#MusEdChat Recap- Measuring Understanding (9-27-10)

There are areas that are easily assessed and there are areas that are more subjective. As music teachers we need to look at both of these areas. – @pisanojm

The #MusEdChat participants on 9/27/10 disucssed how music teachers can better measure student understanding of both the performance and knowledge aspects of music.

Measuring Understanding

The #MusEdChat participants started the chat off by discussing what all is involved in measuring a student’s musical understanding. @jdk_music started off by saying that assessing in music is very challenging because there is not just one way to assess. As music teachers we need to find a variety of assessment methods in order to get a proper assessment. @ElissaMilne defined measuring understanding by saying “Measuring a students understanding of music is about finding how similar their understanding is to an already existing understanding.”When measuring understanding the best place to start is with reflection. Before we can assess our students we as the teacher need to reflect upon what we have taught our students. Have we just taught them knowledge or have we taught them how to apply and understand that knowledge as well? @bandlady said “It is only after we answer this question that we can begin to assess our students.” For example it is important that the students know about what they are playing rather than just playing the music. The theory and history behind the music is important as well.

Before measuring a students understanding of music we need to take into consideration what they want to improve and what their goals are. This gives us a clearer idea of where the student’s knowledge level is already at so we can better measure the amount of knowledge they have gained. When measuring understanding the #MusEdChat participants believe that there needs to be clear standards and goals for different levels. For example by the students sophomore year they should be able to play a certain number of major and minor scales. It is important in the ensemble classroom that we have specific benchmarks for each level to better measure the students understanding. In general music we also need to have learning outcomes so we know what we want the students to know when they leave our classroom. Finally when measuring understanding we need to take into consideration student effort and improvements. This shows us who is practicing and working towards gaining a musical understanding. This is very important to take into consideration because not all students will be able to comprehend the information right away. If we do not take this aspect into consideration we are not measuring our students understanding in a fair manner.

How do we Assess Musical Knowledge?

Next the chat participants discussed how we assess musical knowledge. All the chat participants agree that we need to start by first evaluating the needs of our students and then draw on a variety of educational methods to actually perform the assessment. The same method of assessment is not going to work from year to year or even from student to student. In order to meet the needs of our students it is necessary to nurture subjective assesment as well as objective assesment. @MrAhrens said “When performing assessments on our students we need to asses based on a predetermined standard for their experience level why also keeping in mind the students individual needs and growth. Below are some specific ways that music teachers can assess their student’s knowledge.

  • SmartMusic- can be used to assess scales, technical exercises or even spot check parts from ensemble literature
  • Playing Tests- traditional tests to assess student ability level and if they have been practicing
  • Participation/Informal assessment- can be a great way to assess skills such as steady beat in the elementary classroom
  • Written Tests- to test concepts such as music theory, note reading, etc.
  • Projects/Presentations- great assessment tool for middle school general music classes
  • E-portfolios- a great way to assess students while still letting them be creative

What Do We Assess?

The chat ended by discussing what material the students should be assessed on. The chat particpants stressed making sure that music teachers assess both musical knowledge and musicality. Assessing only one of these areas is not assessing the student’s entire musical knowledge. Below are some of the areas that the #MusEdChat participants believe need to be assessed.

  • Music Theory
  • Music History
  • Performance
  • Musicality
  • Composition
  • General musical knowledge

In general when assessing our students we need to make sure that we are assesing all of our students equally and in a fair manner. For example some of our students aren’t performers so we should not assess them based on performance or musicality. @richardmccready said “Some of my best students can’t play an instrument or sing so I am definitely not going to assess them on those aspects. Instead I am going to find what they enjoy and feel comfortable doing and assess them there.” @ElissaMilne summed up the chat by saying “We as music teachers need to be assessing the developments of our students as an individual and not measure them against each other or a predetermined standard that doesn’t meet their needs.”

Related posts:

  1. #MusEdChat Transcript-Measuring Understanding (9/27/10)
  2. #MusEdChat Recap- Aptitude Tests (11-8-10)
  3. #MusEdChat Recap- Differentiating Literacy (11-1-10)
  4. #MusEdChat Recap – The First Day (8/23/10)
  5. #MusEdChat Recap – Advocacy to Administration (5/10/2010)
About Elizabeth Heist

Elizabeth Heist is a 2011 graduate of Grove City College in Grove City, PA, with a degree in music education. She just finished up as a long-term substitute in a K-4 general music position and now is day-to-day subbing. She is also the marching and brass instructor for the Somerset High School Marching Band. Find her on Twitter at @heistes.