Melinda Wallace

Music Education Assessment Specialist

5 Things to Remember When Assessing

Assessment in music classes can be tricky. It is not always about written student work because that is not what music entails.

Music is active-- it is moving, listening, playing, singing, and many other aspects that cannot be measured through written exercises. Students do not learn music through writing, they learn it through doing. Keeping that in mind, here are five things you need to remember when assessing in music.

1. Keep it simple

We have too many students to do something that is complex. Written work can take a LONG time to grade, put into online grade books, and pass back. Not to mention the amount of copies that need to be made. Make your assessments quick and easy, whether they are written or not.

2. Make it look familiar.

Think about how you have students learn a concept in music. If you want students to show their true potential and achievement, use an activity to assess that is similar to an activity that you used to learn. Oftentimes, I will pre-assess a concept the first time it is presented in music, and then use the same piece to assess the concept after a few days. The concept is also reinforced through other songs as we go.

3. Document, Document, Document!

As I said, written assessments do not always work for music. Why not use what you are already doing? Write your observations down, and don’t wait a while. Sometimes I will tell my younger students that I am making sure that everyone is getting a turn at being the leader of a particular song or game. In reality, I am writing down how each student performed as we go. My older students are used to me pausing at different points to make a note. Keep it organized. Using post-its can be quick, but transfer that information to your grade book often.

4. Pre-assessment is just as important as post-assessment.

Simply put, you need to know where a student started in order to find out how far they’ve come. Going back to #3, you must DOCUMENT all of this for best understanding of student achievement. 

5. Keep documentation and grading consistent.

Choose a simple way to write down student achievement. Whether it is a check/minus/plus, 3/2/1, or E/M/P system. Oftentimes, I will not write down the students that performed “average.” This way, I see students that are exceeding expectations and those that are far away from my expectations to see my highs and lows. When it comes time to assign grades in my online grade book, this makes things go much faster. 

Happy Assessing!

- Mel

When it comes time to assign grades in my online grade book, this makes things go much faster.  

When it comes time to assign grades in my online grade book, this makes things go much faster.