1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Hi Guest, welcome to the TES Community!

    Connect with like-minded professionals and have your say on the issues that matter to you.

    Don't forget to look at the how to guide.

    Dismiss Notice

American Teacher Assessing KS2 Music Students in England

Discussion in 'Music' started by neraitha, Feb 8, 2011.

  1. I am a music teacher from the USA with nearly 30 years teaching experience as a private piano instructor plus 8 years within the music classroom. Even at the earliest stages of child development, there is always some type of assessment for the teacher to have feedback of the students' knowledge and level of understanding. I was required to administer some type of quiz or test, written or oral, performance or theory, at the end of EVERY weekly classroom lesson. I've come to find out that this is not the practice here in this country. In fact, there ARE no tests, formal or informal, of any sort for students in KS1 and KS2. I find that extremely odd, because I really don't know how else to discover what level of knowledge each child has achieved without a test of some sort.
    I work through an external agency at a local primary school. Recently, I administered a written test for my Year 6 class as well as an oral test for my Year 4 class on the topic of musical instruments (family names and traits, features, sound qualities, types, etc). My Year 6 students were required to write their answers to the open-ended questions in full sentence form. My Year 4 students were asked to write their simple answers on a blank answer sheet after I orally read their questions to them. The answers were basically single word responses for the most part, and only one or two answers required a short phrase. In both year groups during the past four weeks, we have been discussing everything they need to know at this stage concerning instruments, and in the process they gave brilliant answers with great enthusiasm, which led me to believe that they were very prepared for a written assessment of their knowledge and skills. Unfortunately, only about half of my Year 4 students earned a passing percentage, and I have not finished marking the Year 6 exams yet.
    When I approached the Year 4 class with the results of their test scores, I prepared them with the idea that I was pleased to see some students did very well, but I was concerned about some students not faring so well. I attributed the undesireable results to the possibility that these students may have had test performance anxiety and could have just frozen during the exam. Others may have been confused by how the questions were worded. As I distributed the papers, some students were visibly upset over their low scores. I assured them that I would do everything in my power to help them understand their mistakes and to prevent them from happening again, whether they truly didn't know the content of the exam or if it was merely the testing process that was inhibiting to them.
    I shared with the administrator of my external company the reaction of the students when they received their scores, and he feels as though now we need to do some major damage control, fearing that he may soon be faced with some disgruntled parents because I have possibly damaged the self-esteem of the students. I have a real problem with that, simply because I don't believe in sugar-coating the reality of a child's learning level. Yes, every parent wants their child to do well in school and get a solid education, but if we aren't being honest about a child's true ability and learning skills as well as their level of knowledge, who does this ultimately harm? What good will become of cushioning a child's stumbling? If a child goes through life with every teacher only concerned about their self-esteem, is this really preparing them for the reality of the work force and life in general?
    Some of these questions may be rhetorical, but I wouldn't mind hearing the responses from other educators in this country. Most importantly, I would really appreciate hearing how I am supposed to know what my students have learned.
     
  2. I am a music teacher from the USA with nearly 30 years teaching experience as a private piano instructor plus 8 years within the music classroom. Even at the earliest stages of child development, there is always some type of assessment for the teacher to have feedback of the students' knowledge and level of understanding. I was required to administer some type of quiz or test, written or oral, performance or theory, at the end of EVERY weekly classroom lesson. I've come to find out that this is not the practice here in this country. In fact, there ARE no tests, formal or informal, of any sort for students in KS1 and KS2. I find that extremely odd, because I really don't know how else to discover what level of knowledge each child has achieved without a test of some sort.
    I work through an external agency at a local primary school. Recently, I administered a written test for my Year 6 class as well as an oral test for my Year 4 class on the topic of musical instruments (family names and traits, features, sound qualities, types, etc). My Year 6 students were required to write their answers to the open-ended questions in full sentence form. My Year 4 students were asked to write their simple answers on a blank answer sheet after I orally read their questions to them. The answers were basically single word responses for the most part, and only one or two answers required a short phrase. In both year groups during the past four weeks, we have been discussing everything they need to know at this stage concerning instruments, and in the process they gave brilliant answers with great enthusiasm, which led me to believe that they were very prepared for a written assessment of their knowledge and skills. Unfortunately, only about half of my Year 4 students earned a passing percentage, and I have not finished marking the Year 6 exams yet.
    When I approached the Year 4 class with the results of their test scores, I prepared them with the idea that I was pleased to see some students did very well, but I was concerned about some students not faring so well. I attributed the undesireable results to the possibility that these students may have had test performance anxiety and could have just frozen during the exam. Others may have been confused by how the questions were worded. As I distributed the papers, some students were visibly upset over their low scores. I assured them that I would do everything in my power to help them understand their mistakes and to prevent them from happening again, whether they truly didn't know the content of the exam or if it was merely the testing process that was inhibiting to them.
    I shared with the administrator of my external company the reaction of the students when they received their scores, and he feels as though now we need to do some major damage control, fearing that he may soon be faced with some disgruntled parents because I have possibly damaged the self-esteem of the students. I have a real problem with that, simply because I don't believe in sugar-coating the reality of a child's learning level. Yes, every parent wants their child to do well in school and get a solid education, but if we aren't being honest about a child's true ability and learning skills as well as their level of knowledge, who does this ultimately harm? What good will become of cushioning a child's stumbling? If a child goes through life with every teacher only concerned about their self-esteem, is this really preparing them for the reality of the work force and life in general?
    Some of these questions may be rhetorical, but I wouldn't mind hearing the responses from other educators in this country. Most importantly, I would really appreciate hearing how I am supposed to know what my students have learned.
     
  3. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    I've seldom read such total b*ll*cks. Are you sure your administrator is not just trying to get rid of you on some pretext or other?
     
  4. No, on the contrary. My administrator has spoken with other upper management personnel in my presence and discussed the huge potential for me to advance towards the management team in training new specialists in the company. They recognize my vast teaching experience and know that I am passionate about my subject with the desire to inspire other educators to become the best and most effective teachers possible.
    So, do you assess your music students? If so, how do you show evidence of that? Do you think that it's right for teachers to soften a student's failure of their assessment or any other deficiencies they may have? How concerned are you regarding parental approval? How much do you value the idea of encouraging the self-esteem of your students at the expense of the reality of their factual test results?
    Of course, I don't want to damage my student's self-esteem. If anything, I do my absolute best to encourage them to keep trying, keep pursuing their depth and scope of knowledge, keep pushing their limits, despite how much they may struggle or breeze through it. And of course I don't wish to be blunt and insensitive to their feelings regarding temporary setbacks or mistakes, but if I am going to truly be an excellent teacher, I must be gently honest with them. It's not being cruel; it's helping to shape them into confident, well-rounded, well-informed, experienced human beings. I do my best to prepare them for the cruel world that is waiting for them out there. Let's face it: the real world is filled with disappointments and failures. Cushioning their every blow in their formative years won't get them ready for the cut-throat attitude that they will one day face.
    Every teacher wants to be liked (deep down) and every teacher wants to instill a love of their subject in their students. After all, I know that if I liked my teacher, chances are that I liked the subject as well. And liking the teacher compels me to strive even harder in the subjects that I may not enjoy as much. I think the administrator of my external company is more concerned with the image of the company in the eyes of the school administrators and in the eyes of the parents than he is concerned with actual content of education. It is my honest opinion that the company's philosophy is based solely upon children's self-esteem at the expense of all other qualities, including that of true learning.
    In retrospect, I think my students still enjoy my music class and the activities we do in the learning process, and they really do have a high opinion of me for the most part, even after learning the results of their test. I'm not in this to win a popularity contest. I'm here to help children learn and grow, and music is the medium in which I do just that.
     
  5. bod99

    bod99 New commenter

    I have also "tested" pupils on knowledge and understanding plus aural skills. I use a variety of methods - spot quizzes for points, multiple choice. Particularly good has been the use of voting eggs which turns the whole thing into something that feels like a game. Children love them. There's no paper to scare you, no spelling to do, and I read out all the choices so they don't have to even read that efficiently. At my last school I did a listening assessment in the summer each year so I could track their progress which was great for my assessments.
    I ALWAYS tell the children that I'm looking to see what they know and understand so that it tells me how to teach more effectively. I say it's less about them, and more about me. They've always been very happy with that, especially as I only give out marks one to one unless they are happy for me to read their mark out. I've never had any probs with children being upset except for the ones who are only 1 or 2 marks off full marks who growl at themselves sometimes! It's possible to test children without it being a trauma or self-esteem buster.
     
  6. Thank you SO MUCH for this great advice! Of course! I like the idea of "no stress testing", and although I am not so fond of the idea of multiple choice, since it isn't always a good indicator of what the children know, I am in full support of making a game out of it and at the same time learning how to be a better teacher for them.
     
  7. Doitforfree

    Doitforfree Lead commenter

    I think the US idea of constantly testing children is a bit daft. Surely a teacher should know their children better than this? And something learnt in a week is unlikely to be retained so it would make more sense to test what they'ds learnt after a longer period, say a term. But I realise that the pupil's test record is everything in the states so you have to have something concrete written down, however meaningless. BUT I completely agree that children here are given far too much praise for doing things which are not praisewrothy, and also not allowed to fail often enough. The best teacher I ever had was the one who marked our work harshly and expected the highest standards of us. And of course he got them. We learn so much from him.
    Multiple guess is a terrible way of testing almost anything. A good multiple choice test has to be very carefully devised to be of any use at all and even then it gives a pupil no opportunity to show flair or deeper understanding. I had to do a childcare module which was allegedly A level standard. It ended with a multiple choice test. My then fourteen year old son got every question except one right having never even seen the text book. The questions nearly all fell into the trap of having the right answer as the longest answer so if he couldn't work out the answer he could use that fact to make a good guess. The question he got wrong was so badly devised that none of the suggested answers were actually correct. It was a case of guesing which answer the person setting the test thought was right!
     
  8. bessiesmith

    bessiesmith New commenter

    As a basic answer to some of your questions - many primary schools in England lack specialist music teachers so the music education provided is patchy at best (I watched a lesson which consisted of singing along to a CD while the teacher constantly told the class how rubbish she was at singing for example) and the under-confident, non-specialist teacher often feels unable to assess the progress of the class. At my secondary school we do not receive any indication of our new students' prior musical attainment. Since your lucky students do have a specialist teacher then it makes sense for you to track their progress and let them know how well they are doing. And I agree that even primary school children can cope with getting a low score in a test - so long as they know how to improve next time.
    I would query this though:
    You may be right and they simply froze with 'test nerves'. Two other possibilities could be that their writing skills are very weak or that a few confident children are dominating your question and answer session, masking the fact that half of them are not able to answer the questions. It's worth trying to work out exactly why they failed as although the odd low test score never did anyone any harm, constantly failing can lead children to decide that they're 'no good' at something which is a difficult attitude to turn around.
     
  9. I AM a music specialist and I would seriously question the validitiy of asessing someones "musical" skills from a test about their knowledge of musical instruments - surely that is simply general knowledge. I can tell you many people who know what a variety of musical instruments are - yet can't keep a steady beat, sing a note or combine rhythm patterns to form a composition!!! If you are going to test children's "musical ability" and then return their papers with "low scores" to inform them that they DO NOT have a very good level of musicality - at the very least keep the musical test to a musical one!!!...As a parent of children who are exeptionally musical. At primary school I would prefer to know that they are enjoying and participating fully with the musical activities provided and they are developing their skills and able to express their likes and dislikes for different musical genres. If they were learnign to play an instrument - I would want to know exactly what they have learnt and how well they are progressing with their ability to read and play the music -then at secondary whether they had an talent to take further and sit a GCSE. And that is as much musical assessment that is necessary!!! Why on earth people are hell bent in making things more complicated that they need to be I'll never know!!!
     
  10. Measuring someone's knowledge is relatively straight forward. Measuring their understanding, a little more complex. Measuring someone's musical skills, musicality etc can be a very complicated process. For example: Knowing that a clarinet can be a transposing instrument and looks like a black tube with metal and holes is a relatively easy thing to know. Knowing that the clarinet makes a particular and distinctive type of sound requires more than factual recall. Listening to the Clarinet intro to Rhapsody in Blue and being able identify its particular musical qualities and articulate that level of understanding, either verbally or via the written word is a relativeyl more complex process again; the listener is asked to identify and comment upon implied emotionally content and appreciate devices that are employed to create musical nuance etc.

    In short one has to be clear about what one is seeking to assess and measure accordingly. You would not measure measure distance in kilo's or weight in miles so why measure someone's musicality according to their ability to recall historical fact?!!!
     
  11. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    Measuring "musicality" is notoriously difficult, but it often results in a sliding scale that ranges from people who just enjoy the pleasurable effect of music washing over them, to those who notice and appreciate a considerable amount of detail.
    You can test yourself in a current experiment being run by the BBC:
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/labuk/experiments/musicality/
    (Not suitable for under 18s, though)
     
  12. v12

    v12

    Don't you just hate that term!
     

Share This Page