Promoting #StudentAgency in the Performing Arts: Aligning the wheels.

First of all, I would like to establish why we should change in order to ‘align our wheels’ with the concept of student agency.

Indeed, why should we change the ways things work traditionally in Performing Arts?

Let’s start at the end…  the end of semester ‘show’

I should point out that I’m not against school productions if they are done well, but I’m sad to say that I have yet to witness such a process which honors student choice and has buy-in from all participants.

The phrase “flogging a dead horse” comes to mind as we have all witnessed endless class practices on the lead up to the end of semester show. The show normally engulfs Performing Arts lessons, breaks, lunches, and class time for extra practices, a dress rehearsal and finally the actual show itself!

By the time the show happens, students, teachers, parents, and especially the PA teacher, are quite often “over it!” I agree with the aim of addressing the concept of ensemble, and celebrating who we are as a community, but not like this.

IMO, the end of semester/year performances feel antiquated & tokenistic, full of stress and devoid of any real student agency. I feel that our time could be better spent.

Now for a quick look at the Programme of Inquiry

“Good morning students! For the next six weeks we’re going to learn to play the guitar.”

Three students say “yay”, ten are mildly interested and the rest simply tune out. Maybe this is an extreme example, but even if the class is given a few options (because we’re going to differentiate!) eg ukulele, guitar, recorder, learning a dance, is it really promoting student agency?

I’m not against connecting with the PoI, and it’s great to make connections to a particular unit of inquiry through PA, or to create a stand-alone unit, but in this example…

Where’s the freedom?

Where’s the creativity?

Where’s the imagination?

Where’s the fun?

And of course, where’s the student agency??

And this is how we traditionally inspire our students to develop a love for performing arts??? hmmm!

That’s the why

My next post will discuss the ‘what’ and the how’...


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