Typhani Harris | July 2014

An ARTISTIC Critique of Susan Riley’s No Permission Required

As I completed Susan’s latest publication No Permission Required, I found myself overjoyed with the true possibilities of STEAM and desiring to find a secondary school that models these principles, because I wanted to be a part of such a joyful experience.  Just imagine…  students wanting to learn, students enjoying learning, students who inquire, problem-solve, and collaborate.  I have never seen such a thing.  However, at the culmination of her book I found myself inquiring much as well.  So, I thought it would be a perfect time to model my ARTISTIC critique through a review of No Permission Required.

A: Affirmation, positive assertions. 

No Permission Required does a superb job of providing a full guide to becoming a STEAM integrated site.  Susan begins with an overview of what STEAM is, what it isn’t, and possible strategies.  Then continues with case studies of STEAM sites, STEAM behaviors, and STEAM environments, as well as a step-by-step description of how to make STEAM your reality.  She also provides tangible lesson plans that are ready to unpack and use today!

R: Reflection, opinion-based observations. 

There were quite a few things I loved about No Permission Required, however I did have a couple of areas for next steps.  I love how clear, colloquial, and to the point Susan describes the process.  Her guide is easy to follow and the many possibilities she shared makes it exciting to dream about creating a STEAM site.  While there are lessons included for middle and high school, I would have liked to see a case study in these secondary areas.  Many elementary students tend to be easy to engage because they still “like” school, and “like” their teachers. 
Also, with a self contained classroom where all subjects are taught throughout the day, it is an easier transition for integrationI struggle with the reality that this is not the case for high school.  So I wish she provided more instruction on how to engage rebellious teenage students through STEAM, and how to create a full integration site in a secondary setting where subjects, classes, and teachers are compartmentalized.

T: Technique, accuracy of foundational elements. 

As a previous English teacher, her writing style is so enjoyable to read.  It is pragmatic and colloquial which made it feel like we were just conversing over coffee.  The structure of the book creates a clear and comprehensive flow and the organization allows the reader to seamlessly read beginning to end or pick and choose specifics to cover.  She organized the text by three main parts, each containing multiple chapters.  Part 1, the integration disruption, gives readers a little background on the topic, an introduction to the first case study, and an overview of strategies. 
The second part, from strategies to instruction, presents the behaviors, communities, environment and curriculum development of STEAM, as well as the final two case studies.  And part 3, lessons and assessments, offers grade specific lessons to bring into the classroom.

I: Inquiry, questions for the artist.

The culmination of the book did prompt some questions for Susan.  For example, where does Advanced Placement courses fit in here with the rigor needed to prepare for the exam?  All of the lessons provided for High School were from the Technology standards, so how do we translate these ideas into the Math and Sciences?  Where do English Language Arts, History, and Foreign Language fit?  How do we build STEAM within our compartmentalized sites?  How do we produce true buy-in?

S: Suggestion, recommendations for the artist. 

I think there definitely needs to be an additional resource where there is an in depth look at high schools.  I would suggest that it is similar to the set up provided in this text, but a focus on attacking STEAM from the High School expectations and initiatives, including Case Studies that show samples of how it’s been done, or action research documenting the process as it unfolds. 
Plus, I would recommend providing more lesson plans for the traditional high school classes and possibly some professional development ideas for building integration across all subjects and how to start and sustain that collaboration.  Per one of the sections, parent buy-in is also immensely important, so maybe include a section on how to bring the parents on board as well.

T: Translation, interpretation of artist intent.  

I believe Susan Riley’s intent was to create a resource for teachers that not only introduced STEAM and Arts Integration, but also highlighted a few schools at different stages of arts integration.  With the organization and format, it was clear that she was targeting teachers who are ready to make a change in education as well as those who might be a little skeptical.  By presenting the various case studies along with a tangible guide to not only working with the book itself but also working with STEAM, it was evident that her intentions also included getting teachers excited about the many possibilities of STEAM.

I: Illation. 

Overall No Permission Required is a great resource for teachers and administrators alike.  Although it is available in an electronic copy, it really should be a resource covered in annotations and post-it notes, and sitting on everyone’s desk for quick reference.  If a site, administrator, or teacher is serious about creating their own STEAM world, this text is a great place to start.

C: Create. 

As I begin the composition of my own resource book, I plan to use Susan’s structure and organization as a guideline to comprehension, fluidity, and excitement within my text.   Although I don’t have the actual title yet, my text will focus on writing common core styled assessments in the arts classroom.
No Permission Required is a great source for building STEAM within the classroom, and I highly recommend it to all educators!

Next Week: Secrets of a Dance Teacher

Is dance just for the elite?  Historically, codified dance has been reserved for the wealthy, the aristocrats, and those invited to court rituals at palaces.  Although we have striven to move away from this stereotype, it still creeps in.  How do we truly make dance universal?

About the Author

Dr. Typhani Harris, author of Putting the Performance in Performance Task and Stop Teaching, brings over 2 decades of educational experience to The Institute. Originally a high school English Language Arts teacher, Dr. Harris transitioned into a dance educator who cultivated an award-winning collegiate style dance education program at a public school in California. Prior to joining the Institute, she was an educational leader and instructional coach specializing in preparing new teachers in secondary urban schools.  As the Executive Director of Academic Affairs, Dr. Harris maintains courses, conferences, and the accredited certification program at The Institute.