Monday, February 18, 2013

Assessing Assessments Part 1

   How I grade has definitely evolved since I began teaching.  I don't really remember much discussion in undergrad as to how to grade, what to grade...etc.  I think I just began grading the way that I was graded in undergrad and in high school.  Show up, participate, don't screw around too much and you get an A.  That is not the case these days.  We are grading for learning.  We want students to understand why they received the grade that they earned and we want them to hopefully work to improve that grade. 
  I struggle with grading music.  I struggle with how inflated grades have become.  No longer is a B considered above average anymore.  Receiving a B for some students is like receiving a death sentence.  In my own education I was definitely not an A student.  I had a fair share of As, but I mostly received Bs and some Cs (mainly in math) and I think I am doing OK in my career, but that is beside the point.  We are in a different time now.

  My main struggle right now is administering grades for a playing test that I just had my students complete. Students played a one octave chromatic scale individually for me during their lesson time or those who missed had to record themselves during band.  I am really green with technology in the classroom, but after having the kids record themselves, I am committed to start using electronic portfolios next year.  My grading scale was extremely generous.  10 points total: 10 points for 0-2 mistakes, 9 points for 3-5 points and 8 points for 6+ errors.  So if a student missed half of the scale they are still getting a B.  That is pretty darn generous; probably far too generous.  It takes me back to that march  by Thomas Duffy, "A+ March" that makes it pretty clear that in order for music to be considered " A+" only x amount of mistakes can be made.

  Anyway the students who attend their lessons, for the most part, did very well.  The students who had to complete the test during band typically are the ones that for one reason or another miss multiple lessons.  I am struggling with a handful of recordings that don't resemble any sort of chromatic scale whatsoever.  How can I possibly assign them a B when they clearly have no idea of what is going on?  This also presents an excellent case for smaller lesson sizes (ours are mandated at 15) because clearly I am not connecting enough with these students.

  I decided to assign these students 6 points, and letting them know that they can practice more and make a second attempt for a higher score.  I do want these students to hear their recordings, but at the same time I wonder if they know at all how poorly they are doing?  I give them credit for attempting the playing test, but there is also a small part of me that is feeling like I am failing as a music educator as these kids have NO idea.  How do I get to these kids?  How do I get them to succeed?

1 comment:

  1. I've started using a rubric with language that talks about "students demonstrating an understanding of conventions." so in their clay projects, I can ask whether they demonstrate a proficient (or sophisticated) understanding o conventions for thrown bowl forms, an acceptable understanding, a developing or an unacceptable understanding. This is only a piece of the grade, as effort, attendance and following directions figure in, but this "conventions" grading is assigned points on a scale that relates to letters or percentage. A proficient or sophisticated understanding is an A, acceptable = B, developing =c and unacceptable is a D or F. It helps me, for what is is worth, put their demonstrated proficiency into language and then points.