«INDIVIDUALIZING ELEMENTARY GENERAL MUSIC INSTRUCTION: CASE STUDIES OF ASSESSMENT AND DIFFERENTIATION By Karen Salvador A DISSERTATION Submitted to ...»
While my observations certainly noted the strong routines and consistently enforced high expectations, I also noticed a number of occasions when Ms. Wheeler was flexible and this allowed for differentiated instruction. One day, a student brought in his own book of songs to play on the recorder. He had written in note names for ten songs and played one of them for the whole class after warm-up and before the beginning of whole group instruction. When the class was writing songs for their recorders, he chose to compose in 5/4 (DW Journal 3/1, p. 1).
Another day, the kindergarten class was standing to sing a song (DW Field Notes 3/1, p. 3). Two boys joined hands and began rocking in time to the macrobeats. Abandoning whatever she had been planning, Ms. Wheeler had the whole class join. When I asked her about this, Ms. Wheeler replied that she thinks it is important that student contributions are valued.
I had a class last year… They were just… in two different classes, the boys wanted to dance. And you can’t to that with every song, and it was a little out of my comfort zone, but OK, you’re dancing, OK, go ahead and dance. And so I let them do that all year.
And they still want to do that this year. And I think, if the boys want to dance, why would I stop that? …Why would I stop that creativity? (DW Think Aloud 3/22, p. 6).
Ms. Wheeler’s willingness to allow students to contribute their ideas and strengths to the way they learn in the music room created an atmosphere conducive to differentiation.
Chapter Summary Danielle Wheeler used a variety of assessments, including observations, checklists, rating scales, multiple-choice and short answer written work, and video-taped individual performances.
Her assessments and the assessments of others resulted in differentiation of instruction primarily for students who were in need of some form of remediation: musical, academic, or social.
Despite a lack of support from coworkers and administrators, Ms. Wheeler worked to embed a variety of assessments in her teaching that allowed her to track individual student progress on curricular goals.
Ms. Wheeler viewed the music curriculum as cumulative from kindergarten to fifth grade. In her teaching, differentiation did not arise simply from assessments of musical skills but from a more multifaceted picture of student needs. Danielle based much of her instruction on her accumulation of personal knowledge of students’ social, academic and musical growth gained over the course of teaching them for their entire elementary career. In addition, she organized frameworks and provided flexibility that allowed for further differentiation.
Given the inherent difficulties of teaching roughly 500 students that she only saw twice a week and the lack of any requirement that she track student progress, Danielle Wheeler nevertheless worked to implement assessment-based differentiated instruction. Ms. Wheeler had little formal training regarding assessment practices, and the preparation she had came from fragmented sources, sometimes with conflicting viewpoints. Sometimes, Ms. Wheeler opted not to record data about her students’ musical progress, instead simply recording if they participated in the activity. Ms. Wheeler strove toward the admirable goal of improving music instruction for her students, and I admire her and appreciate her courage in allowing me to observe her teaching and to write about both her considerable successes and the areas where she continues to refine her practice. Perhaps the model she provided in this chapter will help other teachers by motivating them to try out new assessment methods, helping them see ways to improve their practice, and encouraging them to seek out additional training, mentors and collaborators as they, too, strive to implement assessment-based differentiation of music learning.
Ms. Wright’s class… left feeling very accomplished. We’d been putting everything together for the orange belt song—Au Claire de le Lune. We had been working on the rhythms, singing it (first just as a song with no words, then with pitch-letter names), moving to it, etc. The group sat down and we “singered ” through the song. After singering, we attempted to play. It was definitely the first time most students had attempted playing it: there was a complete lack of cognizance of the beat.
The students put down their recorders and said, “That was really bad!” So I asked what they thought was wrong, [and they said], “We weren’t together.” [I asked] “What might help us?” [and they replied] “Maybe trying again?” I had the students problem-solve for a bit and then had then put their recorders down and attempt just patsching the macrobeat on their laps while singing the song. Wow. Even the rhythmically achieving students weren’t really keeping a steady beat. So I had them patsch again, this time starting the macrobeat before singing. They were a bit better. We started rocking the macrobeat while patsching the microbeat. “Hey!
We’re closer,” Christian said, “But we’re still not right!” The class problem-solved by having one half keep the macrobeat/microbeat while the other half sang the song on a neutral syllable.
Both sides achieved perfection.
8 Singering: Singing note names while holding a recorder to the chin and fingering.
“I think it’s because we were trying harder,” said Zach. (Definitely the case for himself—he’d been following a stray ant with his eyes and could not be pulled into the lesson prior to that final attempt.) “Maybe we were listening better?” suggested Ashley. And that was when the “light bulb” went off over 50% of the students’ heads. It was fun to watch. I briefly described the concept of ensemble listening—concentrating on your own music making while at the same time listening— and how easy it is to ignore that part when you’re trying something new. I gave an example from a recent rehearsal where we [an orchestra she was playing in] sight-read Gould’s Jericho and the brass section was just glued to their parts and totally ignored the director and the rest of the ensemble… At this point, the light bulb seemed to click with a few more students, and they decided they wanted to try half of the class playing the song and the other half keeping a macro/microbeat. It went very well. They traded. That went well. They asked to put it together. That was a little less solid, but still 600% better than their initial attempt. “We’re almost there!” shouted Jace.
Ashley beamed, Nicole buckled down for another attempt, and we tried three more times in succession, having the greatest success with students rocking the macrobeat until they began playing.
Not only were the students together, but, because they were so focused on their “ensemble” they were less apprehensive over the details of fingerings. This circumvented their lack of confidence in recorder skills and allowed for higher achievement. (They can really get in their own way sometimes. My biggest challenge is keeping them thinking positively.) By the end of the class every student--even Grayson—was beaming with pride, and someone said they were good enough to cut a CD. I told them maybe we should all hit the Vegas Strip and be the opening act for a big show. A student actually suggested Celine Dione! (Gotta love it!) (CD Journal, p. 1-2).
I met Carrie Davis in a class we were both taking at a local university—I was just completing my doctorate, and she was finishing her master’s degree. Based on conversations in the class, I could see that she was a strong teacher and that her teaching style would provide a contrast to the other participants in this dissertation. I asked her to participate, and she was willing but concerned. In our first interview, she asked, “Are you sure that you are going to see what you need to see in this? I am thinking of the third graders creating their own performance from scratch. Is that going to let you see enough of the assessment process?” (CD Initial Interview, p. 7). Because she was preparing for performances, she would not be using as many assessments as she viewed as typical for her teaching. Earlier in the interview, she had described her performance pressures: each grade level (K-4) was expected to stage a “mini-Broadway-like show” (p. 5). Therefore, she was preparing for after-school programs on April 26 (second grade), May 17 (fourth grade), May 20 (kindergarten), May 24 (first grade) and May 25 (third grade). Carrie was also playing professional flute gigs (she had one the night before our initial interview). Fortunately, our three-credit graduate seminar ended the first week of May, giving her more time. The observation period was from April 19 until May 26.
Even knowing how much pressure she was under and with awareness that I would not see her typical teaching in terms of assessment, I wanted Carrie to participate for several reasons.
Based on conversations in class, I knew that she had a different classroom persona than either of my other participants, who were very direct in their teaching style. Carrie was more of a facilitator: through questioning and experimentation, she tried to help students discover musical concepts. She also frequently abandoned her plans in light of social cues or to pursue teachable moments. I wanted to know about the role of assessment in this type of classroom environment.
Ms. Davis was allowing her third grade students to write their own mini-musicals in small groups for their program, and she had never done this before. I wanted to see how she grouped students, how she kept track of what the groups were doing, and what the students learned as a result of the group composition activity. I also knew that Carrie taught students with moderate to severe cognitive impairments in both mainstreamed and self-contained settings, and I wanted to see how she differentiated music instruction for them.
Danielle (see Chapter 4) and Hailey (see Chapter 6) agreed to participate before the winter holiday break and their observations took place much earlier in the semester. They each provided journals for nearly every class, answering most if not all of the prompt questions, and often adding additional comments. These journal entries were typically bulleted lists, sentence fragments, and a few longer comments, emailed to me within 24 hours of each observation.
With Carrie, I would send journal prompts and not hear from her. Then, one day I would come into her room for an observation and she would hand me an ethnography of a class that met the previous week, with detailed biographical notes on some children. Carrie submitted a total of three journal entries, each about six pages, single-spaced, and constructed as a story, like the excerpt at the beginning of this chapter. Although her entries were harder to triangulate, Carrie’s journal writing style paralleled the differences in her classroom manner from the other participants.
Like Carrie, Danielle and Hailey offered their students opportunities to create and be creative, and their classrooms were filled with joyful, musical experiences. However, their reporting and teaching styles were more linear than Carrie’s and produced data that were easier to make sense of by applying my three research questions and then describing emergent themes.
Data from Carrie’s interviews, think-aloud, field notes, and journal seemed to demand that I analyze differently. Therefore, this chapter is organized into four main sections: (1) Self-reports of assessment (2) Assessment and differentiation of instruction in small-group composition, (3) Differentiation of music instruction for students with cognitive impairments, and (4) Constructivism and differentiation.
Self-Reports of Assessment The initial interview questions for Carrie were the same as those for Danielle and Hailey and included questions regarding assessment (see Appendix B). Carrie also described some of her views on assessment as part of her think aloud. Therefore, I amassed a considerable amount of information on the assessment components of Carrie’s teaching from her point of view.
However, as she feared when deciding whether to participate in the study, I only observed limited evidence of these assessment activities as she worked to prepare students for upcoming performances. During the observation period, third grade students were working on composing mini-musicals in small groups, and, in fourth grade, Carrie was “aim[ing] for the ‘band rehearsal’ mentality from which I usually stay as far away as possible. This seems to suit these kids and will help them to feel confident enough that they don’t freeze up at their program next month” (CD Journal, p. 6). I cannot triangulate some of the assessment techniques or testing Carrie described in interviews with evidence from my field notes or other sources. However, in the interest of cross-case analysis, I will include information on self-reported use of assessment with the caveat that I did not observe most of these activities. Ms. Davis reported using a variety of assessment practices, including aptitude testing, report cards, observational assessments and other formal assessments. She also emphasized the importance of individual assessment and discussed challenges to assessment.
Aptitude testing. Ms. Davis administered the Primary Measures of Music Audiation (PMMA; Gordon, 1986) once a year in first grade, and twice a year in second and third grades (CD Initial Interview, p 2). “[PMMA] gives me a picture into those… really high aptitude [students who] haven’t shown much achievement in class. Because [those students] are thinking of other things in their heads, they are going beyond. That gives me enough of a window to know... to gauge where I need to make changes” (CD Initial Interview, p. 2). Ms. Davis stated that she wished to continue aptitude testing with her fourth grade students, but she had not yet found the money to purchase the Intermediate Measures of Music Audiation (IMMA; Gordon, 1986), and her older students needed the more challenging test for the results to be useful (CD Initial Interview, p. 2).