By Kumu Kaʻiulani Lum-Ho
Kumu Kaʻiu shares her rendition of how the Kuanaʻike Mindsets lend themselves to assessment in performance theatre.
Problem of Practice
This project began with a conversation about reciprocity. I had just come back from taking my eighth grade haumāna on a four-day huakaʻi to Oʻahu and was frustrated that I couldn’t get my kids to turn in their assigned mahalo letters, which I had given them class time to complete. From my perspective, this made us look ungrateful and would ultimately reflect badly upon the haumāna and me. After griping to my colleagues, I came to realize that reciprocity had already been paid several times over before I had assigned the mahalo letters. In fact, my haumāna had spent an entire quarter preparing their makana for this huakaʻi; picking, processing, and packaging māmaki tea and paʻakai seasonings, and writing and rehearsing a hana keaka to perform for their hosts on Oʻahu. This is when I realized that nobody was waiting for their mandated mahalo letter, and I began to wonder if those we met on our huakaʻi felt that we had already paid our proper respects and mahalo.
As a kumu, sometimes I feel just as beholden to my gradebook as I imagine haumāna feel to earning their individual grades in my class. I found myself caught in a vicious cycle where I held their grades over their heads just to get them to turn in an inauthentic representation of gratitude that I mandated. Because I put the assignment in my gradebook, I felt obligated to collect and assess the work that I assigned, and when it came to grading something as subjective as gratitude, I had to ask myself, who was this letter really for? Who was the authentic audience? And who am I to define for everyone else what gratitude looks like? This train of thought ultimately led to a critical examination of my current assessment practices and a line of inquiry about how I might change the way I assess haumāna in their upcoming end of year performances. To do this, I incorporated Hawaiian perspectives that I felt most supported my project. My research investigated several lines of inquiry into potential alternatives to assessment that address our Kauhale Commitment, Kuanaʻike Mindsets, and ʻŌiwi Edge Learning and Teaching practices. This write-up describes my initial thought processes and development of a haumāna pre- and post- survey that served as a foundation for subsequent measures given to various audiences (kauhale) as another form of assessment.
Our Kauhale Commitment
We will nurture and invest in knowing the truth of who we are, instilling within us a strong sense of identity, giving us the confidence to exert our agency towards empowering socioeconomic and political equity.
Kuanaʻike Mindsets and Performing Arts: An Interpretation of Perspectives
The Kuanaʻike Mindsets that resonated with Performing Arts were: Hōʻike a ʻIke and Hoʻomana a Mana. Particularly, Hoʻomana a Mana directly related to assessment and evaluation practices within the Performing Arts and the concept of power.
Hoʻomana a Mana
When discussing performance, Mana refers to responsibility, more specifically the authority and autonomy over kuleana. Hoʻomana a Mana is understood and interpreted through the relationship between the actor (haumāna) and the director (Kumu). During the rehearsal period of any given performance, it is the director’s responsibility to prepare the actors so that by the time they reach opening night, the actors no longer need to rely on the director for guidance. Mana is handed over to haumāna along with all of the responsibilities required to execute a successful performance including any problem solving that may occur in the absence of the director.
When discussing assessment, I reference Mana as power. In the rehearsal process, being both Kumu and director, I hold the majority of the power as haumāna/actors are learning their parts. I have a vision of the final product, which I guide my haumāna into achieving, and as they become more familiar with the material, the power slowly shifts to them. I can set deadlines for when lines, songs, and choreography should be learned and memorized, but only haumāna can execute those requests. When the performance begins, the power is entirely in the hands of the haumāna/actors, and as the director I have zero control over the success or failure of the show. I become a spectator to both the show and the hopeful internalization of Hoʻomana a Mana within my students. However, in a school setting, when it comes to assessment, there is an interesting balance of power that occurs between the performers, a live audience, the kumu, and the looming summative assessment.
During the process of understanding and interpreting the Kuanaʻike Mindsets, my essential questions began to emerge. When looking at structures of power inherent in current educational systems, I began to question practices that I felt I was conditioned to believe and uphold in the Kumu/haumāna relationship. Thus, what could it look like if I gave haumāna the power to decide how they want to be assessed and shared the kuleana of assessment across the kauhale of Hoakumu?
Having an upcoming musical performance provided the perfect opportunity to put my research question into action. My first instinct involved gathering information from ʻohana to inform my assessment of haumāna final performances. However, I realized that I was continuing to repeat patterns which were at the root of my original problem of practice. I was thinking about questions to ask ʻohana that would serve as assessment data for a grade to be logged in my gradebook. I took a step back and reminded myself about my initial inquiries: Who is this assessment really for? Who should it be for? If I was going to be true to the essential question, I should be asking haumāna how they want to be assessed.
Talking Story with Haumāna
I sat with haumāna during lunch to get a feel for what they valued in regard to their performances. I asked them, if the audience were going to assess your performance, what kind of feedback would you want? From several of these lunch-time conversations, I was surprised to learn that haumāna were interested in receiving the same type of technical feedback that I was teaching them to aspire to, but what stood out to me the most was how many of them described a successful performance as both themselves and their audiences being “into it.” This gave me a foundation for the pre-survey assessment tool I gave to both my seventh and eighth graders from which I later crafted the final survey that I gave to the three live audiences who watched the musical performances.
The pre-survey questions measured perspectives and offered haumāna an opportunity to voice their opinions about what was most important to them:
What would a successful performance look like?
For you personally, what would make you proud of your own performance?
What does being “truly invested” in your own performance look like? Sound like? Feel like?
How would you know if your audience is invested in your performance? What would an “into it” audience look like? Sound like? Feel like?
If you were being assessed by the audience, what kind of feedback would you want from them? What specifically would you want to know?
While creating the pre-survey questions, I found myself wondering whose opinion matters the most to haumāna? I decided to add one last question asking haumāna, when you are performing, whose opinion matters to you the most? I had them rank their top three responses from a list of key individuals including their kumu (myself), their ʻohana, peers, industry professionals, themselves, and others who might comprise their audience. What started out as an afterthought turned out to provide much insight about haumāna perspectives and the balance of power within the structure of my class.
After all the performances were finished, I asked haumāna to assess their own work using a variation of the pre-survey questions. The questions were as follows:
Do you feel like your performance was successful? Describe your reasoning.
Describe what made you most proud of your performance.
Do you feel like you were truly invested in all of your performances? Describe what you did to stay invested over the run of three performances.
Do you feel like your audiences were invested in your performances? Describe how you could tell if they were into it or not.
If you could do it all over again what would you change or try to do better?
Summary of Select Initial Findings
Haumāna wanted to know that their acting was technically well executed, but also understood that when playing characters on stage, they sought certain emotions from the audience through their interpretation of the roles they were playing. When haumāna described being in character, it was about more than speaking their lines correctly and performing what they rehearsed, “not just acting but to be your character and their persona (talk like they might talk, act how they might present themselves).” They understood that they as actors portraying a character would have to use the skills they learned and practiced to breathe life into their work by “bringing the character I’m acting to life, and it being like I am the character through what I say and do.” They talked about really embodying the roles that they played, “being a match to how a character would move, sound like how they would talk, and feel like I am that person doing those things.”
Regarding the question of whose opinion mattered the most to haumāna, I was fascinated by the difference in responses between seventh and eighth grade haumāna. I initially thought that peer opinion would far surpass every other audience group for the majority of haumāna but was surprised (although perhaps I shouldn’t have been) by how much weight my opinion had on many haumāna. One distinction I would like to make in the future regarding their concern of my opinion is whether or not it has to do with their grades and the fact that I am the one who formally assesses their performance.
As a first attempt to investigate collaborative methods of assessment as a function of power, I did not have the time, jurisdiction, or digital infrastructure to comprehensively input or implement my findings into the current grading system. Much value and attention are given to student self-assessment, but not much is being discussed about community assessment. I think it would be worthwhile to investigate distributing the kuleana of grading to not only include self-assessment, but also ʻohana and community input. Although I was unable to directly change the way I graded my haumāna this year, my perception changed about how I grade and how I will teach future classes. Understanding haumāna perceptions in conjunction with feedback from peers, ʻohana, and other kauhale stakeholders has made me see gaps in my own measurement of haumāna success. This awareness will help me to see haumāna growth more holistically and to have more empathy as I assess them moving forward.
Looking at the data for whose opinion matters most gave me valuable insight about how Hoʻomana a Mana or the balance of power is divided in the consciousness of my haumāna. When reflecting on my own practices, it seems that power should be more evenly distributed among different kauhale stakeholders (including ʻohana, community, and haumāna themselves) to achieve a more ʻŌiwi Edge Learning and Teaching environment. I learned a lot about the balances of power (Hoʻomana a Mana) that exist between haumāna and their various audiences and how it affects performance outcomes. I feel like I was just scratching the surface of how Hoʻomana a Mana manifests in my classroom and how sharing the kuleana of assessment might alter my practice as an educator. I hope that this exploration on kauhale assessment may influence how we view our grading systems to better align with our kula’s kauhale commitment.