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Music Teacher Tip #31 - Assessment

Music Teacher Tip #31:

Friends, if you're finding these tips helpful, I would love it if you would share them. My hope is to help as many teachers as possible. Thank you in advance!

I supervise music student teachers and nothing drives home the point that assessment matters more than me asking them what they think would happen if we (the college) told them to create a unit for EdTPA, but that it wouldn't be graded. They always laugh because we all know the answer.

I often see posts from other music teachers frustrated that their students don't take their class seriously, don't practice, don't try in class, even refuse to participate, etc.

The reason almost always boils down to accountability. Why would we expect anyone to perform at a high level if their progress was never assessed? Very few people are so self-motivated that they don't require any oversight.

I also ask my college students how they think their college ensembles would perform if students were graded regularly on their ability to perform their individual parts. They always answer that they personally would spend more time preparing/rehearsing their individual parts and then indicate that maybe they wouldn't always feel like they were cramming to get ready for a performance. Maybe rehearsals would be more fun if the ensemble was more prepared.

I also hear from the students who ARE prepared and how frustrated they are with those who aren't. They don't want to be held back by those who don't take the class as seriously, but it inevitably happens because, (as they tell me), they are graded on whether or not they show up and that's it!

We can all do better.

Assessments are an important part of teaching. Assessments provide data-based ways of knowing what students have learned and what they are ready to learn next. They also hold students accountable.

1. Performance-based rubrics are the most effective way to assess performance-based skills. Many of these are easily found by doing a simple online search.

2. Consider using the Music Performance Adjudication Rubric for your content area when assessing your ensemble. This will not only help students understand how they will be judged at MPA and other festivals/contests, but will allow them to measure their ongoing progress against this standard. To have these standards posted and refer to them year-round is better than only focusing on them near the time of MPA. (See poster images attached.)

3. The most effective teachers assess their students on a regular basis in order to hold them accountable for new learning. If students only feel pressure at concert/MPA time, they will only practice and perform at a high level around concert/MPA time.

4. SmartMusic, Charms, Google Classroom, and other online tools exist for the purposes of streamlining assessment. Students commonly have access to recording devices (including the voice memo app on their phones) that may be used to collect data.

5. Some series such as Essential Elements Interactive come with interactive online assessment tools for individual student use.

Assessments don't have to take a lot of time or cause undue stress. Even if you have students perform a short passage and you pass in front of them assessing each student quickly as you do, this is way more effective than not doing any assessment at all. I've seen high school directors set up a recording device in a practice room and then send students to record themselves one at a time for playing tests.

Remember that our subject matters. Assessing students and holding them responsible for the content sends the message that our class should be taken as seriously as math, language arts, etc..... because music matters.

Happy teaching! ❤️🎶

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