I mentioned previously that I modeled everything. Whatever I wanted the students to learn, I made sure I could do it with expertise. I practiced everything I asked them to do. I knew within each activity to be learned all its fun spots, as well as potential learning hurdles. If I wanted students to learn a bass xylophone (BX) part with an alto xylophone (AX) part while singing a song, I performed the BX with my left hand, the AX with my right hand, and sung the words with my mouth. (Xylophones are flat instruments with wooden bars played with mallets.) If there was a percussion rhythm to accompany the arrangement, I tapped it with my feet while performing all the rest. To show off, I would then do all this with the instruments turned around 180 degrees. In this way, students could assess me at any time they pleased. In this way, I could assess my teacher expertise as well. What is assessment?
FORMAL AND INFORMAL.
There are two broad categories of assessments—formal and informal. (Within these two categories are different types of assessment, such as, quantitative, qualitative, standardized, empirical, observation, authentic, rubric, peer review, and so on.) Formal assessment in music is the purposeful setting aside of time, stopping all other activities, to demonstrate learned skills or knowledge, possibly audio or video recording them for later review. Informal in music is the observation of what quality is happening during any immediate moment in the teaching and learning processes.
As a music teacher I was accountable to the parents of my students. Of course, I gave them a grade (A, B, C, D, F, etc.) if required. But I also graded them with a rubric system I created. (A rubric is a scoring tool that lists the criteria for evaluating a task or piece of work.) Rubrics defined my expectations for their skill competencies. In music, rubrics are necessary because students demonstrate skills rather than receive scores on paper tests. The following is an example of a music rubric. (Pardon for a moment the technical music words. Note the proactive, positive focus of the wording while still being evaluative.)
MUSIC GATEWAY SKILLS RUBRIC
Performing a Steady Beat: (mark one)
_____ Always performs steady beats and rhythms without changing speeds (consistent tempo) or changing meters (consistent duple or triple).
_____ Sometimes changes speed (inconsistent tempo) and meter (inconsistent duple or triple) while performing steady beats and rhythms.
_____ Changes speed (inconsistent tempo) and meter (inconsistent duple or triple) while performing beats and rhythms.
Singing in Tune: (mark one)
_____ Always sings notes and melodies with accurate pitches, correct intervals from note to note, and accurately maintains the mode.
_____ Sometimes sings notes and melodies with a few inaccurate pitches, inaccurate intervals, and sometimes deviates from the mode.
_____ Sings notes and melodies with inaccurate pitches, inaccurate intervals, and frequently loses the sense of the mode.
With a classroom based on active participation, i.e. all kinds of “ing” words, I continuously enacted informal assessments. The students authentically demonstrated their skills in actual performances in the classroom worthy of any stage. Authentic is defined as real life scenarios. By astute observation, I knew immediately if the skill or music concept was learned and to what degree. I knew immediately to what level of excellence the class as a whole achieved the skill, and which individual students were successful or needed remedial help. No class ever concluded without the students first demonstrating for me their learned skills either at the end or all through the class. I had immediate feedback wherein I succeeded or not as a teacher. And I had immediate feedback wherein the students succeeded or not. [I previously described a little how teaching is different from learning. More on this subject will come later.]
DOING IS AN “ING” WORD.
Students demonstrated skills for me, again “ing” words, in discrimination learning levels or in inferential learning levels. In discrimination, they performed something they already learned, which is demonstrating something they practiced. In inference, they improvised, created, composed, or arranged already-learned activities into something new.
FUN AND CREATIVE.
Assessments can be incredibly fun and creative. Whenever students mastered singing a song in tune with accurate pitches, correct rhythms, and consistent tempo (speed), I would “test” them. I dared them to sing the song and stay in tune while I pretended to be their 2-year-old brother by pounding noisily up and down the piano. Whenever they mastered rhythms, I dared them to maintain performing the rhythm accurately and stay on the beat while I played contradictory ones loudly on conga drums or timpani in different speeds. They rarely failed to maintain perfection either tonally or rhythmically. The determined looks on their faces not to be outdone by a teacher were comical to see.
A humorous story will explain informal assessment. A certain cab driver died and he met an attendant at the gates of Heaven. “What is your name, sir?” the attendant asked, and looking down the list, he found his name. The attendant pulled out a finely made linen robe with gold threads woven in it, and also handed him a gold scepter encrusted with diamonds. Standing right behind the cab driver was a preacher. The attendant asked his name, and finding his name on the list, the attendant handed him a finely-made cotton robe and a handsomely carved wooden scepter. “Sir, not meaning to appear ungrateful,” asked the preacher, “but what is the difference between the cab driver and myself?” “That’s easy to answer,” the gate attendant replied, “while you were preaching, people were sleeping, but while the cabbie was driving, people were praying!” [Notice the “ing” words.]
Pastor, do you determine if your listeners have learned anything from your message? Do your members demonstrate into action what they just heard (“ing” words)? Do you assess their spiritual skills before they leave the sanctuary? Have you thought of developing and distributing a rubric to define your members’ expected achievements?
Your Belief System and Your Church: (1) Introduction
Your Belief System and Your Church: (2) Your Paradigms
Your Belief System and Your Church: (3) Bondage or Freedom
Your Belief System and Your Church: (4) Gateway Skills
Your Belief System and Your Church: (5) Teacher Accountability
Your Belief System and Your Church: (6) Talking About vs. Doing
Your Belief System and Your Church: (7) Student Accountability
Your Belief System and Your Church: (8) Assessment
Your Belief System and Your Church: (9) Bury Dead Tradition
Your Belief System and Your Church: (10) Teaching vs. Learning
Your Belief System and Your Church: (11) Teachers' Three Phases
Your Belief System and Your Church: (12) Excellence is NOT a Goal
Your Belief System and Your Church: (13) My Teaching Limits Were Their Learning Limits
Your Belief System and Your Church: (14) Unlearning Creates Success
Your Belief System and Your Church: (15) Pioneers vs. Settlers
Your Belief System and Your Church: (16) Real and Lasting Learning
Your Belief System and Your Church: (17) Problems With Memory
Your Belief System and Your Church: (18) Ownership Creates Success
Your Belief System and Your Church: (19) Not Perfect, But Honest
Your Belief System and Your Church: (20) Take Risks and Give Away Control
Your Belief System and Your Church: (21) Out of a Job
Your Belief System and Your Church: (22) KCAASE and Proverbs 24
Your Belief System and Your Church: (23) Responding vs. Reacting
Your Belief System and Your Church: (24) Only When Performed
Your Belief System and Your Church: (25) A Supervisor's Vision
Your Belief System and Your Church: (26) Glimpses Into the Spiritual
Your Belief System and Your Church: (27) One Reason Alone