Performing Ourselves Dance Teachers in Training

Arts Collab: National Endowment for the Arts Research Lab

National Endowment for the Arts Research LabsThe UW Community Arts Collaboratory is implementing a keystone study measuring social-emotional learning (SEL) outcomes for students who participate in Arts Collab performing arts programs and teacher professional development growth from arts integration and SEL training. Results will be disseminated and shared broadly to shape future research. Dissemination will target a growing base of school and community arts educators and local and national partners—strengthening the Arts Collab as a hub for arts-engaged research.


The Arts Collab Research Hub works with community arts partners in Dane County who provide a range of arts experiences for young people who have historically not had access to the arts. We strengthen partnerships with the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), allowing access to students, teachers, and structures that facilitate systemic change, and Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child Madison serves students, educators, and the broader community. These partnerships expand our reach and facilitate shared learning experiences like the Wisconsin Arts Integration Symposium, which we collaboratively produce to disseminate best practices and new/ongoing research.

Madison Metropolitan School District partners include Lowell and Lake View Elementary schools, where students in grades 3-5 and their teachers will engage in research and Arts Collab programming. Lowell is the intervention site in year one, and Lake View is the control site in year one, with programming in year two. This community of teachers and students is the second-largest school district in Wisconsin, serving over 27,000 students in 49 schools. 

Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child Madison supports training and dissemination via the WI Arts Integration Symposium, which provides professional development to educators and teaching artists serving MMSD students. Any Given Child Madison is the 12th city in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts network. Madison’s partnership includes Overture Center for the Arts, MMSD, City of Madison, the Foundation for Madison Public Schools, the UW Arts Collab, and Arts 4 All. 

Intended Audience

Our research lab agenda provides multiple direct benefits:

  1. Implementing arts-integrated SEL programs that provide positive youth development for 3rd-5th grade students in two school communities, especially low-income and ethnically diverse students.
  2. Providing professional development and training to elementary school teachers in two cohorts will also impact their current and future students.
  3. Examining and sharing our findings regarding new methods of assessment/analysis for performing arts and SEL will benefit the fledgling field of arts SEL research and the national and international scholars and practitioners. Approximately 400 local/regional educators and administrators who attend our regional Arts Integration symposia will also benefit.

Additionally, staff, teachers, and parents in our partner schools will experience indirect benefits created by the student and teacher participants’ work toward creating arts-rich schools.

Outcomes and Implications

Our findings will have implications for other research and curricula on how to center arts and social-emotional learning outcomes as the leading indicators of interest and reveal results about theater, dance, and drumming as distinct art forms. For example, drumming impacts positive SEL development, so a policy implication could be to adapt drumming instruction in schools across the state. Our assessment process has focused on construct definition and validation and a deeper theoretical reflection on the benefits and methods of assessing students’ internal growth (which includes evidence students are aware of) and external behaviors that show observable SEL skills acquisition and application.

Publications, Presentations, Podcasts, & More 

2023, Arts Educators Save the World LIVE with Sheikia Purple Norris & Toni Blackman, with guest host Dr. Yorel Lashley.

As part of the Wisconsin Arts Integration Symposium, Erica Halverson and guest host Dr. Yorel Lashley recorded a LIVE episode! Emcee and educator Sheikia Purple Norris invited her long time “guide, teacher, sister, peer” Toni Blackman to the pod. Toni is an author, poet, educator, public speaker, cultural representative, and advocate “representing the divine feminine for women and girls rocking the mic with authenticity,” as well as the creator and founder of the I Rhyme Like a Girl Collective. Listen!

Follow Sheikia Purple Norris: IG @4purppeople

Check out Toni Blackman:, IG @toniblackman

IG: @artseducatorspodcast // TW/X: @artseducators


Yorel Lashley & Erica Rosenfeld Halverson (2021) Towards a collaborative approach to measuring Social-Emotional Learning in the arts, Arts Education Policy Review, 122:3, 182-192, DOI: 10.1080/10632913.2020.1787909

Garazi Lopez de Aguileta, Erica Halverson, Yorel Lashley, Stephanie Richards (2022) Learning how to see social emotional learning in youth arts practice, American Education Research Association. LINK

Yorel Lashley () How do we operationalize artistic SEL?, Center for Arts Educations and Social Emotional Learning, Heart of the Arts, 

Yorel Lashley () Cultivating Student Empowerment through SEL, Center for Arts Educations and Social Emotional Learning, Heart of the Arts,

Erica Halverson & Yorel Lashley () How school-based arts programming supports social emotional learning for elementary school students, Society on Research for Child Development. LINK to presentation.

American Education Research Association Symposium (2023). Link coming soon.




Tracey Bullington

Tracey is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at UW-Madison. She was a high school art teacher and administrator in New Orleans, her hometown before graduate study. Tracey is interested in researching the role of arts in k-12 education and how young people learn through creative projects. She is also a visual artist, specializing in woodcut printmaking.

Kate Corby

Kate Corby is a contemporary choreographer, dance professor, and a co-founder of Performing Ourselves, a dance outreach project based in Madison that empowers youth & develops leaders through dance.

Erica Halverson

Erica is interested in how people learn in and through the arts across a range of art forms focusing on the performing arts. Erica runs Whoopensocker, an artist-in-residence program working in Madison Public Schools.

Yorel Lashley

Yorel is the Principal Investigator (PI) for the Arts Collab NEA Research Lab, the Director of Programs in the Office of Professional Learning and Community Education at UW–Madison’s School of Education, and the Director of Student Empowerment for the Center for Arts Education and Social and Emotional Learning. Lashley is a developmental psychologist interested in self-efficacy and social-emotional learning in arts, academics, and integrated environments. He is also the Founder/Director of Drum Power.

Mariah LeFeber

Mariah is a dance/movement therapist and licensed professional counselor who has been teaching in higher education since 2010. As the co-founder of Performing Ourselves, she is passionate about the intersection of dance, dance/movement therapy, and trauma-informed care to foster resilience and well-being in youth. Mariah is so thankful to be part of a team passionate about the power of the arts to create meaningful change.

Garazi López de Aguileta

Garazi is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of C&I at UW-Madison. Her main research interest focuses on how Dialogic Literary Gatherings, a dialogic reading activity where participants debate classic literature, can serve adolescents as a space for preventing gender violence. She is also a soprano and studied Voice at the Liceu in Barcelona.

Cassidy Martin

I am from Nashville, TN, a.k.a. 615 east side, a.k.a. East Nasty. I am a fourth-year junior sociology major with four education certificates. I am on a full-tuition scholarship from First Wave, the only full-tuition scholarship for hip-hop pedagogy in the world. I am a spoken word slam poet and author, creative writer, visual artist, and podcaster. My interest is the gap in research at the intersectionality of race, the arts, and education. I am excited to be on this team because I love working with students and believe in using the arts as a culturally sustaining pedagogy.

Lauren McGinley

Lauren is a first-year master’s student in Curriculum & Instruction at UW-Madison. Prior to moving to the midwest, she taught K-8 music in NYC public schools for five years. Lauren is excited to be part of the team because she is new to research methods and she is extremely passionate about arts education!

Aarushi Mutreja

Aarushi is an honors student at UW Madison, graduating in 2025. She is planning to major in Economics. She has been passionate about art education throughout high school and has taught classical music to children for three years. Aarushi has also created a book club to intellectually engage elementary school children during the pandemic. She enjoys doing research and is excited to be using research for a cause that is close to her heart.

Katherine E. Norman

Katherine is a Ph.D. candidate in Educational Psychology at UW-Madison. Her research is focused on how pretend play and arts practices influence learning and development. She is also active in theatre as an actor, musician, and teaching artist. Working with this NEA project combines some of her favorite things: arts, teaching, and interdisciplinary research!

Stephanie Richards

Stephanie is the NEA Research Lab Project Manager. She also manages the UW Community Arts Collaboratory, supporting program administration, fundraising, community partnerships, and research. She is an aerialist and teaches, performs, and produces at the Madison Circus Space.

Technical Working Team

Research Team

  • Noelle Dean, Mental Health Specialist, Emotionally Responsive Practice at Bank Street College of Education (also part of the Practice Team)
  • Scott Edgar, Professor Lake Forest College and Director of Practice & Research, The Center for Arts Education and Social Emotional Learning
  • Camille Farrington, Co-Director Equitable Learning & Development Group, Chicago Consortium for School Research
  • Roberto Rivera, Predoctoral Fellow, Social and Emotional Learning Research Group at the University of Illinois at Chicago

Practice Team

  • Alysia Lee, Education Program Supervisor for Fine Arts Education, Maryland State Department of Education
  • Kira Rizzuto, Director of Programs & Partnerships, The Center for Arts Education and Social Emotional Learning

Policy Team

  • Torrie Allen, Executive Director, Arts Midwest
  • Dale Schmid, Professor, Teachers College, Columbia University: EdD in Dance Education. Research Fellow: The Arnhold Institute for Dance Education Research, Policy & Leadership
  • George Tzougros, Executive Director, Wisconsin Arts Board


If you have questions about the Arts Collab National Endowment for the Arts Research Lab, please email Stephanie Richards at

The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not represent the views of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Office of Research & Analysis or the National Endowment for the Arts. The National Endowment for the Arts does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information included in this material and is not responsible for any consequences of its use. This NEA Research Lab is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts (Award #: 1879912-38-C-21).