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«INDIVIDUALIZING ELEMENTARY GENERAL MUSIC INSTRUCTION: CASE STUDIES OF ASSESSMENT AND DIFFERENTIATION By Karen Salvador A DISSERTATION Submitted to ...»

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Due to the large amount of material available on assessment in music education, this review of literature was delimited in several ways. Although numerous research studies used a variety of criterion measures pertaining to music achievement, aptitude, preferences, and behavior, these studies often were unrelated to classroom instruction. Because this study focused on assessment as it relates to improving music teaching and learning and individualizing instruction, this review is limited to studies in which assessment(s) were part of instruction in a classroom setting and/or could be used by practicing teachers. Furthermore, if the report of research did not include any information about how the results of an assessment contributed to or could be applied to individualization of music teaching and learning, the study was excluded.

This review was limited to studies with elementary-aged subjects or participants (k-6).

Elementary students have different developmental abilities and response styles than older learners, and elementary general music curricula are different from music curricula in more advanced grade levels. As a result, information from studies with older children or adults has limited application to elementary general music settings. In addition, this review is limited to assessments or measurements of musical aptitudes, skills, and abilities, as these are the primary focal points of music learning in elementary general music. Studies that measured children’s music preferences, social behaviors, or attitudes about music and/or music class, which are secondary instructional goals, were not included.

Assessment and Differentiation of Instruction in Elementary Education Many elementary educators have implemented models of differentiated instruction for academic subjects such as reading and math (Hallam, Ireson, & Lister, 2003). According to Cox (2008), differentiation of instruction requires a strong link between assessment and instruction, an emphasis on individual growth, high standards, and clear expectations for all students, as well as flexible grouping strategies. Perhaps because of the implicit link between assessment and instruction in differentiated instruction, many studies pertained more directly to other facets of assessment or differentiation, such as the relative merits of homogenous and heterogeneous grouping practices. Or, perhaps the elementary education literature has the same weakness as the music education literature: too much emphasis on how to measure achievement and not enough focus on how then to use that information to improve instruction. I included the following studies because they demonstrated clearly how assessment-based differentiation practices improved learning for students, even if that was not their implicit focus.

Tieso (2005) investigated the effects of various instructional practices on the math achievement of 645 elementary students. Over the course of a 3-week math unit, students in the control group were taught in intact classrooms using lessons taken in order from a math textbook. The remaining groups were assigned to one of several treatment conditions, including differentiation of instruction through use of flexible groupings in intact classrooms. In differentiated instruction, learning centers and journal prompts were used to capitalize on students’ prior knowledge and to allow different students to work at a different pace. That is, while all students worked on the same concept, less-ready students completed fewer problems at a more basic level, and higher-performing students worked with more complex problems.

Students’ readiness/performance levels had been determined by previous math assessments, including tests and daily work. Results indicated that average and high performing students performed significantly better in the differentiated classroom than did those in the control group.

Results from low-performing students were not significantly different between the two groups but were confounded by higher pretest scores in the control group. Most students learned more when their instruction was differentiated based on their previous achievements than when all students were taught the same material at the same time in the same way.

In 1996, Lou et. al. undertook a meta-analysis of more than 3,000 quantitative research studies regarding within-class grouping practices. Among their many analyses, they found that, on average, students performed better when taught in small groups than as a whole class. In addition, students’ attitudes toward the subject being taught were better in small-group conditions, as were the students’ general self-concepts. Findings related to whether groups should be homogenous or heterogeneous by ability were mixed. After examining the approximately 3,000 studies, the authors concluded: “Overall, it appears that the positive effects of within-class groupings are maximized when the physical placement of students into groups for learning is accompanied by modifications to teaching methods and instructional materials.

Merely placing students together is not sufficient for promoting substantive gains in achievement” (p. 448). Smaller groups of students did not necessarily result in improved learning—differentation of instruction (changing teaching methods and instructional materials based on the needs of children in the group) is what resulted in increased learning.





Much of the research literature on differentiaton of instruction in elementary education focused on gifted or special education populations and discussed the relative merits of selfcontained classrooms for these students. Many of these studies investigated applications of various models of differentiation but did not comment on their impacts on achievement. Futher, there was little qualitative research on this topic. One qualitative study described differentiation practices in two self-contained gifted classrooms, but not as they related to assessment (LinnCohen & Herzog, 2007). Perhaps assessment to determine individual needs is necessary to an even greater extent in a heterogeneous classroom, such as most elementary general music classes.

Based on her study of nine kindergarten to third-grade classrooms in Title I elementary schools in the Fairfax, VA area, Howard (2007) concluded that utilizing “ongoing assessment and [a] data driven style of teaching” was one method to help at-risk students succeed in heterogeneous classrooms. Howard’s study described the classroom environments, teaching strategies, and personal beliefs of nine teachers who taught underperforming children with low school readiness, but who typically did not use special education referrals in order to help the children perform at grade level. Among her findings, Howard reported that these teachers each used a variety of formal assessments (e.g., Developmental Reading Assessment, various math inventories) and informal assessments (e.g., observations, portfolios, and running records) in order to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of individual students.

All of Howard’s participants used flexible grouping strategies, opting for homogenous groupings for cohesive instruction of those with like needs, and heterogenous groupings when children were likely to benefit from peer modeling. Differentiation of instruction in these classrooms was also achieved through a democratic, discovery-learning model that emphasized integration of previous school learning and prior outside knowledge. According to Howard’s research, the attitudes and philosophies teachers needed in order to help all children succeed included: collaborating with others (parents, other teachers, etc.), providing background knowledge (scaffolding), child-centered teaching, high expectations, and perceiving children as having assets in addition to any difficulties they exhibited.

Howard’s study was particularly pertinent to the current study, as it was similar in design and sought to provide teachers with models of success that could be appropriated or emulated.

Many of the teaching strategies she described could be adapted for the music room, such as use of a variety of formal and informal assessments to diagnose learning needs, flexible groupings to meet those learning needs, and a more democratic, discovery-based learning environment.

Implicit Applications of Assessment to Learning and Instruction in General Music The current study investigated assessments that were used by teachers in general music classroom settings in order to improve music instruction and/or music learning. A number of teachers and researchers have investigated a variety of assessment methods in elementary general music settings. However, after extensive review of the literature, I concluded that little of the research regarding assessment in the elementary music classroom was applicable to the current study. Many of the studies were acontextual to instruction, such as when assessments took place outside of the classroom setting or the material assessed was unrelated to the subjects’ music curriculum. Other studies were not relevant to the current study because the authors did not offer information on how the results of the assessment would contribute to better teaching or increased learning. The following section presents studies that were related to the current study because the application of assessment results to instruction was embedded in the method or discussed in the closing material, and was therefore implicitly a part of the study, even if it was not the focus of the research.

Perhaps because “singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music” is the first standard in the National Standards for Music Education (1994), assessments of singing voice development and pitch accuracy were investigated frequently. Teachers and students interested in improving singing performance may have a great deal to gain from applications of assessment to the instructional process. Guerrini (2006) measured singing voice achievement and theorized about ways that assessment scores could be used to differentiate instruction. In her study, 174 fourth and fifth grade students sang melodic patterns and two songs into a tape recorder, controlled by randomization for order effect. Three judges assessed the performances using the Singing Voice Development Measure (SVDM, Rutkowski, 1990). Guerrini found that students were able to sing patterns significantly more accurately than familiar or newly learned songs.

Guerrini advocated use of SVDM to identify children whose pattern singing scores indicated

they were ready to sing songs accurately with extra time and attention. She concluded:

If I merely note the ratings of students singing either a familiar or unfamiliar song, I will find many students scoring a 2 or 3, indicating they have some mobility to their range but are clearly not accurate singers. However, in many cases, if I also look at the pattern score, I may find that the same child has a 4 or even a 5 with that singing task.

This indicates to me that the child has the ability to sing accurately and above the lift under certain circumstances, and will most likely transfer that developing skill into singing complete songs accurately (p. 29) Guerrini implied that results from the SVDM could be used to modify instruction for individual students to increase their singing achievement.

Rutkowski developed the SVDM to identify the steps children go through on the path to achieving singing accuracy, because she viewed singing to be a developmental skill that required time, context, and maturity (Rutkowski, 1990). This viewpoint has been supported by additional research since 1990 that has indicated that singing accurately may be as much or more a matter of physical skill related to vocal production than a result of tonal aptitude (Hornbach & Taggart, 2005; Pfordrisher & Brown, 2007; Phillips & Aicheson, 1997a; 1997b; Levinowitz & Scheetz, 1998). Therefore, a teacher must have reliable evidence of both a child’s music aptitude (from a test such as PMMA) and singing voice development (from a measure such as SVDM) in order to intervene correctly to assist that child’s vocal progress.

Several researchers explored classroom uses of composition as a way to discover and track progress in music conceptualization. Although Strand (2005) did not specifically mention assessment as a keyword in her qualitative study of the relationship between instruction and transfer in 9 to 12 year-old students, assessment was an important component of her work.

Strand used a summer enrichment class of eight students from an urban elementary school in Chicago as participants in this action research project. She wanted to know how best to facilitate

transfer of knowledge from music instruction to compositional tasks. The

Abstract

stated:

“[r]eflective analysis with expert observers at the end of each unit yielded tentative findings and new queries, which in turn allowed for instructional improvement and expand (sic) upon knowledge gained from prior research” (p. 17). That is, the teacher-researcher used students’ compositional processes and performances to identify their needs and used that information to find ways to help them become better composers. In her model, she referred to “develop[ing] efficient teaching protocols… coach[ing] students through problems… direct instruction on revision… encourag[ing] peer mentoring…” and “value of public concert” (p. 31). Each of these activities could be considered as an assessment component embedded in instruction to allow each young composer to grow. Although the body of her study described the process of using individuals’ compositions to differentiate instruction, Strand was studying the transfer of conceptual learning from task to task, so her conclusions were related to concept transfer rather than how her ongoing assessments affected her teaching.

In a similar project, Miller (2004), investigated whether learning through composition could meet the needs of students with widely diverse ability levels in one of her elementary general music classes. Although, again, assessment was not one of the keywords associated with

her research, Miller stated:



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