As New York City revamps the way it evaluates the work done by public school teachers, staff who teach in areas without an annual standardized test are wondering what sorts of criteria will determine into which of the four categories they may fall — highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective. They may also ask themselves about the training and expertise of the supervisor who makes that determination.
Self-assessments may not have a the same value as students’ scores on a standardized test, but for a classroom music teacher, this kind of systematic evaluation (along with peer observations) can make a powerful difference in students’ success.
“Evaluating teacher effectiveness in music” is a short article from the Spring 2008 issue ofÂ American Music Teacher, and while it’s written largely from the perspective of private instructors, it contains valuable ideas on different methods and problems of self-evaluation.
The author, Kathleen S. McAllister, is a professor of piano and piano pedogogy at Baylor University in Texas. She argues that watching video of one’s own teaching is essential to any serious self-evaluation. Even a simple audio recording for later review can provide tremendous insight into the “the gap between how we think we are teaching and our actual behavior during lessons.”
Another resource is Music Teacher Self-Assessment: A Diagnostic Tool for Professional Development available from Edwin Gordon‘s GIA Publications. Authors James Froseth and Molly Weaver include a DVD that lets users examine behaviors in a teaching sample before creating their own assessment videos.
The GIA book is an outcome of a collaboration between the University of Michigan and the Flint, Michigan Community Schools during the 1991-1992 school year, part of their national music education research project.
- Data-driven research in music education is carried out largely by people working at the university level. Much valuable work is published in scholarly journals that need to be read in the periodicals room of a library.
- MENC publishes various journals that are available to that organization’s members either online or in print, including: Music Educators Journal, Teaching Music, General Music Today, and the Journal of Music Teacher Education. Another, the Journal of Research in Music Education is available at an extra cost.
Many music education research articles found on arts education websites fall into the category of arts advocacy: studies showing how a music-rich education has a beneficial effect on other areas of children’s learning and development, such as literacy acquisition or logical-spatial reasoning. These are rewarding to read, and deserve wider circulation, but not directly relevant to the activity of teaching music.
What real research looks at: following are some selected summaries of research that’s been published in the Journal of Research on Music Education or available as doctoral dissertations from University Microfilms. (more…)
From Heartbeat to Steady Beat is a summary of research in early childhood music education provided on-line at the MENC website.
It includes articles in such categories as Music & the Unborn Child, Music & the Infant, Music & Young Children, and offers a list of search terms for seeking further studies or looking for specific subjects within the studies listed in the summary. Most of the studies are from the 1980s and 1990s.
In 2008-09 the NYCDOE Office of the Arts & Special Projects chose assessment as the focus for its year-long series of professional development events for music teachers. Following the most recent meeting in the series, participants received copies of a 42-page booklet published by Hal Leonard, The Ultimate Music Assessment and Evaluation Kit. The book isn’t an academic discussion of issues in assessing music learning, but provides a lot of examples for teachers who want to explore formal tools for assessing and evaluating their students’ work. There are a lot of examples of rubrics and grade cards, and there’s a fairly up-to-date bibliography of articles from MENC publications, and some things by Howard Gardner.
From the Mar 22, 2000 issue of the Journal of Research in Childhood Education, this is a serious look at the topic, with suppporting data. There are additional resources on this topic in the bibliography.
Teachers Network Leadership Institute is “a nationwide, non-profit education organization that identifies and connects innovative teachers exemplifying professionalism and creativity within public school systems.”
Recently, Rebecca Ponka, who taught in District 15 in Brooklyn, completed an action research project entitled Connecting Generations in Music Education that’s available on the TN website.
Her aim was to study the effect of parental involvement on children’s music learning. The short summary is interesting in itself, and a complete text of her report is available as a PDF file.
Ponka’s paper is a vivid example of a research done by a teacher working fulltime in a public elementary school. She includes some sensible recommendations, such as the value of providing families with examples and suggestions on how to actively support their child’s music education at home.
(describes a school program that seeks to extend music learning out of the classroom, to involve the wider school community, including students’ families.)
(describes a Kodaly-based approach to teaching music literacy to younger students.)
Edwin E. Gordon is probably America’s leading theorist of music education and learning, particularly as it regards the young. He was a bassist for Gene Krupa in the 1950s before going into academic work. Gordon’s primary focus was on the phenomenon of “audiation” or inner-hearing: when a person knows a song or piece of music well enough to be able to actually hear it in his or her head. Developing children’s inner hearing is an important part of teaching music literacy.
Gordon’s field is known today as “Music Learning Theory.” Not everyone will want to spend time looking at all the research, but there are a lot of very useful ideas in Gordon’s work; The Gordon Institute for Music Learning is one place to explore music learning theory, on-line. Books, teaching tools, and song collections inspired or affirmed by Gordon’s work are available from GIA Publications.
They also publish the Conversational Solfege series written by John Feierabend, a Kodály specialist and professor at the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music.