Meredith C. Galvin, CDEA Tresurer
Several years ago, I sat through yet another professional development workshop with my colleagues, which had countless applications for English or Mathematics teachers, but few examples or uses in the arts classroom. Frustrated, I ordered the book Teaching Dance as Art in Education by Brenda Pugh McCutchen and used it as a tool to redesign and rewrite the curricula for my Dance 1A and Dance 1B courses. In her book, McCutchen outlines four “cornerstones” for dance as art in education. Her cornerstones are: Dancing and Performing; Creating and Composing; Knowing History, Culture, and Context; and Analyzing and Critiquing. I recognized each of these cornerstones already at work in my existing courses; but I knew that by better articulating how each one played an equal role in our courses, my students would feel that all of their work for dance class was equally important.
(from Teaching Dance as Art in Education by Brenda Pugh McCutchen)
A few years later, the NCAS were revealed and there were McCutchen’s four cornerstones, now renamed Performing, Creating, Connecting, and Responding. That same year I began my term as department chair. I took these new cornerstone standards and asked my department members to consider how their various assignments could fall under one or more of these master categories. Our graphic designer created posters that we hung in all Fine Arts classrooms so students could see how each of our courses taught the same skills.
Graphics by Nancy Hess
This is how I use these four categories in everyday classwork. In my syllabus, I tell students how many points they will be earning in each category. For example, my Dance 1A class looks like this:
Performing and Creating assignments largely happen in class so those assignments are set. Connecting and Responding Projects are largely homework so students have some choices. I teach everyone from freshmen through seniors and they are in very different places academically and as far as homework time goes. Some students prefer a few large assignments and others would rather a regular routine of short assignments.
Connecting assignments make up our study of the history and culture of a particular style of dance we are studying. From whom and from where does this style arise and how has it gotten to us? So within our Ballet Unit, students need to earn 40 Connecting points but there are several ways to do it and students can mix and match according to their interests, schedules, and preferences. This image shows the options for our Ballet Unit. Students can choose from these assignments to get themselves to the required 40 points for this 4-week unit.
The result of all of this has been that students no longer express that I am assigning too much work for “just a dance class.” Every single activity we do ties to one of these four cornerstones and whenever possible, they are customizing their learning within the strengths of those cornerstones as foundation.
Another result is that my written curriculum is directly connected to the National Core Arts Standards. I teach in a Catholic school where that is not required, but my administrators have looked positively on the fact that I have so carefully designed my courses to match those standards. They also love the fact that student voice and choice is given so much weight in my classroom.
If you’d like more information about my curriculum or examples of assignments, my courses are listed in the Canvas Commons or you can email me with more specific requests.