Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Power of Collaboration and Critical Feedback

The New Victory Theater provides professional development opportunities for teachers across many performing arts disciplines throughout each season. Last summer we offered a course, Introduction to Dance Education in the Classroom, for New York City public school teachers which was inspired by the dance productions of our 2010/11 season, Momentum and Mischief. Pre-K through 12th grade teachers (General Education, Special Education, English, Theater and Dance, etc.), were engaged as artists and educators to build skills in dance-making, collaboration, performance interpretation, analysis and art-form based student assessment. The goal of the intensive is to give teachers the skills to integrate dance and dance activities into their core academic curriculum.

Teachers warming up to dance!
This year I worked with New Vic Teaching Artist Pene McCourty and Sean Curran as a guest instructor for a day. I was also a participant in order to support the public school teachers’ learning and the instructors’ facilitation. It is important for me to straddle the line of learner and support staff, so I benefit by watching teachers respond to certain aspects of the work and gain insight into new methods and strategies for working in the arts with students and teachers during the school year. It’s also a bonus to let loose and move in new ways.

Days #1-3
Solo work
Over the course of the week, these teachers transformed into dancers and created solos, duets, and choreographed full dance pieces in small and large groups. The small dance groups were based on similar grades or subject area in order to write a teaching unit integrated with dance. For the culminating dance presentation, we were given the following parameters for choreography:

 1. Incorporate the chosen unit theme or subject.
  • one group focused on the seasons for early childhood students
  • a group of high school teachers centered on the metaphor of "fences" – to keep people in or out, to create community, etc. 
  • my group’s unit was based on a high school "Intro to Theater" class to craft a commercial.
2. Include the solos and duets created early in the week
3. Add variations to a dance piece devised as a whole group through personal stories  
A dance inspired by bottled water
The work was challenging in an exciting way. How do we make a commercial using dance and movement vocabulary from the week? My group decided to create a ritualistic dance for a bottled water company with nature and the ocean as the underlying current of the piece. We chose music that was soothing with ocean waves and wore costumes of different shades of blues and greens.

A powerful teaching and learning tool we practiced was a reflection protocol adapted from Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process. The heart of this peer-to-peer reflection process is to build an ensemble by creating meaningful dialogue and critical feedback that supports rather than critiques. The artists share their work-in-progress and the audience responds by offering reactions to the work as a facilitator leads them through a series of prompts:

 “I noticed” - Responders are asked to describe what they saw in the performance (both literally and/or metaphorically), e.g. “I noticed that the dance had many levels and surprising moments”
 “I liked” - Responders are asked to share what stood out to them in the work presented, e.g. “I liked that there were moments of jagged movement and varied tempo throughout.”
“I wonder” - This is an opportunity for responders to give suggestions that might make the performance stronger, e.g. “I wonder if there could be a stronger connection between the dancers for a clearer narrative to be told through the dance.”
The artists listen to the feedback and do not respond verbally, however they are given a chance to return to their work to revise the dance incorporating any feedback that was useful, clarifying or exciting. We practiced this reflective critical feedback whenever we created or learned a new piece of movement. I noticed that the more we talked about each other’s work the more supportive and bonded the whole class became!  

Look for my second post on the rest of the week and how our final performances turned out!
Courtney J. Boddie is the Associate Director of Education at The New Victory Theater. She holds a Masters in Educational Theatre from New York University. She is on the adjunct faculty for the Educational Theatre Graduate Programs at both New York University and City College of New York, CUNY. She is currently a member of the NYC Arts-in-Education Roundtable TA Affairs Committee and Face-to-Face Conference Committee. She has also served as facilitating partner with the New York City Department of Education Office of Arts on Special Programs to design arts education professional development for NYC Public School Teachers. @courtneyjboddie

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you pulled together all the right ingredients, Courtney!
    1.) Teachers put in an authentic learning environment,
    2.) Curricular driven learning goals,
    3.) Collaboration among gifted artists (like Sean Curran), teaching artists, and classroom teachers, and
    4.) The Liz Lerman Response Process.