Teaching From a Distance

Dedicated to student learning in the arts.

In response to the need for diverse instructional approaches for distance learning, we offer these supports to teachers who now teach dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts from a distance.

We thank the Occidental College World Language Project for sharing their work in support of world language educators during these challenging times.

Teaching the Arts from a Distance

Self and Student Care

Teaching during the current ever changing times is incredibly challenging. Teachers of the arts are by the nature of our disciplines mindful of the physical, emotional, and mental health of their students and themselves, but these times call for teachers to pay extra attention to these factors.

As teachers adapt to new learning contexts and support their students’ learning and progress, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can serve as a reminder of the conditions necessary for success and achievement.

It is also important to remember how learning in the arts disciplines can be (and are for many) a lifeline and emotional support for students. Through the arts, students are able to explore and express their perceptions, questions, responses, and ideas. The arts provide connections and modes of expression supporting and developing social, emotional, and cognitive agility.

As such, it is just as important now as ever, to consider relevant teaching methods, approaches, and content to engage and further student’s artistic literacy development.

There are many resources that can provide insight into supporting the social and emotional health of students and teachers as they engage in arts learning.

For many teachers and students, online learning is a novel endeavor and calls for a new set of guidelines and norms that support and align with established school and district policies and provide a foundation for a safe and affirming learning environment. This agreed upon etiquette for online interactions is often called ‘netiquette’ and teachers may wish to discuss the principles of constructive digital citizenship with their students. Teachers and students can then work together to create a set of norms of acceptable behavior and expectations for their virtual learning environment that align to their school or district policies.

Some teachers may wish to follow these examples:

Teachers may also wish to explore 26 Tools for Classroom Management Apps and websites from Common Sense Education.

Distance Learning Mindset

It is important to note teachers must follow school policies and guidelines for distance teaching and learning. These often include guidance and acceptable use of technology when selecting online tools and interfacing with students.

When teaching dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts aligned to the new Arts Standards and Arts Education Framework in physical settings, teachers engage students through a variety of interactions, including direct instruction and demonstration, facilitating practice, supporting independent work, and observing and reinforcing student efforts.

Students are guided through the artistic and creative processes with multiple opportunities for critical feedback and opportunities for revisions. Teachers can assess student progress, address misconceptions, provide needed support, and check for understanding throughout various artistic processes.

In online, hybrid, or other distance instruction models, the interactions within the planned learning experiences have to be reimagined.

These are some the differences and challenges to consider:

  • equity and access to technology and learning materials,
  • creating a safe and affirming space for arts learning for all students,
  • implementing appropriate online platforms that provide multiple formats to support student learning,
  • establishing effective monitoring of online platforms configurations, such as in breakout rooms,
  • facilitating privacy when needed,
  • providing variations in formats to support student groupings for activities such as collaborations (both small and large), rehearsals, demonstrations, receiving feedback, independent practice, and
  • creating a variety of performance and presentation opportunities for students.

Transitioning to Distance Teaching

Districts across the state are determining the specific format for 2020–2021 reopening of their schools.

Teaching the arts in a physical classroom setting places emphasis on creative energy, collaboration, and relationships. Transitioning to online teaching and learning requires thoughtful consideration in order to preserve and sustain creative engagement, interactions, and connections.

Online teaching and learning in the arts can be conducted in a variety of ways:

  • synchronously (at the same time and within the same virtual space),
  • asynchronously (independently and at different times), and
  • in a hybrid format (a combination of both synchronous and asynchronous instruction).

Synchronous Learning

When teachers and students are on the same platform, at the same time, synchronous learning is taking place. Teachers may find it helpful in starting to plan synchronous distance learning experiences by considering the way they organize and use instructional time in a physical setting. They can then consider the design that will make the best use time for activities such as

  • independent practice,
  • collaboration,
  • rehearsals,
  • reviews,
  • direct instruction,
  • demonstrations, and
  • giving and receiving feedback.

These segments of instruction are designed according to the amount of time needed for each activity, the level, and type of interactivity required. Synchronous online learning typically requires using a web conferencing tool.

Asynchronous Learning

Asynchronous learning requires students to work independently, with a learning partner, or with peers as they complete instructional activities at their convenience. Student may engage with recorded segments of instruction, independent practice, or activities that check for understanding. Teacher feedback may not be immediate and may vary depending on the online platform, the teacher’s and student’s online availability, and synchronization.

Providing the students with a sequential checklist of asynchronous learning tasks and activities can support them in staying organized in this environment.

Online, asynchronous teaching and learning may include:

  • independent work/practice,
  • direct instruction through recorded videos or “flipped classroom” practices,
  • demonstration through recorded videos or “flipped classroom” practices,
  • technique development,
  • portfolio work,
  • small group or independent rehearsal,
  • recorded performances, and
  • enrichment activities.