«INDIVIDUALIZING ELEMENTARY GENERAL MUSIC INSTRUCTION: CASE STUDIES OF ASSESSMENT AND DIFFERENTIATION By Karen Salvador A DISSERTATION Submitted to ...»
Implications at the secondary level. Although this study took place at the elementary level (and is not generalizable due to its qualitative nature), applicable findings may be appropriated to other settings. Assessment strategies suggested by the current study—including aptitude testing, use of rating scales, self-assessments, and creative projects—are all possible at the secondary level. The methods participants in this study used to elicit individual responses and to track the assessment data they accumulated may be of particular interest to secondary instructors. Use of centers, praxial and creative groupwork, high-challenge and self-challenge activities could be adapted to suit the learning needs of older students. Furthermore, using a variety of grouping strategies to differentiate instruction might be especially beneficial and appropriate with adolescent learners, who are highly motivated by peer interaction.
Summary of implications for practice. Music teachers face a number of challenges as they seek to know each of their students as individual people and musicians. Elementary general music teachers must be prepared to individualize instruction for “typical” students, whose musical skills and abilities can be widely divergent, as well as teach students with a variety of special needs. Assessments of individual musicking can be integrated into music instruction on an ongoing basis in such a way that they do not significantly interfere with students’ immersion in musicking. Use of a variety of assessment strategies to track a number of musicking skills over time can result in a well-rounded picture of each student’s musicianship that can then be used to differentiate instruction. Differentiation of instruction in elementary general music settings can be accomplished by consistently varying the musical materials, presentation modes, and ways of interacting with music in whole-class instruction. Furthermore, opportunities for individuals to musick independently alongside one another and respond alone can be integrated into whole-class instruction at a variety of levels of difficulty and self-challenge. Differentiation could also be facilitated through use of various grouping strategies within centers-based instruction, praxial group work, and creative group work.
Suggestions for Future Research The results of the current study suggest a number of possible topics for future qualitative and quantitative studies. This study indicated that curriculum, assessment, differentiation, and planning are interwoven in an intricate web of reciprocal, linear and spiral relationships.
Fleshing out a more precise description of the nature of this complex interaction would be an interesting topic for future research. Perhaps because of the interplay of instructional components, questions arising from the current study encompass not only issues related to assessment and differentiation, but also curriculum and instructional philosophy.
Assessment practices. The current study described the assessment practices of three teachers and situated their practice within the literature, which included several broad surveys as well as studies of individual assessment methods. The results indicated that teacher-designed rating scales were an efficient way to evaluate individual student performances. How comfortable are practicing teachers with designing and using such scales? Do these scales reliably measure musical performance rather than behavior or other “halo” effects? How are teacher preparation programs addressing assessment topics, such as what should be assessed or how to design assessments so they are embedded in musicking? How often are teachers providing chances for individual musical responses, and do they have sufficient methods to elicit such responses to show a variety of musicking behaviors at a number of levels of difficulty and sophistication?
Performances. Further research is needed regarding the role and impact of formal performances on the music learning of students in public school elementary general music classes. Participants in the current study were troubled by the time that preparing a polished large-group performance took away from their normal instructional activities. Future studies could explore a number of facets regarding the preparation of musical performances as a part of elementary music classes, including: What is the role and value of large-group performance in an elementary general music curriculum? What do these performances contribute to individual music learning? Are they (or could they be) an effective assessment technique? Are there ways to modify or adapt the nature or practice of these performances to balance community expectations with individual music learning needs? Inquiries designed to answer these questions could shed light on the widespread but little-studied practice of producing large-scale performances as part of elementary general music curricula.
Differentiation practices. Teachers in the current study used aptitude testing as a way to differentiate instruction. Froseth (1971) found that teaching with aptitudes in mind may increase achievement for elementary band students at all levels of aptitude, but little other research has explored this. Does knowledge of students’ aptitudes lead to increased differentiation of instruction in elementary general music settings? Does this kind of differentiation result in higher levels of achievement, and if so, for which students? How does the use of high challenge and self-challenge activities affect the achievement levels of students at differing levels of aptitude?
Grouping practices. Participants in the current study usually allowed students to choose their own groups when they assigned group work. Other research regarding group work in music education did not explore grouping practices, but instead described compositional processes, social dynamics, or the products of groupwork, such as written work or performances. Research from outside music education indicated a variety of possible grouping practices. How could teachers use a variety of grouping strategies (assigned, student-chosen, heterogeneous or homogenous by musical ability or aptitude, etc)? What are the effects of each grouping strategy on individual music achievement? What are the effects of using a variety of grouping strategies over time on individual music achievement?
Group work. In addition to raising questions regarding grouping practices, results from the current study encourage further research into group work in general. For example, how (and how often) are elementary general music teachers currently implementing centers-based instruction, and what are they teaching when they do so? Does centers-based instruction increase individual music achievement (as a stand-alone question or in comparison to other methods such as whole-group instruction)? How and how often are music teachers using praxial group work or creative group work, and what are they teaching when they do? How do they rate the resultant performances or products, choose the groups, and tell how individuals are faring within the group?
Learning sequence activities (LSAs). Ms. Stevens used LSAs at the beginning of every class for about 5 minutes. Not only did they allow individual responses, provide assessment data and differentiate instruction, but they also seemed to signal to students that music class had begun and to reinforce Hailey’s views regarding the purpose of music class. How many teachers use LSAs? Are they typically implemented in the playful, fun, safe way I noted in Ms. Stevens’ practice? What is the effect of the addition of LSAs on music achievement, even if other teaching elements remain the same?
Students with special needs. Participants in the current study taught students with a variety of special needs in mainstreamed and self-contained settings. Although some research has explored this topic, (Hourigan, 2007; Linsenmeier, 2004; Salvador, 2010), further research is needed regarding how to better prepare music teachers to differentiate instruction for students with special needs. Few studies have examined music learning and instruction for students with special needs. What are the specific benefits or possible drawbacks of implementing an MLTinspired early childhood approach for self-contained classes of students with special needs in public school music settings? Are there modifications that should be made to this approach, and do they vary based on disability grouping (e.g., would students with ASD benefit from a different approach than those with CI)? What are the effects on music learning for students with average music aptitude and LD or ESL when verbal, written and notational material are kept to a minimum? Can (and should) music class be taught without relying on verbal, written, or notated information? Might this result in more “musicking” for the class in general (Campbell, 2010)?
Philosophy/Teacher beliefs. Even among three participants teaching in suburban schools within 150 miles of one another, there was considerable variation in instructional philosophy as well as beliefs regarding the purpose of public school music education, how children learn music, and other topics. These participants were chosen because they valued assessment in music education, but two of them mentioned regularly occurring disagreements with other elementary music teachers in their districts about this topic. Furthermore, even among the three participants, varying philosophies led to different approaches to classroom structure.
How cognizant are music teachers of their philosophies, and how intentional are they in terms of how these philosophies play out in their teaching? Does their instructional style match their stated philosophy? Do teachers think about their views of the nature of music learning and the purpose of music education and then plan lessons based on these views, or do they simply teach the way they were taught to teach? If their instructional decisions are rooted in personal philosophical ideas about the nature of music learning and the purpose of public school music education, are these philosophies/beliefs learned in teacher preparation programs, or were they already formed before students began their undergraduate study?
Applications to other music learning settings. The findings of this study indicate that it is possible to create well-rounded pictures of student achievement and then apply this information to individualize instruction in the elementary general music setting. What is the current state of assessment and differentiation practices in other music learning settings, such as secondary ensembles and secondary general music? Teachers in these settings face similar challenges in terms of the high numbers of students they teach and the wide variety of ability and aptitude levels they are likely to encounter. How do secondary music teachers assess music learning and apply the results of those assessments to individualize music instruction? Are any of the strategies for differentiation identified in this document (such as different types of groupwork, high challenge activities, self-challenge activities, and so on) transferrable into secondary settings? What is the impact of their use on student learning?
Conclusion School music programs are typically geared toward instruction en masse… Even as individualized and small-group instruction is common to math and language arts classes, there is a tendency for children to be musically educated at school in traditional ensembles and in their large-class group. While mass instruction may moderately benefit children, individual and small-group projects are important means of developing children’s musical knowledge and skills (Campbell 2010 pp. 270-271).
Given the variety of practices observed in the current study, the overall impact of assessment data on differentiated instruction in the elementary general music classroom was difficult to determine. When I framed this study, my questions implied a linear relationship between assessment and differentiation. This vision was shaped by instruction I witnessed in my non-music colleagues’ elementary classrooms during my tenure as “the music teacher” and also by instruction I administered as a long-term substitute teacher in third and fourth-grade elementary classrooms. In my experience, grade-level teachers had access to IQ scores and/or math and reading aptitude test scores for each of their students. Teachers administered ongoing assessments regarding classroom activities as well as standardized achievement tests in math and reading. Based on this assessment information, teachers could ascertain a student’s current achievement levels, ensure that they were commensurate with his aptitude and/or IQ, and structure assignments to help him to proceed.
This model seems to assume that learning in math and reading is sequential, and also to imply substantial agreement among teachers, publishers (of tests and educational materials), and other educational leaders regarding not only the sequential nature of learning but also the sequence itself. However, music educators do not agree on a model for musical development, nor do they agree that music learning is sequential (although models for musical development and music learning sequences have been proposed, evaluated, and substantiated, e.g., Gordon, 2003; Gordon, 2007). This large-scale discussion is outside the scope of the current study. What is important to the current study is that, over the course of more than a year of work on this project, I have determined that the guiding questions of this study were based in a model which assumed a direct, unidirectional relationship of assessment and differentiation: that data gathered from assessments of individual students’ abilities would then be applied to differentiate instruction for each student, as I had observed and experienced in grade-level classrooms.
Even among three teachers who valued assessment in their elementary general music and differentiation. Differentiation stemmed not only directly and indirectly from assessments, but also resulted from other information, such as the music teacher’s relationship to an individual student over the course of years. Instructional strategies such as group work provided differentiated instruction as students interacted with one another, the teacher, and with music.
Centers provided opportunities for students to explore areas of musical interest or interact with specific music learning goals in a variety of modalities.