An Investigation to Determine the Assessment Practices of Sight-Singing in a High School Choral...

October 28, 2008 / By: Sheryl Brame

The intent of this investigation was to determine the assessment practices of high school choral music teachers for the purpose of assisting high school music choral music teachers in developing and implementing assessment practices in their teaching.  Four sight-singing components were examined.  Specifically, the ability to sing a practice excerpt using: correct pitch to form a consistent melody; correct rhythmic values; a steady tempo; and correct Tonic Sol-fa Syllables.

In each learning area, five aspects of formal assessment were investigated: frequency of assessment; assessment conditions; assessment types; measurement tools; and documentation of student work. For the purposes of this study, it was assumed that assessment of student learning is possible. 

This was a quantitative study, for which the data collection tool was a forced-response survey.  Twenty subjects took the survey.  These subjects were high school choral directors, members of the American Choral Director’s Association and attended the 2008 Summer Dialogue.  Summer Dialogue is a week long camp for choral directors.  It is a chance for choral directors to attend seminars that focus on important topics relating to the choral classroom or ensemble.  The survey elicited the following responses (Always, Often, Rarely, and Never) regarding subjects’ demographics, beliefs and assumptions about assessment, and assessment practices.

Findings of this investigation suggest that high school choral directors teach and assess sight-singing but in varying degrees.  Results also suggested that the subjects used and assessed one or more of the four sight-singing components (melody, rhythm, tempo, Tonic Sol-fa Syllables) presented to them in the survey.  Rhythm was assessed and reported to parents more frequently than the other three sight-singing components.  Of the four sight-singing components, melody was the most popular component to be carried through assessment conditions, assessment types, assessment measurement tools, and the documentation of student work in sight-singing assessment.  Quite often, subjects favored assessment tasks that encompassed a singing performance using Tonic Sol-fa Syllables.  Aural tests were used more often than written test.  Generic rubrics and criterion rubrics were almost equally employed by all subjects in the four sight-singing components in this investigation.  Student knew the criteria for which they were being assessed and also knew when the assessment would take place.  Teacher observation was less time consuming while a structured condition required more planning and time.  Grading sheets were used more than audio cassettes, video, and digital technologies.     

The data of this investigation call for training choral directors in the art of effectively teaching and assessing sight-singing.  For the most part, subject’s frequency of assessing students in sight-singing was low.  Some of the subjects taught sight-singing but did not assess it.  Other subjects assessed sight-singing but did not teach students how to read music.  Choral directors should not be assessing musical behaviors they do not develop in their students.  While there is much literature related to assessment in education, there is a need for studies pertaining to assessment in the music classroom, including a capacity to enhance the sight-singing development of students in the high school choral classroom.

Most subjects had a large number of students to assess in each class.  This may account for a practical need for efficiency and may have affected their decision regarding assessment practices.  The fact that technology was used so little by each subject to document student work may suggest a lack of necessary teacher resources for making this a usable strategy.