«INDIVIDUALIZING ELEMENTARY GENERAL MUSIC INSTRUCTION: CASE STUDIES OF ASSESSMENT AND DIFFERENTIATION By Karen Salvador A DISSERTATION Submitted to ...»
Each participant in the current study graded students on report cards as required by her district (once a year for Ms. Wheeler and Ms. Stevens, twice a year for Ms. Davis). The grading systems were similar, reflecting the progress of each student in terms comparable in meaning to “developing,” “progressing at grade level” and “exceeds grade level expectations.” However, each teacher discounted her report card as a valuable assessment tool for a variety of reasons, including the report cards’ focus on assessment of behavior rather than musical skills and disagreements with the report cards regarding what facets of music learning were important enough to grade. These problems with report cards were similar to those reported by HepworthOsiowy’s (2004) participants. Ms. Davis even suspected that her students were so concerned with what grade they would receive that they were distracted from their individual progress musicking.
Each teacher reported that assessments needed to be of individual students’ performance, and each teacher therefore built in a variety of opportunities for obtaining individual responses.
Individual musical responses were typically evaluated using a rating scale designed by the teacher, or the teacher simply checked yes or no if a skill was adequately demonstrated or if the student participated. The participants all reported that it was necessary to keep records in the moment, because it was nearly impossible to remember how each child performed and then record that information later. Participants also reported using class lists and/or grade books as a convenient place to jot down assessment data. In addition, Ms. Stevens used her palm pilot to record some assessment data and kept a dedicated binder to track each student’s progress on LSAs. Both Ms. Wheeler and Ms. Stevens reported charting student data so they could see which students were progressing with specific skills and tailor their instruction accordingly.
All three participants created rating scales and checklists to evaluate various musical tasks, although Ms. Wheeler and Ms. Davis mentioned difficulties with remembering which scale they were using and/or what the ratings meant for various activities once the ratings were recorded in their grade books. Danielle and Carrie also both mentioned feeling like assessing every student on a particular task took too much class time. This concern was echoed in the literature (Brummett and Haywood, 1997; Hepworth-Osiowy, 2004; Peppers, 2010). Ms.
Stevens had a system of four-point rating scales that were both specific to each activity and yet similar enough across activities that she was able to remember what each rating indicated. In addition, Hailey rarely evaluated all students in a class on the same skill on the same day, instead opting to check perhaps a third of the students and then move on to another activity. She would then return to the assessment activity on subsequent music days to evaluate the remainder of the class. Furthermore, in Ms. Stevens’ teaching, the intertwining of assessment and instruction resulted in active student engagement in musicking, even as individual students had brief turns to demonstrate their abilities.
Each participant mentioned significant challenges to her practice of assessment. Similar to teachers in prior studies (Brummett and Haywood, 1997; Hepworth-Osiowy, 2004; Peppers,
2010) Danielle, Carrie, and Hailey reported high class sizes, high numbers of students overall, and lack of time (both in-class to administer assessments and also outside of class to maintain records) interfered with their abilities to assess music learning. In addition, Ms. Wheeler and Ms. Stevens experienced resistance from other teachers in their districts who did not agree with their assessment practices. All three participants had to be self-motivated regarding ongoing assessment of individual students’ music learning, because there was little oversight or administrative support of their assessment or grading practices.
What was the Impact of Assessment on Differentiation of Instruction?
On the whole, participants in this study demonstrated similar assessment practices, even if rates of assessment differed somewhat and a few practices, such as the use of LSAs, portfolios, and self-assessments, were not universal. Analysis of the impact of assessment on differentiation revealed both areas of similarity and also some important divergences in the instructional practices among participants in this study. Participants used a variety of tactics for differentiation of whole-group instruction as well as a number of group work strategies. They also each differentiated for students with special needs.
Tactics for differentiation of whole-group music instruction. According to my observations, all three participants primarily taught the whole class at the same time. Ms.
Wheeler generally used whole-group instruction with her fourth grade students, although they also played recorders independently during warm-ups, played recorders in duets and trios, and worked alone on written assignments, such as Rocket Notes and compositions. In kindergarten, instruction was always whole-group, with the notable exception of centers day. Ms. Davis exclusively used whole-group instruction with her fourth grade and CI students. In third grade, brief periods of whole-group instruction supplemented the cooperative group work that constituted the majority of my observations. Because Carrie was in the midst of preparation for a performance, my observations of both third and fourth grades may not represent her typical practice. Ms. Stevens primarily taught through whole-group instruction—in fact, I only observed two examples of other types of instruction (independent written work on quizzes).
Different students have different learning needs, and therefore it seems logical that reliance on whole-group instruction would complicate differentiation. However, each participant indicated she differentiated whole-group instruction by varying activities over time. For example, Ms. Stevens varied the difficulty levels of whole-class activities and planned easier, “fun” activities to follow high challenge activities (HS Think Aloud 2, p. 5). Ms. Wheeler worked to integrate aural, visual, and kinesthetic elements into her teaching, and used technology and popular music (e.g., video karaoke of “Fireflies” DW Field Notes 1/15; p. 2; YouTube of the choir at PS 22 singing “Eye of the Tiger” and “Just Dance” with some rapping, DW Field Notes 2/19, p. 2) in addition to “school music” like folk songs, patriotic songs, and children’s songs.
Hailey also integrated popular music (e.g., the Justin Bieber song “Baby,” HS Final Interview, p.
1), as did Carrie when her third graders composed raps. All three teachers consistently varied meter, tonality, and other musical elements and included singing, chanting, moving, playing instruments and listening to music regularly. Ms. Wheeler and Ms. Stevens rarely talked about music or taught by talking. In contrast, Ms. Davis used Socratic-style questioning/discussions as a teaching tool with her students. Varying music class material over time in terms of presentation mode, difficulty level, types of music, and types of activities was one way that each teacher differentiated whole-group instruction. By presenting different material in different ways, participants hoped to meet the varying needs of each individual student at least some of the time.
Hailey Stevens was particularly adroit in her differentiation of whole-class instruction. In addition to varying musical materials, presentation modes, types of activities, and difficulty levels, she also used open-response activities that included both self-challenge and high levels of challenge to differentiate whole-group instruction. By designing opportunities for all children to respond individually at different levels of achievement and musical sophistication several times in every class, Hailey found a way to teach different lessons to individual children in the wholeclass context.
In addition to the variety of open-ended high-challenge and self-challenge activities, the most important features of Hailey’s differentiated whole-class instruction were the number of individual responses she elicited and the amount of data she was able to collect and track regarding each child’s various abilities. When I observed Ms. Stevens’ teaching, I could gauge each student’s musical achievement in a variety of areas (singing, rhythm/beat skills, playing instruments, improvisation), because there were so many opportunities for each child to musick alone.
The following fictionalized vignette synthesizes data found in my field notes and in journals from all three teachers. It is intended to illustrate ways that an elementary general music teacher could differentiate instruction while teaching a whole class.
Third grade students file into the music room and take their assigned seats on the carpet for “vegetables” (LSAs). Several children smile or wave at me; I was not present at their last class meeting. As they settle in, the teacher takes a drink of water, puts away her iPod from the last class, grabs her Palm Pilot, smiles and says good morning to the students as she heads over to the music stand where she keeps her LSA binder.
Today’s LSA is high-challenge and open-response. The teacher improvises a tonic or dominant tonal pattern in major, using solfege. The students each decide if it is a tonic or dominant pattern, and, during a wait time, create a different pattern with the same harmonic function to sing back. This is the first time the students have tried this particular LSA, so the teacher starts with a warm-up in which students echo tonic and dominant tonal patterns using solfege and label them as tonic or dominant. They also review which syllables constitute tonic and dominant chords by singing a jingle the teacher created. The teacher offers some suggestions for ways students could create their “answers,” such as using pieces of her “question,” or giving back her “question”
Then, students practice creating a different answer from the teacher’ prompt by musicking alongside one another. The teacher sings do-sol-mi, and the whole group listens and silently creates a response pattern. Then, she breathes and cues with a gesture, and they all respond with their own answer at the same time, resulting in a three-chord pastiche of tonic harmony. In this manner, they practice a few times while the teacher reiterates strategies for creating replies, and then she starts soliciting individual responses.
To start, the teacher sings a prompt, and students who feel ready to sing their response alone put their finger on their chin. The teacher takes an individual response, and then sings a new prompt. At any moment, she could alter her gesture to ask the whole group to sing their responses together, so the children each prepare an answer every time. Although today the teacher is only asking for individual responses from those who volunteer, most students are volunteering to try. The students seem excited to show the teacher what they can do, and they also know from experience that she will eventually get responses from everyone. Perhaps because this is a new activity and students need to experiment and practice, the teacher seems to be asking for whole-group responses more often than she usually does.
Several students sing correct responses—a different pattern of the same harmonic function with the correctly applied solfege. Two students sing back the same notes as the prompt, but with different [incorrect] solfege syllables. A few other students formulate an answer that consists of solfege from the correct harmonic function, but they do not sing the pitches that match their solfege syllables. When either of these happens, the teacher sings “Did you mean …” and sings the pitches that correspond to the solfege the student provided.
After not quite 10 minutes of this high-challenge, open-ended activity (including the opening warm-up and teaching students how to respond), The teacher has rated responses from nine students and closes her LSA binder. She asks the students to grab their recorders on the way to sit in a circle on the carpet, and to warm up by practicing their “my-level song” for about three minutes.
After circulating for a few minutes to provide assistance to students with questions, the teacher reintroduces an eight-measure song that the class composed as a group by projecting a notated version onto the screen at the front of the room. Last week, the teacher used this “class song” as an A section, while individual students composed B sections. After explaining that each B section would be 8 beats long (the “class song” is in duple meter), the teacher sprinkled hearts with notation on them around the students. They drew eight of the hearts and tried the notes out in different orders until they were pleased with how they sounded. The teacher selected 8 volunteers to share their B sections last week, and today the remaining 15 students will have their turns. The students seem excited to share their compositions and I noticed that they also listened attentively to the compositions of others. The teacher rates each student’s
performance on recorder playing skill using a scale she designed:
allowing the remainder of the class to have a turn takes about 8 minutes.
16 In a system similar to Recorder Karate (Philipak, 1997), the teacher has ranked a set of songs by difficulty. Students work through these songs independently and test onto the next level by playing for the teacher. All students are expected to complete at least the first four levels.
Please note that this same activity could also rate the composition. Results from this study indicate that it is best to choose only one specific behavior to rate, rather than trying to use two rating scales at the same time or trying to rate two different dimensions on one scale.
Noticing that the class seems a little antsy from concentrating this long, the teacher sings A Ram Sam Sam as students are putting their recorders away. The students learned this song earlier in the year along with a body percussion partner game.