«INDIVIDUALIZING ELEMENTARY GENERAL MUSIC INSTRUCTION: CASE STUDIES OF ASSESSMENT AND DIFFERENTIATION By Karen Salvador A DISSERTATION Submitted to ...»
I definitely considered the high phrase to be hardest and assigned that phrase to students who showed higher singing achievement in previous assessments. I would agree that phrase one was easy and phrase two was medium; however, I sometimes assigned some unsure/inaccurate singers the second phrase so that they wouldn’t have to sing first (HS
Hailey intentionally challenged one student whose abilities she did not know as much about: “I decided to give one of the newer students (Lyra, who moved to the school in December) a chance to sing the high phrase. She was not successful but was later able to sing one of the lower phrases accurately” (HS Journal 2/23, p. 2). While this differentiated instruction was taking place, Ms. Stevens was simultaneously using a rating scale to evaluate students’ performances.
Another example of adaptations to teaching based on assessments in the moment occurred in third grade. Students were reading tonal patterns from flash cards using solfege (HS Field Notes 3/4 p. 1). This was one of the students’ first exposures to notation. Ms. Stevens showed the card and prompted students to “figure out” the solfege indicated by the notation, one note at a time. Finally, Hailey sang the pattern and the class echoed.
I noticed that some students were generalizing and singing the pitches of the tonal patterns before I had finished giving the answer. Evan was one of the students that I noticed doing this. So I decided rather than just giving them the answer for the patterns by rote and simply having them echo that I would have the group generalize the pitches before reading the whole pattern. This was confusing for many students in the class, but those students who were ready to generalize were able to do it (HS Journal 3/4 p. 1).
Based on Ms. Stevens’ assessments of responses in the moment, some students indicated a need for a greater challenge, and she changed her instruction accordingly.
Students’ achievement levels on assessment activities also led to adaptation of future lesson plans both for individuals and also for the group. In third grade, students played an alternating i-v ostinato on barred instruments, which Ms. Stevens assessed using a four-point rating scale (HS Field Notes 3/18, p. 3). Hailey revealed the results of her assessment and her
plans for the future in her journal:
This was WAY too easy for them! Almost everyone played it perfectly (“4”) or mostly correct (“3”). Only one student achieved a “2”, and no one scored a “1.” …They are definitely ready for a more complicated ostinato—maybe a crossover bordun or melodic ostinato? (HS Journal 3/18, p. 1).
Usually, activities were closer to the challenge level of the majority of the students. It was more
typical to read journal entries such as this one:
Singing V-i: Clearly, the two students who still achieved at a “1” level need some remedial experiences in developing singing voice, and the 14 students who achieved at a “4” level need more challenges! (HS Journal 2/23, p. 2).
13 Taking information learned in another context and applying it to a new task.
Sometimes, Hailey’s journals would simply reflect upon the need for more challenge or remediation, and other entries were more specific about exactly how she planned to offer these
opportunities. For example:
Playing I-IV-V chord roots: Since only seven students were able to play correctly during the whole song, we might either review/reinforce these chord roots in the future OR try a song with an easier progression, possibly using only I & V (HS Journal 2/23, p. 2).
Hearing that students were able to improvise a melody over chord roots tells me they are ready for more sophisticated/restrictive improvising, such as improvising [over] tonic/dominant chord tones. Improvising tonic/dominant patterns and singing tonic/dominant harmonies in three parts also serves as readiness for improvising a melody on tonic/dominant. Hearing that students were able to improvise a melody lets me know they are ready for the composition project we will begin soon, where students create and revise melodies by ear (HS Journal 3/4, pp. 1-2).
Ms. Stevens’ lesson planning was guided not only by her impressions of the group’s performance but also by her formal assessments of individual student progress. Differentiated instruction was a natural outgrowth of Ms. Stevens’ assessment practices, both as she adapted instruction in the moment and as she planned future lessons.
Assessment as a form of differentiation. Just as differentiated instruction constituted a natural consequence of assessment in Ms. Stevens’ teaching, some assessment activities also provided opportunities for differentiated instruction. If an assessment only allowed for two possible outcomes—each student successfully did or did not demonstrate a target skill—the assessment activity was not a form of differentiation. However, Ms. Stevens often utilized assessment methods in which the assessment itself constituted differentiated instruction.
Ms. Stevens differentiated instruction during assessment activities by varying the difficulty level of the material being assessed based on the previously demonstrated abilities of the student responding. For example, LSAs provided easy, moderately difficult, and difficult tonal or rhythm prompts. Students who succeeded at the easy level would be advanced to the moderate and then difficult levels. Embedded assessments also allowed Ms. Stevens to offer appropriate challenges for each student. For example, first grade students played a game in which they echoed a rhythmic phrase that Hailey improvised (HS Field Notes 2/23, p. 4). Based on students’ previous performance, Ms. Stevens improvised rhythms appropriate for the child’s achievement level. One student echoed an easier rhythm (Figure 6.2) and another student echoed a more difficult one (Figure 6.3).
Figure 6.2 Easier rhythm Figure 6.
3 More difficult rhythm When I asked about the most important factors in a music teacher’s ability to assess music learning, Hailey responded, …I think knowing each student’s abilities individually, so that you know what is a success for which student. So, let’s say we are singing chord roots alone in second grade.
For a really high achieving student, or a high aptitude student, that’s like no problem. For another student who is still struggling with singing voice, if I know they are still struggling with singing voice, even if they can’t sing the chord roots accurately, but they are using their singing voice in some way, I know that is still a success for that child, even if they even if it didn’t meet my specific expectation for the assessment (HS Final
Ms. Stevens’ use of rating scales that described a variety of response levels allowed her to track students’ individual progress, even if they were not meeting the standard she was checking.
Moreover, because Ms. Stevens assiduously tracked individual students’ progress, she knew what achievements constituted success for each child. Success at each individual’s level was also facilitated by open-ended assessment activities, in which students created their own answers rather than echoing or other more structured responses. Students in first grade played a game in which students provided melodic material for the rest of the class to echo (HS Field Notes 3/23, p. 2). One child responded with inaccurate singing for the tonality, and I asked about his
Even if we are just talking about echoing and not creating, he’s an inconsistent singer.
Sometimes he’ll use his head voice, sometimes he’ll just sing in a speaking voice.
Already, I was kind of expecting something on the fence. I was really happy with that response in terms of creating. Because he did get into his head voice, even if it was really high and squeaky. But I could hear when he had that kind of (demonstrated his pattern) in there… You hear the high resting tone in there. I was happy with that, knowing what
Thus, the assessment activity differentiated instruction by allowing the child to musick individually at his own level of achievement.
In Ms. Stevens’ teaching, differentiation of instruction and assessment practices were inextricably intertwined. Differentiated instruction occurred as a natural consequence of assessment, because Ms. Stevens used the results of assessments to individualize instruction both as she was teaching in the moment and also as she planned future lessons. Furthermore, many of Hailey’s assessment activities provided chances to differentiate instruction even as she was tracking students’ progress. Based on prior achievement and/or aptitude, Ms. Stevens could structure assessments to offer different levels of challenge to different students. She also used open-ended assessments to allow students to demonstrate success at their own level.
Separating musical abilities from academic or behavioral abilities. Ms. Stevens’ assessment practices seemed to allow her to separate a child’s music achievement and aptitude from his academic or behavioral abilities, and to differentiate music instruction based on music learning needs rather than (or perhaps in addition to) other gifts or deficits. For example, after an assessment in which first grade students circled icons to indicate if tonal patterns were the same
or different, Ms. Stevens wrote:
Some students such as Molly struggle with pencil-and-paper tasks and/or the focus necessary to complete them. They may have the musical ability to tell if the patterns are same/different but may not be cognitively able to complete the task of circling the correct answers. If I can clearly tell from looking at their paper (lots of wrong answers, weird marking, pattern circling, etc.) that the student was not able to complete the task accurately, I do not count the assessment for that student because it’s not telling me what I want to know. I might try to find a time to pull that student from their class and verbally ask them to identify same/different (HS Journal 2/25, p. 2, italics added).
Molly’s problems with academic skills such as reading and writing prevented her from demonstrating her musical abilities on a pencil/paper assessment. Ms. Stevens’ frequent assessment of musicking behaviors informed her that Molly’s performance on this particular measure did not seem indicative of her typical musical achievement, and Hailey therefore differentiated by adapting this assessment for Molly, allowing her to demonstrate music learning orally rather than in written form.
In addition to the possible impact of a lack of academic skills on music assessments, behavioral issues such as compliance could also affect a student’s performance.
It is clear… some students are quite high musically but struggle with appropriate behavior. Sometimes I think that such a student needs to be kept more engaged by being given a more challenging task to “chew on…” However, there are [also] some students who need to learn that there are behavior expectations at school and that they need to follow them. With students like Mike, who are high musically but struggle with behavior, I try to reinforce appropriate behavior but give consequences when necessary, after which I try to recognize their behavioral AND musical success as quickly as I can… so that they know that I recognize that they are still capable and skilled regardless of poor behavior choices (HS Journal 3/9, pp. 2-3).
Ms. Stevens found ways to ascertain the musical abilities of students even when they were not compliant with directions or they were acting out. The frequency of assessment activities combined with a variety of response styles to allowed Ms. Stevens to isolate students’ musical abilities from their academic capacities or behavior and differentiate music instruction accordingly.
In addition to providing numerous opportunities for students to demonstrate musicking skills using a variety of response styles, Ms. Stevens’ use of aptitude testing may contribute to her ability to separate musical from academic or behavioral capabilities.
…low scores to me, on the aptitude test could just be they had a bad day… they didn’t eat breakfast, they were in a bad mood… So I don’t always go by low scores if [students] are showing high achievement. But, a student who scores low, I know is going to need more time and more reinforcement to build their skills. Not that they can’t do it, but they just need MORE [emphasized] to get them there. Versus the students who are scoring off the charts high, I don’t want them sitting there bored out of their gourd. I want to keep them engaged. So, I want to know that they are high to I can keep them challenged… And also aptitude-wise, I do believe that there is a difference between aptitude and achievement. I’ve had numerous kids who score off the charts high, on their aptitude tests, and there is no singing voice. One in particular I can think of, kindergarten no singing voice—scored 99th percentile tonally. First grade no singing voice—99th percentile tonally. Second grade… finally in third grade, halfway through the year, he found his singing voice, [snaps] and boom. He was ready to roll. He was rockin’ from that point on. But, had I not known that his aptitude was high tonally it might have been really easy for me to say, “Well, that kid’s not musical. He’s never going to be able to do it.” And just ignore him and not make him feel uncomfortable. But because I knew it was all in his… he had that potential. Then I knew to keep chuggin’ along and trying to bring that out (HS Initial Interview, pp. 8-9).
As Ms. Stevens described, a child with a high music aptitude who was acting out may need more musical challenges. A child with low music aptitude who acted out may need remediation so he could feel successful. Ms. Stevens did not limit children because of their aptitude scores—if a student’s achievement outstripped his measured aptitude, Ms. Stevens increased his musical challenges accordingly (HS Initial Interview, p. 8). However, information from aptitude testing gave additional insight into students’ musical abilities that allowed Ms. Stevens to differentiate music instruction apart from academic skills and behavior.