Transcript of Assessment in dance

This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity. Listen to the Assessment in dance podcast (22:03).

Jackie – The following podcast is brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team from Curriculum Secondary Learners, Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education.

As we commence this podcast today, let us acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands on which this podcast will be played for they have performed age old ceremonies of storytelling, music, dance and renewal and along with all Aboriginal people hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and the hopes of Aboriginal Australia. Let us also acknowledge this living culture and its unique role in the life of Australia today. Let us acknowledge with honour and respect our elders, past, present and future, especially those Aboriginal people in our presence today who have and still do guide us with their wisdom.

Welcome to the Creative Cast podcast series, the official podcast of the New South Wales Department of Education Creative Arts Curriculum Team. My name is Jackie King and I'm a Creative Arts Project Advisor for the New South Wales Department of Education. Today's topic of discussion is where to from here, assessment in Dance and I'm really lucky to be joined today by a wonderful dance teacher from the Central Coast area to discuss the way that she structures assessment for student success, particularly in Stage 5 dance. Please welcome Kirsty McRae.

Hi Kirsty, thanks so much for joining us today.

Kirsty – Hi Jackie, thank you very much for having me.

Jackie – I know it's a really busy time at school, so I really appreciate the time that you're giving us today to give our teachers a little bit of an insight into the way that you structure your assessment in dance. But before we start that, I've got two questions. The first one is could you tell us a little bit about your teaching background and your current teaching context?

Kirsty – So I've been teaching on the Central Coast for quite a long period of time. Now I teach at Kincumber High School, which is a comprehensive high school and we have extracurricular programs in year 7 and 8 for dance and then we have electives running through years 9-12.

Jackie – Fantastic. Now again, before we get stuck into assessment, we've just started a new little segment in our podcasts. So, in preparation for this podcast, I did ask you if you could think of a dance work or a choreographer who is either of interest to you at the moment

or is your go to appreciation work that you sort of study with your students or that you bring into your classroom. So, could you give us a little bit of insight into a dance work or a choreographer and why that is of interest to you.

Kirsty – So probably one of my go to works would be Revelations by Alvin Ailey and the other go to work would be Ochres by Bangarra Dance Theatre. I like both of these works for a number of different reasons. To start with, they both have quite substantial resources that can be accessed when studying the works right from choreographer interviews to explanations about the movement that you're seeing and the purpose behind those as well as how they're being implemented in classrooms. So, I really like that they're accessible and they can be really easily applied in both the Stage 5 and Stage 6 syllabus to meet appreciation and also composition outcomes.

Jackie – Oh, fantastic. Actually, I love that you've just mentioned Ochres because we're currently putting together a resource for writing in dance, and Ochres is one of the works that is referred to, and students have to break that down and use that within that module. So, I've been looking at Ochres a little bit lately because we're using that for that resource, so that's fantastic. Thank you for sharing.

Kirsty – This is a fantastic work in terms of the breakdown of the sections, you can clearly see motif, you can see motif being manipulated and developed. The concept is really clear within each section, it's tied together nicely in a cyclical piece of work. I think it's a really strong work to watch.

Jackie – Fantastic. It really works in well with all of those elements of the Syllabus that you need to focus on in the classroom as well, which is fantastic. The reason why we're talking with you today is at our recent Creative Arts Connect session, you shared a little bit about the way you structure assessment tasks. I think it was for Stage 5 and it seemed to me like the way that you do this really sets students up for success, success in achieving the task by the end of it and also success for moving through to Stage 6 as well. So, can I get you to share with our listeners how you do build your assessment task up? I think it's through the year or is it throughout the stage, I'll let you talk.

Kirsty – So it's a little bit about both. As a school, we identified quite some time ago that our structured essay responses across the school, across the KLAs, all needed greater support. So, we have a whole school approach in terms of our writing and we, as a school, implement the TEEL structure. So, in year 7 to 10 it's the TEEL and once it hits your 11 it then starts to get into the TEEEL space. So, what I did was when I took that approach and I break that down a little bit further, particularly for appreciation, starting in Stage 5. So, what I've done is I've developed an analysis unit of work that actually runs over Year 9 and 10. So, we start studying at work in year nine And we study that same work through to the end of year 10 with the intent being that by the end of year 10 they are able to write a cohesively structured essay response for a question that they are presented with. So, in year nine there are no assessment tasks on the work. We're simply viewing the work, we're gathering our information, working as a class to right movement examples or to find other relevant examples from the work. We look at the context, we look at the background and the choreographer, the socio-cultural setting of the work, what might have then impacted the work or influenced the work? We gather all of that information during year nine. And then towards the end of year nine, the students are presented with the essay question and that essay then runs through to the end of year 10. So, there's no unseen work, no one's seen assessment task.

Jackie – No surprises for the students.

Kirsty – No surprises for the students. So, it's about them developing their writing skills. So, the first task then in year 10 that they get is a very heavily scaffolded task based on that question. And it starts with the first sheet on the scaffold being the breakdown of the question, what are the parts of the question that you're being asked to write about? So, are you being asked to write about space? Are being asked to write about the relationships between the dancers? Are you being asked to write about the concept of the work? What is it that you need to identify? Then the second page starts to break that down and starts to get you to find examples or moments in the work where you could start to reference the aspects of the question and by the end of the scaffolds the students are being asked to find specific examples from the work and start to write those in detail. So, they get to view the work, they get to discuss it amongst themselves. They get to sit and actually form their written responses. And then for that first task they're submitting all of those scaffolds and then they're working on their introduction and the first paragraph and that's it.

Jackie – Just the introduction in the first paragraph is the first task.

Kirsty – So the scaffolds and then introduction in the first paragraph and then they're given feedback on all of that. So, they're given feedback on the examples that they put in the scaffolds and then they're given feedback on their introduction and their first paragraph. They're given then time during class to redevelop those and go into detail a little bit more find those gaps that they're missing. And then by the last task, which is towards the end of the year, they were then asked to finish forming their response and they’re asked to submit their fully composed essay in response to the question that they were given.

Jackie – Fantastic. So, they get the question at the end of the year nine, at the start of year 10 there's an introduction and the first paragraph and then they continue to get activities in class and feedback. And they continue to build on that until by the end of the year ten they submit a final essay. Yeah. Fantastic. Could you give us maybe an example of a work that you've used to be able to do this with your Stage 5 cohort and some of the questions that you might use to break down with them unpack with them?

Kirsty – So over the last few years we've been using the work Revelations. Again, this is a great work for kids to sink their teeth into. There is so much contextual information that's available that supports their understanding of what they're actually seeing. And if you don't want to study the whole work, it's also a work where you can watch in sections, so you could really undertake a strong level of analysis for one section of the work and get students to really delve into that, which is also a benefit of that work. Some of the things that we look at, obviously we start to look at what the work is about. So, looking at Alvin Ailey's interview and then some of that historical information that sits around his concepts for the work. And it's also a work that can still be placed in current day society, there are plenty of societal issues going on at the moment or particularly within the last 18 months that's still set Revelations as being quite a topical and relevant work. So, there is the ability to draw it into today's space in terms of the questions that you pose to the students.

Jackie – Fantastic. And are the questions, are the essay questions, I guess sort of scaled back versions of what they might get in a HSC question or do you sort of make them up? I guess a lot of time would be spent in crafting the question given that they then use that same question for the whole year.

Kirsty – So I think it's really important. You're right, you do need to craft the question. You need to really pay attention to who your students are and what it is they're going to be able to gain from the task because it is a long task, essentially, it's going for a year. So, you're wanting to make it relevant and purposeful, you don't want to make it too easy. You still want to challenge them. But the challenge needs to be able to be achieved on various levels. So, you still need to be able to extend your higher order students and you still need to be able to cap it down a little bit for those students who are on that base level of knowledge and the scaffolding of the first task really allows all the students to gain access if you think very carefully about the question you're asking. But yes, the questions that I formed do have that same kind of feel as a HSC question. So, there's an explain or discuss at the start and then there's that one first part of the syllabus and then they're being asked to do something with it so that they're being asked to not only find the information but apply the information some way.

Jackie – Fantastic. Is this something that you only use for appreciation or is that ability to build it up over the year something that you also apply with composition or performance?

Kirsty – I think it's an approach that I apply across all the components, maybe more in composition and performance more through informal discussion. That what are you doing? Why are you doing that? The how are you doing it? So, it's still that same understanding in the scaffolding in the appreciation task. What do I want them to find out? How do I want them to apply that information and then why is it relevant? And that's getting them to pull out all of those examples throughout the year and getting that feedback on it before they really start to apply. I guess that TEEL model and it's about them then being able to cohesively structure the information that they've gathered and what makes sense. And then learning how to build one paragraph into the next paragraph into the next so that they're working towards a synthesized response.

Jackie – Beautiful and you would constantly be doing that through class tasks as well.

Kirsty – Absolutely.

Jackie – What has been the outcome for structuring your assessments like this for the students at your school?

Kirsty – There has been a greater level of completion of the task where in the past you've just given essay question and the kids, some of the kids would always just throw their hands up and go, I can't do it, so wouldn't submit anything. But all students now will submit their scaffolds and then they will then submit some level of an essay response. So that in itself is success.

Jackie – Absolutely.

Kirsty – And then we can see the development of this then through HSC data and we have seen a steady growth in our appreciation results since implementing this approach.

Jackie – I was going to say, I would guess that your students would then come into Stage 6 so much more confident because they have broken down that question and they've understood how to find examples in the work, how to write about those examples in the work, they've had a go at the structure that you use. Obviously, they've got to add in the next E in Stage 6. Kirsty – And some students, some students do add that extra E in year 10. So, they're your higher order kids who are pushing themselves to that level, but you're right the additional time. So, by only using one work over that extended period, it allows students to really understand what you're trying to achieve. Once you hit year 11, the pace picks up, you’re needing to watch more works, you've got less time, you've got more things to consider. So, for us we've sustained that scaffolding approach into year 11 and 12, nothing really has changed. We might throw in an additional extension question just to push them a little bit further, if we think they require that, but it's not foreign territory for them, even when they come into year 11, it's the same. So, they feel confident already because they already have seen the paperwork, they've seen the approach. It's just a question that's different.

Jackie – Yeah, sure. And I presume it sort of gets a little bit harder as they go along.

Kirsty – Yes.

Jackie – Fantastic. Okay, so in thinking where to from here for our listeners, how do you suggest that they begin planning to use this structure if they were to use this structure for their assessment tasks next year?

Kristy – I think you need to think about what the end result is that you're trying to achieve. Are you trying to get all students to understand what analysis is? Are you trying to improve written responses? Are you trying to improve formative mark or some motif marks? I think you need to know what your end result is and then you need to break your task down from there. You need to know who your cohort of students are, what their needs are as learners, because we need to remember lifelong learners, not necessarily needing the same approach as everybody else. But one of the main outcomes of undertaking this kind of building of tasks is to give students the confidence in what they're doing and that by giving them information, by providing them with the notes and the resources to do what we're asking, we're not writing the work for them, we're just offering them the tools to be more successful in what we're asking them to do. It's one way to write an English essay. It's another right way to write an ancient history essay. It's another way to write a dance essay. So, if you think about what the outcome is, what is it that you're wanting to achieve and then break it down backwards from there.

Jackie – Yeah, fantastic. And in terms of crafting that question, they need to take that time to really think about what they need to get out of their students.

Kirsty – Yes, and for Stage 5, you know, don't go to a HSC question and just throw a HSC question in there, that question is being pitched at kids who have undertaken the senior course. So, for Stage 5 pair it back, you know, we're not looking to fail the kids, we’re looking to enhance their writing skills, we’re looking to enhance their ability to watch a work and find the examples that you're wanting and be able to write about them.

Jackie – Beautiful. Well, I think that's all the questions that I have for today. Thank you so much Kirsty for coming along and sharing your ideas with us. I really do love the fact that it does just set those students up for success. Actually, one thing I am just wondering is with your other components, with the performance and the composition, you said there's no assessment tasks in year nine for appreciation. I presume that they're doing all of the performance and composition throughout.

Kirsty – So when I said there's no assessment tasks in appreciation, it's just on the analysis. So, the essay task builds over more so the whole of year 10 but what we have work to do in stage five is that each task so the very first task that they get in any component is the starting point of the final task. So, no task that they receive is stands completely alone. So what they start in the first task for composition for example in, year nine they'll be asked to present kind of a bit of a snapshot of their movement, their starting points, maybe you know, a handful of counts, you know, it's given specifics but whatever they're given in the first task, the next time we assess it, they're being asked to build on that and show kind of evolution or development of what they did in the first task.

Jackie – Yeah, fantastic.

Kirsty – So it's the same sort of principle applied to composition or performance,

same approach so that it's not saying well one task is done that you now need to forget about the work that you've done there. We’re trying to say to the kids that what you learn in the first task, or what you need to apply in the first task still becomes relevant to what we're doing in the classroom for a different task or a different opportunity, but then it can still be applied in the final task that they're given.

Jackie – I think it’s that old adage, there's no rubbish bin or no throwaway tasks. Every task is building to the next task.

Kirsty – That’s it exactly.

Jackie – Beautiful. I really love that. And I think that is something that our listeners could really use for their planning for 2022. They might like to structure their assessment tasks so that, you know, they build up to a final product over more than one assessment task.

Kirsty – We've found that it's really worked for us. It's given us a different perspective and I think it's also giving kids greater ownership of the work that they're developing.

Jackie – Beautiful. I love that. Well, thank you so much for your time today, Kirsty and all the best for the rest of the year.

Kirsty – Thanks very much Jackie.

Jackie – This podcast was brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team of Curriculum Secondary Learners, Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. Get involved in the conversation by joining our Statewide Staff room through the link in the show notes or email our Creative Arts Curriculum Advisor, Cathryn Horvat at The music for this podcast was composed by Alexandre McWhirter of Coonabarrabran High School and the promotional tile designed by Kaitlyn Scott from Winmalee High School.


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