Between 2008 and 2010, I worked as a consultant for the Theatre Communications Group. Their efforts, called “Building A National TEAM: Theatre Education Assessment Models” supported new types of assessments, consolidated into four models, in order to build the assessment capacity of education departments in American theaters.
The Rise of New Methods for Assessment
Theatres across America are rethinking the way their education departments assess learning in the theatre. What are audiences learning? What are students in our theatre classes taking away from the experience? How effective is our outreach in educating our audience? Theatres and their education departments mostly turn to surveys to understand the learning outcomes of their plays and theatre classes. But how much are we learning from these assessments? Many schools in America have been rethinking what they are learning from tests, and like theatres, are beginning to choose a variety of assessment methods, including checklists, observations, dialogues, portfolios and “performance tasks” to take their place.
How Can Performance Assessments Help Theatre Education?
Theatre educators are just beginning to choose methods of assessment such as performance assessments because they emphasize critical thinking skills, help encourage students to actively demonstrate their learning and more accurately assess complex human learning. Performance assessments go beyond surveys by asking students to actively construct their responses instead of passively selecting their answer from a menu of answers. Could performance assessments improve teaching and learning in education departments in American theatres?
TCG’s TEAM Initiative
Theatre Communications Group believes that multiple methods for assessment could help education departments in theatres across the nation. For several years the issue of assessment has been written about in TCG Centerpieces, and discussed in teleconferences and at convenings. In response to this important question, “How can performance assessment help theatre education?” TCG and ASSITEJ/USA launched a project entitled: Building a National TEAM: Theatre Education Assessment Models.
With generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Esther B. Kahn Charitable Foundation and the Max & Victoria Dreyfus Foundation, Laurie Baskin, TCG’s director of research, policy & collective action convened a group of 10 education directors from TCG and ASSITEJ theatres across the country. With the help of a national assessment consultant, Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr., they entered into a two-year process of creating assessment models for the field. In 2007, more than 15 flexible models or templates that can be modified to fit the needs of an individual theatre’s range of programming were posted on this website and offered in an Assessment Training session held in St. Paul, MN.
Between 2008 and 2010, TCG continued work on the TEAM project with generous funding from the Dana Foundation. In June, 2010, TCG held a second Assessment Training, in Chicago, IL, which prompted more Education Directors to join our national assessment community. The training included another step – information to aide Education Directors in tabulating, analyzing and synthesizing assessment results – and that information is now posted on this website for use by theatres everywhere.