«INDIVIDUALIZING ELEMENTARY GENERAL MUSIC INSTRUCTION: CASE STUDIES OF ASSESSMENT AND DIFFERENTIATION By Karen Salvador A DISSERTATION Submitted to ...»
Analysis I transcribed all the data gathered in the course of this study and coded it by hand for themes. Although there are transcriptionists for hire and computer programs available to code data, I thought I would learn more about the data by transcribing and manipulating the data by hand. This forced immersion in the data allowed me to see emergent themes and gain a better understanding of how the data interacted. I developed a system of color-coding data with highlighters, used different colored paper for each participant, and built database-style workbooks of material on my computer for each theme and each chapter to assist in the management of the large amount of data.
Once transcribed and member checked, the coded data from multiple sources were analyzed for themes using the constant comparative method of data analysis (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). First, I undertook within-case analysis (Creswell, 1998). In this analysis, I looked for themes that recurred within the data for a single case. I identified representative examples of each theme, and I also looked for unusual or exceptional occurrences related to the topic of this study. As Stake described, “Case researchers seek both what is common and what is particular about a case” (2000, p. 438). After I internally analyzed each case, I analyzed the data across cases. This was not a comparative analysis, but instead looked for themes that transcended setting to emerge in all cases, or, conversely, for codes that were specific to a particular setting in order to illuminate the topic of interest: how teachers were using assessment information to individualize music instruction.
Finally, I made assertions “… [that made] sense of the data and provide[d] an interpretation of the lessons learned” (Creswell, 1998, p. 249). The final interview was a form of analysis, as I discussed these assertions with the participant teachers to be sure that the assertions seemed trustworthy and to allow informants to comment on my findings. I sent follow-up questions to participants by email as needed until the study was complete.
“Quiet, quiet, nice and sweet, I’ll go in and take my seat.” I hear Ms. Wheeler outside the music room, chanting to kindergarten students lined up along the blue lockers in the spotless hallway of Riverview Elementary. A chorus of voices rhythmically echoes back her chant, overdoing the contrast of high and low inflections. Fifth graders silently file out of the music room, headed back to their classroom. Immediately as the last fifth grader leaves, kindergarteners enter, tiny and wide-eyed in comparison to the nearly adolescent students who have just left. They continue to echo Ms. Wheeler as she chants them into the room: “Walking, walking to my chair” “Walking, walking to my chair.” Somehow as the fifth graders were lining up, Ms. Wheeler had placed papers on each of
the 28 chairs that ring three sides of the carpeted room. She continues her improvised chant:
“Putting my paper under there.” Little voices dutifully respond, “Putting my paper under there.” The children take the paper off their chairs, place it underneath on the floor, and sit down, their feet swinging in the air. They look expectantly toward the front of the classroom, where they can see a white board, easel, piano, and shelves overflowing with tubs of pitched and unpitched percussion instruments, books, scarves, beanbags, ribbons, stretchy bands, and other props. Orff instruments are stored on shelves and on the floor behind the students, and recorders stand ready in boxes by the sink. The music room is packed to the ceiling with the detritus of over 25 years of teaching… masks, puppets, posters, homemade instruments.
The instant the last child enters the room, Ms. Wheeler begins her greeting song, and the children join her without being prompted. “Hello everybody, yes indeed… Let’s make music, yes indeed, yes indeed my friends.” The song has barely ended when Ms. Wheeler sings, using Curwen hand signs, “Sol-mi-sol-sol-mi” and the class echoes her singing and mirrors her hand signs. Ms. Wheeler sings a few more patterns of sol, mi and la, echoed by the whole group, smaller groups, and also a few individual students. Then, she as she starts to sing a new song, she motions for the class to stand and join her for the associated movement activity. Ms.
Wheeler does not allow any transitional moments during which students might talk or misbehave, but segues immediately from one activity to the next, mixing singing, chanting, movement, and playing instruments in a total of nine activities over the course of the 30-minute music class. She is strict about off-task behavior and talking out of turn. It is January, and the children seem familiar with the rules, comfortable with the routine and excited to begin another day of singing and moving in the music room. Perhaps due to her strict management and established pattern of activities, it is not immediately apparent that any child has any behavioral, intellectual, or musical differences from any other child in the room. (DW Field notes, 1/15, condensed).
I was pleased when Danielle Wheeler agreed to participate in this study. As I inquired with university faculty and area teachers about music educators who were interested in assessment and regularly implemented it in their classrooms, her name came up repeatedly. I knew Ms. Wheeler from my time as a beginning teacher nearly 10 years ago, when attending Orff meetings for activity ideas helped me survive my first year of teaching. At that time, Ms.
Wheeler was the secretary of the local Orff chapter. More recently, I had observed and evaluated a student teacher in her classroom. Danielle was excited to participate as well, because she had worked intensively on integrating assessment components into her teaching about 3 years prior to this study but was afraid she had lapsed in the intervening years (DW Initial Interview, p. 13).
The following chapter will present findings regarding my guiding research questions as well as describe new themes that emerged out of the data, including: Danielle’s inquisitive disposition, her linkage of curriculum to assessment, and teacher behaviors conducive to differentiation.
When and How did Ms. Wheeler Assess?
Types of assessment. Ms. Wheeler used a variety of assessments to ascertain information about her students’ musical achievement and abilities. In the past, she had used aptitude testing to determine different levels of ability. At the time of the study, she used multiple choice and short-answer written tests to examine students’ awareness of concepts about music. Danielle collected written work, including tests as well as notated compositions and selfassessments, in portfolios. She measured music performance skills, such as singing and playing instruments, with criterion-based assessments like checklists, rating scales, and rubrics. Ms.
Wheeler also used observational assessments when she circulated around the classroom checking for participation or demonstration of specific skills.
Portfolios. In the initial interview, Ms. Wheeler indicated that she kept portfolios of all written work, including compositions, written assessments, student checklists, and selfassessments for students in grades 1 through 5. Kindergarten students did not have portfolios, because they did not do written work. Written assessments in the portfolio included multiplechoice and short-answer tests regarding music theory, composers, genres, and similar topics. In general, written assessments gathered information regarding what students knew about music concepts and related information. One example of a written test administered during the observation period was “Rocket Notes,” a note-reading exercise the fourth grade class completed once a week. These one-minute timed tests were modeled after “Rocket Math” tests, which the fourth grade students took daily in their classroom. Notes were presented on a treble staff, and students wrote note names in blanks below.
Self-assessments. The portfolios also contained student-administered checklists and other self-assessments. Student checklists were used while working on assignments such as compositions (e.g., Did I use a treble clef? Check yes or no. Do all of my measures have four beats? Check yes or no) (DW Field Notes 2/12, p. 1). Self-assessments were completed only in grades 3 through 5, because of the cognitive abilities and writing skills required. These selfassessments consisted of questions relevant to music behaviors targeted in the curriculum for that grade level during that trimester. For example, “My behavior is good in music class (yes/no)” or “Do you think it will be easy to write your own song in music class? Why or why not?” (DW Field Notes 2/12, p. 1). Self-assessments also included a section for Ms. Wheeler to comment on whether the student’s self-assessments matched her assessments of the student’s ability. For example, “…sometimes they’ll say, ‘I can play BAG but not E on the recorder.’ …I [Ms.
Wheeler] might write something like ‘Well, I’ve seen you play E, but practice that more’” (DW Initial Interview, p. 5). Ms. Wheeler reported that many children were tough on themselves when they self-assessed. The self-assessments, including Ms. Wheeler’s comments, were sent home with the music report card twice a year. At the end of the middle trimester, Ms. Wheeler did not send home self-assessments or report cards because there were conferences, and she distributed the music curriculum instead.
Report cards. Ms. Wheeler was required to grade students in first through fifth grades twice a year on report cards. However, Ms. Wheeler discounted the district’s music report card as a form of assessment of music learning. “Our report card is behavioral… You only get a report card with your name on it if there is a behavioral issue” (DW Initial Interview, p. 3). The report card did not include curricular goals for the trimester. Instead, a blanket statement regarding behavior in each “special” (gym, art, computers, and music) was photocopied for all children whose behavior was acceptable. A child whose behavior needed improvement would receive a personalized card with information regarding the problems teachers had experienced.
Danielle reported that, since the district music faculty had completed its curriculum about 3 years prior to this study, she had been arguing for a report card that reflected music learning. “After we wrote our curriculum, I thought it was really important. I felt that we need to now do a good report card and start putting some good assessments in place, because we had our curriculum piece” (DW Initial Interview, p. 3). On several occasions, Ms. Wheeler stressed that her interest in assessment was not shared by all of the music teachers in the district, because she believed that others did not want to discuss evaluation of the new curriculum, primarily out of fear that children would view themselves as unmusical if they did not receive top marks (e.g., DW Initial Interview, p. 3).
Ms. Wheeler was in the process of developing her own report card for kindergarten, which did have an assessment function. It was adapted from an MENC publication and used pictographs to provide information on curricular expectations, such as ability to sing in a small group, to distinguish same and different tonal and rhythm patterns, fast and slow tempi, loud and soft dynamics, and to identify and play percussion instruments (DW Journal 1/29, p. 2). As stated previously, Ms. Wheeler did not keep portfolios of kindergarten work. The other grades completed written work that lent itself to inclusion in a portfolio as a way to demonstrate progress. Kindergarten students did not do any written work in music. Most of the kindergarten year in music was viewed as introductory: a time to expose children to the elements of music (beat, rhythm, melody, tonality, harmony, form) and ways to interact with music (singing, playing instruments, and moving) (DW Artifact 1, District K-5 Music Curriculum).
Formative assessments. In addition to the assessment measures in the student portfolios, Ms. Wheeler designed and used assessments for her own information. These formative assessments measured individual performance skills, such as: singing voice development, sung tonal patterns (echoed and improvised), vocalized rhythm patterns (echoed and improvised), instrument skills such as playing patterns or playing on the beat, and movement skills such as fluid movement or moving to selected features of the music, including the beat.
According to Ms. Wheeler, these assessments typically took the form of checking yes or no on the class list if a child demonstrated a particular skill, although sometimes she simply checked who was or was not participating (e.g., DW Think Aloud 2/15, p. 4). Sometimes she used rating scales on the class list as well, recording information such as T for talking, S for singing, and S+ for singing on pitch. Ms. Wheeler also used rubrics to evaluate more complex tasks, such as compositions or playing songs on the recorder. However, she preferred checklists to rubrics, because she was concerned about the reliability of rubrics. She related the story of a professional development day when all the teachers in her school “…[got] a paper, read it together, and then we all ha[d] to grade it according to [a] rubric, and [despite all having the same paper and the same rubric] we still d[id]n’t agree [on the score]!” (DW Initial Interview, p. 5).
Other assessments. A few more complex assessments also took place during the observation period. The fourth grade students wrote a song for their recorders, which they handed in along with a checklist of the elements of the composition. Kindergarten students had a centers day that included individual assessments of singing voice development and of ability to play a bordun and glissando on Orff instruments. Fourth graders played songs of their choice in duets and trios for Ms. Wheeler, the student teacher, and a visiting teacher. Those who played acceptably well (pass/fail, with verbal feedback to encourage improvements) got to sign their names on a chart in the hall to indicate they had achieved a certain level of challenge. Final tests for the recorder unit were video-recorded in the hall, one child at a time, so that Ms. Wheeler could grade them using a checklist at home. Of all these assessment activities, only the final recorder-playing test was graded.