it!
Interested in becoming a MAEIA Leadership Fellow? We’ll soon be inviting applications to the program. Think it over! We are particularly interested in Administrators, Teaching Artists, Community Artists, and K-12 Educators.
Stuart Chapman Hill: “Creating” Better Professional Development
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?
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
Thank you, MCACA!
Thank you, Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs for funding a portion of our work for 2016-17! We are so grateful for your partnership and the opportunity to continue to support communities in...
Thank you, Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs for funding a portion of our work for 2016-17! We are so grateful for your partnership and the opportunity to continue to support communities in implementing high quality arts education programs in dance, music, theatre, and visual arts for all K-12 students.