The Dance Educator Prepares was the BEST use of my Summer!

I have just finished Week 1 of the DEL Summer Institute and took the course, The Dance Educator Prepares. I do believe this is the best possible way I could have used my vacation. I thought that four hours a day was going to be so much time but in reality it just flew by and I could not get enough of the valuable information presented. In what turned out to be such a short period of time, we were able to deeply investigate effective classroom set up and routines, sample various lesson plans in elementary, middle, and high school, discuss the Danielson Rubric, relate our work in dance to the ELA Common Core, view videos, discuss assessment and student learning, among many other topics. Within this wide variety of topics, there are a few things that really inspired me and led me to believe that this course is an essential part of every dance educators preparation for the coming school year. Ideas that resonated with me were: using rubrics and peer feedback as formative assessment to enhance the dance making process and the effective use of dance portfolios that bring weight and evidence of learning to the work.

As a teacher I have always considered the use of rubrics only as a tool for summative assessment. Until this course, I had never considered using a rubric formatively, let alone a rubric for students to use on each other. I have struggled with finding an effective means to make my students aware of the criteria on which I base my assessment. I always discuss the criteria, but using rubrics in this way allows students to take greater ownership of their dances. After thinking about rubrics for formative assessment I also thought of emphasizing learning through participating in the process of art making. My students were learning and applying dance concepts when they created their dances but the feedback with the rubric brings learning within the process to the next level. It allows students to further apply feedback and refine their work while applying more concepts, further analyzing the components, discussing, and defending the dances through evidence. All of this is evidence of student learning which can be then applied to student portfolios in dance.

In my school the classroom teachers have portfolios for each child. The portfolios display their work and track student progress toward goals in their Individual Education Plans. I have always felt that student work in dance needs to be in these portfolios but never knew how to best include it. After seeing examples of portfolios of student work in the dance classroom, it clicked for me. I teach a manageable amount of students and therefore am able to use dance student portfolios. This is a practice that I plan to implement with my students. I will make sure to introduce the portfolios in September to get my students in the routine of going to their portfolios when directed to complete work or retrieve their dance notation sheets. This course has made the use of dance portfolios seem like a manageable new goal in my classroom.

The week at DEL has been full of valuable learning experiences. The course covered a plethora of fantastic information – the most valuable for me being the formative assessment practices and use of dance portfolios. Every dance educator, whether new or seasoned, should enroll in this course to invigorate their practice and revisit their teaching.