Thursday, April 7, 2016

new rubrics (part 2)

The second new rubric I needed to create last fall was for the Dance Production class: since we were working with a new (for me) class structure, I needed a new rubric to assess the final choreography projects. In my previous DP classes at EOSA, there had always been a final choreography assignment with specific guidelines; but this year's open-ended structure, with choreographers signing up to create whatever they envisioned, demanded a new assessment structure as well.

So I went back to the beginning — I started by looking at the peer critique form from my student teaching mentor (Marcia Singman at Berkeley High), which asked students to look for variety in dance elements, use of stage space, entrances and exits, and the like. Choreography feedback guidelines from Mills College were also helpful, stressing dance elements as well, but also originality, willingness to take risks, clarity of ideas, and attention to detail — all things which I value and want to see in my students' choreography. I looked a little farther afield and found a a few choreography rubrics online, which gave me ideas for some specific things to include in various categories... then to put it together!

I began with a couple of categories that are standard in my rubrics for group choreography projects in class: "Dance structure" and "Creativity and Variety." In ordinary choreography projects, I use "Dance structure" to stress the point that all dances have a beginning, middle, and end (as well as well-planned sequences and transitions), and that the beginning and end are vitally important as the first and last thing the audience sees — so students know they lose points for just standing in neutral waiting for the beat, or dropping the last movement or shape and walking away. For the Dance Production projects, it was a given that no choreographer was going to put a piece on stage without some kind of beginning and ending, so I added language to indicate whether the beginning and ending were clear but uninspiring, strong, or dynamic; and that the dance has a clear flow and sense of purpose. Then since "creativity" could fit into this rubric in may forms, I converted the general "Creativity and variety" category into the more specific "Variety and contrast" — use of variety in the dance elements of space, time, energy, and relationships. Harking back to Ms. Singman's work, I also inserted a category for "Use of stage space" (including entrances and exits). Those three categories took care of the purely "craft of choreography" aspects of the rubric.

Of course, creating a rubric is still an exercise in setting — or simply recognizing — priorities and values. My goal for years has been to move students beyond setting their favorite steps to their favorite songs, and toward expressing and communicating meaning, so much of the remainder of the rubric is concerned with how student choreographers are (or are not) finding original ideas and bringing meaning to their works. For this I turned back to the Mills College guidelines. I made one category focusing on originality — this is where I brought in movement invention versus movement clich├ęs as well as willingness to take risks. For the category most specifically focused on communicating meaning I chose the title "Artistic intention," which allowed me to bring in not only what the dance is intended to communicate (whether ideas, emotions, a narrative, or simply a mood), but also whether the dance demonstrates the choreographer's artistic growth — which I realized, as I worked on this, is also one of my high priorities.

Those categories added up to 90 points, so I completed the rubric with a 10-point category for "Attention to details." This gave me the chance to bring in the dancers' performance of the piece in a relatively small way. In our ordinary in-class group choreography projects, preparation and performance quality are graded as a part of the project — since the group works together as a whole, the dancers' preparation, confidence, and attention to details of technique do generally reflect how hard the group worked on the assignment. In this case, I was focused on assessing the choreography itself, not the dancers' performances; but I did feel that attention to detail among the dancers (precision of movements and shapes, floor patterns, and relati onships) shows something about how the choreographer worked with the group, so I found that it was appropriate to include.

That rounded out my rubric — here it is, I would welcome any feedback!

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