«INDIVIDUALIZING ELEMENTARY GENERAL MUSIC INSTRUCTION: CASE STUDIES OF ASSESSMENT AND DIFFERENTIATION By Karen Salvador A DISSERTATION Submitted to ...»
Disparate classroom organizational features along a continuum from direct instruction to teacher facilitation contributed to differentiated instruction in different ways. In one classroom, highly structured routines and assigned seats fostered participation for students with special needs and encouraged students to help one another, while in another classroom, student-led classroom management and conflict resolution led to the same behaviors. Most unexpected based on my original questions was the possibility that strategies used to differentiate instruction would illuminate information about students’ musical abilities (the precise opposite of the relationship I had imagined).
I agree with those who state that much of what a students gain from immersion in musicking is immeasurable and invaluable (e.g., Campbell, 2010). However, if we as public school music teachers argue for universal music instruction, will we then need to cite some measurable benchmarks or expressive objectives (Eisner, 2005) toward which students would strive? Could rejection of the viability of assessment also project irrelevance of music as a subject to be included in a public school curriculum? Are the intangible benefits of musicking unintelligible to those who would gauge the importance of what music is and can do for students? The current study indicates that students’ skills and abilities on a variety of musical materials and tasks can be measured and tracked with little disruption of their immersion in musicking. This finding supports the possibility that music teachers could balance measurement of individual musical progress with immersion in musicking. Furthermore, information gathered from ongoing assessment of individual musicking abilities could be used to individualize instruction--increasing not only mean achievement levels but also the diversity of demonstrated abilities.
A balanced approach (See Figure 8.1) could weave together nearly constant musicking with consistent, ongoing assessments of individual musical skill development alongside regular, brief periods of whole-class instruction and a variety of group work activities in which students explore and create. Whole-class instruction differentiated by open-ended high-challenge and self-challenge activities could facilitate sequential progress on musical skills and provide frequent opportunities for assessable individual responses. These periods of differentiated whole-group instruction could provide skills and readiness for creative and praxial group work and individual musicking projects as well as data to inform grouping practices. Praxial and creative projects undertaken in various groupings, assigned and student-chosen, would support differentiation by interactional style, preferences and interests, ability and so on. A variety of centers-based instruction, ranging from free-choice of centers with ad hoc groups to studentchosen or assigned groups rotating through specific centers could also facilitate assessment and differentiation by allowing the teacher to instruct or assess small groups of students while others are learning at centers.
Implementation of this balanced approach may seem daunting, but could be gradually phased in to a teacher’s normal practices. A teacher could design and implement music learning centers one month, try a creative group composition activity another month, and add a few assessment games with individual response to their normal classroom activities. Over the course Figure 8.1 Metaphor for a balanced approach to elementary music instruction.
Figure 8.1 cont’d of several years, the opportunities to learn about students’ individual skills and abilities would be built in and become automatic (as Ms.
Wheeler experienced). Despite the challenges that elementary general music teachers face, the benefits of this balanced model for encouraging individual students’ music learning may be well worth the hassle. Based on the current study, it seems that the efficiency of using only whole-group instruction may not be the most effective way to reach individual learners.
Some discussion of philosophy seemed unavoidable in individual chapters, because each teacher’s beliefs about the purpose of public school music, how children learn music, and the nature of musical ability directly influenced her practices of assessment and differentiation. I limited this discussion to teaching behaviors that resulted from different philosophies by proposing a continuum of classroom structure, with teacher-led, whole-group instruction at one extreme and teacher-facilitated group and independent work at the other. At one end of the continuum, a lack of defined goals for any learner made meaningful assessment difficult.
However, at the other end of the spectrum, a teacher might only assess material they have directly taught and therefore remain unaware of students’ abilities and interests outside of this narrow scope. To varying degrees, I watched all three participants struggle to reconcile the sequential nature of school music curricula with their post-modern views of who children are and how they learn.
Indeed, both blind reliance on facilitation of learning and also rigid insistence on direct instruction could lead to difficulties in differentiation and assessment. Regardless of the philosophical leanings of individual teachers, increased attention to assessment-based differentiation of instruction could ensure that individual students progress in music learning. As Jang, Reeve, and Deci (2010) suggest, a structured approach to learning does not have to be opposed to teacher facilitation. They could compliment one another rather than being viewed as antagonistic, and both may need to be present for optimal learning.
Imagine an approach to elementary general music education in which brief periods of teacher-directed whole-group instruction are interspersed among times for group, individual, and whole-class musicking—sometimes exploratory, and other times with specific learning goals. In this middle-ground model, the teacher designs opportunities for cooperative learning, differentiated instruction, and free exploration for students to engage in alone, with others of like ability, and in friendship-based mixed-ability groups. Groupings are varied for different projects, not only in terms of homogeneity or heterogeneity of musical abilities but also in terms of interests, learning style, and expressive styles. Thus, groupings are sometimes teacherassigned and sometimes student-chosen. The teacher allows students input and control and often functions as a facilitator, but also plans times of teacher-directed learning based not only on the interests of students but also on her assessments of students’ music learning needs.
Within this approach, consistent, ongoing assessments of each student’s musical skills and abilities function both as yardsticks for musical achievement, and also as a springboard to new music learning. The assessments would inform instruction, even as differentiation might inform assessment practices by illuminating different levels of ability, learning styles, interests, expressive styles, and musical ideas. Applying this model could help elementary general music teachers work toward Eisner’s (2005) lofty goal of instruction that increases the variability of student achievement while simultaneously raising the mean performance level.
1. What assessment activities were used in this class?
2. When and how were the music learning needs of individual students or groups of students addressed?
3. Pick out the most salient interactions on the video. Number them in order on the sheet, and note the time in the video. Assign a theme to each interaction in CAPITALS. Invent new themes where non exist and indicate with asterisks ***.
This semi-structured interview will be guided by the following questions, and supplemented by additional questions for follow-up or clarification.
(1) How many students do you teach each week, and how often to you see them?
(2) What are the main populations you serve? (Ethnic, socioeconomic, other) (3) Are you required to grade students? How often, and in what format? What other expectations affect your instruction (i.e. performance expectations)?
(4) How are students with special needs accommodated in music? (i.e., are they seen as a selfcontained group, mainstreamed, or both? What kinds of special needs are represented in the classes I will observe?) How do you individualize instruction for these and other students?
(5) What kinds of formal testing have you already done this year for the classes I will see? How about informal assessment?
(6) What is the purpose of assessment in your classroom?
(7) What music learning goals will you be working on with the classes I am observing over the
I will also ask additional follow-up and clarification questions, and ask questions specific to individual participants.
1) What is the most important factor in a music teacher’s ability to meaningfully assess the music learning of her students?
a) What conditions must she establish in the classroom?
b) Are there certain personal qualities that are necessary?
c) What kind of training might be needed at the undergraduate level?
2) Is it possible for a music teacher to differentiate instruction based on assessment with all the challenges that we face?
a) What types/modes of assessment (i.e., self-assessment, performance assessment, pen and pencil) seem most helpful in differentiating instruction?
3) What would you like to see your replacement do in terms of assessment practices? How about in terms of differentiating instruction?
4) What advice would you give to a first-year music teacher regarding assessment?
What would you say to her about differentiation of instruction?
5) Is there anything that you would like to add? (While you were participating, or in the time since then, are there thoughts you have had about my project and its focus and purpose?) References
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