Do you regularly provide your dance students with feedback? Of course, you do! You are a great teacher who wants your students to improve. You understand that feedback is critical to your student's growth. Do you ever provide your dancers or your dancer's parents with a written dance evaluation? If yes, outstanding! Pat yourself on the back. If not..you should! Here's why:
1. You may be telling your students the same thing over and over again. Are they missing the point? Are they tuning you out? Sometimes having something in writing can make things more concrete. It also gives them an opportunity to read the information, think about it, and ask if they need more clarification. You are presenting the same information in a new way- which is always a great idea!
2. Are you getting pressure from parents about moving a student up? Or dealing with complaints that a student isn't being challenged? A formal dance evaluation is a great tool to have on hand when these conversations come up. You can address the areas that their daughter/ son needs to work on or remind them of the requirements of their current level.
3. Building on the previous point- evaluations are a perfect way to deal with levels. I recommend handing out evaluations at the end of the year. In addition to your feedback, include your level recommendations for the following year. This eliminates a lot of confusion- parents and students know when they can expect this information. If you receive questions mid-year it is simple, "we will be sending home written evaluations in the spring including level information for the next year". Done!
4. Parents LOVE it. After doing evaluations for a few years it became clear how much students and parents looked forward to them. They would start asking us months before we sent them home. I have had moms tell me they include them in their kid's scrapbooks! It sends a message that you care about their kids and their progress.
5. It's an opportunity to deliver a specific message to your customers. Does Sara need to take more ballet? Tell her! Do you think Emma would make a great addition to your company? Let her know! We include a spot for listing recommended classes. For some students, the evaluation may be the only time you "chat" to the parent all year. I have had many parents reference the dance evaluation when re-registering for the following year. They may be hearing your general recommendation about taking more ballet, but may not realize that it applies to their daughter. I think yearly evaluations and including class recommendations on the form have played a huge role in getting kids enrolled in more classes.
Great! Now on to the creation. The first year or so we sent home evaluations we kept it simple. Name, class, level for next, year, and then room for each teacher to write notes. This worked fine- but for someone like me who has a hard time being concise I would spend HOURS completing my evaluations. I would write essays and I am not sure this information was easy for parents or students to digest. Learn from me and don't do that. A few things to consider when designing your evaluation:
Class objectives- What are the primary goals of the class? Create a few clear objectives. You may want to consider classroom behavior, attitude, and technique. Surprisingly, keeping things pretty general, we were able to us the same objectives across all disciplines and age groups. Student demonstrates a strong work ethic. Applies to everyone! We used a simple rating 1-3 to indicate how students were doing with each objective.
Skills from Syllabus- This is something we have added in the last couple of years and have found very helpful. We went through our classes level by level and identified a few skills from the syllabus that we consider mandatory to master before moving up to the next level. For example, straight legs and pointed toes in tendus for ballet 1. Again, we used a simple 1-3 rating. If a parent or student is having a hard time understanding why they are not doing well in a class (maybe they THINK they are really working hard or that they have mastered the technique of a given level), a simple 1-3 rating on a skill can be eye opening. It also helps students to clearly develop goals for the next session. As a teacher, I would reference these listed skills throughout the year. Having benchmarks can be very motivational! Especially for that 9-12 crowd you tend to think they have mastered it all... another topic for another day:)
School Philosophies- We include a brief summary of our school's philosophies regarding levels, such as how long a student typically spends in a given level and what the criteria is for moving up. Again, you are trying to make things very clear and minimize the amount of questions you get later. This disclaimer can be something you reference if you are confronted with an unhappy parent in the future.
Communication Policy- What should parents or students do if they have questions of want additional feedback? Get in touch with the teacher? The studio director? Email or phone? Include it. Again, trying to be proactive.
Motivated to get to work creating that form? Depending on how many classes you offer and if you have a syllabus for each level this may take a few hours up front. The benefit is that once you create your form you get to spend LESS time evaluating your students and deliver a much clearer message. You are helping your students to improve, showing them and their parents how much you care, and creating value for your customers. Win, win, win!
Because we love you so much and have done this before we are going to give you a FREE copy of a dance evaluation form we created for a level 1 ballet class (ages 6-9). Feel free to use it as a template for creating additional evaluation forms. Join our mailing list... and get to work! I promise your families are going to love it!
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