Some Perspectives on Hip Hop for Formative Assessment & Learning
Walking back from dinner in Brisbane last week, Tom and I spotted something brilliant: mistakes. Lots of them.
A group of a half dozen streetdancers were practicing the hard stuff, and it's the part of streetdance that we never see. To get really good at something, you have to practice the hard stuff, not just rejoice in the cool, do-able, 'easy' parts. You have to prepared for a fall, and for your friends laughing at your expense!
Tom had the (Dutch?) courage to go and start asking some questions while I set up the tripod, and Paul, leader of the crew, came over for a chat that he allowed us to record. In it he reveals just how much hip hop practice is a genuinely superb example of formative assessment in action. I don't think he had read Dylan Wiliam's Inside the Black Box, but he might as well have done. Here, you can see talented dancers somewhat hiding away in the dark of a vestibule, practicing the bits they don't want anyone to see. It's a great example of where not having an audience is incredibly important, or at least, only having an audience that one can trust.
You can listen to the interview for yourself, but listen out for these key points:
- We have the same foundations, it's like the same language to describe what we're doing, and we build on it.
- If I like what I see then I wouldn't do the same thing - they'd say that I had "no soul". Instead, I'll do something different that's still built on the same foundations.
- If I see someone not spending enough time on the tricky stuff, then I'll tell them. They might try it slower, faster, higher...
- Sometimes people "take the Mickey", and tell each other that something's bad, but generally we always try to help each other, keep it all positive.
Meanwhile, Céline Azoulay-Lewin Facebooked me the video clip of a teacher, Sam Seidel, who, with a group of demanding students in a juvenile prison, found that Hip Hop was the key passion they shared, the key mechanism not only of engagement, but in turning these young people who had been told they were at society's bottom rung into responsible leaders with something worth sharing. He asks: what can educators learn from hip hop?
He points out:
- Aspiring visual artists realising that they didn't need a gallery to promote their work
- The high school drop out putting his entrepreneurial hustle into action to stop selling drugs, to sell CDs out the back of his car to selling products in Macy's;
- You don't need a huge number of resources to make a big hit - the hip hop community has a habit of turning something out of nothing, sampling others' music to make new sounds, for example;
- We can sample and mix multiple teaching techniques, rather than thinking there's a right way to do something;
- We can try and make a "hot beat for today" - yesterday's way of teaching is yesterday's way of teaching - what can we do to recycle, remix and try something fresh in the hope that it's better than what went before?
- What refuse could we be dancing on? What is the cutback or the 'trash' of yesterday that can feed innovation today?