One important aspect to education quickly being pushed aside to make way for more testing is character building. The arts are a great place to house these valuable skills, because we innately build character reflection through arts presentation. Whether stepping on stage for a dance performance, a one-act play, or a music concert, student artists are building their character reflection traits on a daily basis. Highlighting these traits through reflection will help students to make connections between the dedication and determination they put into the arts with the commitment and perseverance they can put into their academics.
There are many character reflection traits that have been explored through education. The KIPP foundation features curiosity, gratitude, grit, optimism, self control, social intelligence, and zest. Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed, emphasizes success, persistence, conscientiousness, and self confidence.
Weekly Character Reflection
In collaboration with my current performing arts department, we chose gratitude, persistence, self control, conscientiousness, grit, and self-confidence as the six character traits that we felt our students could benefit from most. However, we wanted to take it to the next level. Instead of the teachers evaluating student character, we would build self reflection into our weekly plans. This allows students to reflect on their process throughout the week, and have a say in their class grade. We designed a rubric that encompassed these character traits into tangible language and concrete examples that students could effectively use as a reflection of their own character traits. The character language we agreed on was: dependability, self-discipline, effort, open-mindedness, and collaboration. We felt these embodied the traits we valued most in a language that the students could easily understand. Next, we built a Weekly Character Reflection rubric:
Every Friday students begin class with a character reflection. It allows them to reflect on their progress throughout the week and assess their gratitude, persistence, self control, conscientiousness, grit, and self-confidence in a tangible manner with student friendly language. This process also allows students to take ownership and personal responsibility for not only their daily actions but their overall education.
Although this process must be explicitly taught and weekly reflections must be reviewed by the teacher, this reflection helps to get students to start taking ownership of their personal progress and actions.
The Good and The Bad
Martha Kelly, Theatre teacher, shared with me the pros and cons of this experience. She stated that the two main drawbacks to the reflection are accuracy and comprehension. Students are not always accurate in their assessment of their character reflection. What they see as a “4” on the rubric, we might see as a “2.” So, helping students to understand what a “4” requires of them is very important. Secondly, comprehension. It takes time for them to understand what each of the specifications mean. For example, when students see “conflict” they immediately think fighting, either verbally or physically. So, we have to help them to understand that conflict could be a conflict of ideas, or even the possible passivity of conflict. O
n the plus side, Mrs. Kelly feels that the rubric provides a common reference throughout the week as well as a common language for activities that are a little more difficult to make tangible. For example, activities like group work. There are insinuated standards for group work but not explicit, and the rubric puts actions into words and vice versa. The process also establishes a routine and keeps character building in their minds. Students often get the opportunity to reflect on their content knowledge and progress but not often on their character reflection.
So, What’s The Big Deal?
Character building is innate to the arts, and allowing students the opportunity to reflect on traits that are essential to citizenship but not necessarily explicit in content provides a chance for growth. The character assessment also helps students to take ownership of their education. Download a ready-to-use character rubric here.
Piquès & Pirouettès
Next Week: Student Ownership
Wouldn’t it be great if students took ownership of their education and made it their priority to actively pursue their education instead of passively sit back and listen to educators spout knowledge. Next week we will take a look at three ways we can place education into the hands of our students.
Typhani Harris is a dance educator and mentor teacher who has been on the boards of both the California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (CAHPERD) and California Dance Education Association (CDEA). Recently, she has made a cross-country move and is now an instructional coach in Brooklyn, New York. Having begun as a high school English teacher, it has been her mission to bring theory and research into the traditional dance class, and in 2009 she won the Music Center’s Bravo award for excellence in Arts Education. Typhani is currently on a mission to help teachers Stop Teaching and Start Reaching their students, check out the unTeacher Lab at stopteaching.org