Assessing and Reporting Singing by Elementary General Music Teachers

July 23, 2008 / By: Gina Engelking

The intent of this study was to identify how elementary general music teachers assess and report children’s singing progress in the first grade.  Four sub-questions were examined:  (1) Under what conditions do music teachers assess singing?  (2) How do music teachers record assessments for singing?  (3) What aspects of singing do music teachers assess? and (4) What is considered proficient singing?  This study assumed that singing can and should be assessed; that assessments should be reliable, valid, authentic, and based on established standards; and that it is beneficial for music teachers to understand how other music teachers assess student work and use the same reporting tool to document student progress.

Data were collected from a survey mailed to music teachers who teach first grade students in the Saint Paul Public School district, in Saint Paul, Minnesota.  The survey instrument included yes/no questions, demographic questions, fill-in-the blank questions, descriptive questions, and Likert-type, forced-choice questions. 

In response to the sub-questions via the subjects’ answers to the survey questions, results reveal the following conclusions:  (1) Students’ singing is assessed under conditions that differ and are inconsistent between music teachers participating in this investigation.  Only two factors regarding the assessment of singing seem to be consistent:  most students are always assessed during regular instruction; and all students are often assessed in the presence of other students; (2) On the other hand, no assessment consistencies were found for how music teachers record students’ singing assessments.  The most preferred method of recording students’ singing assessments is a generic rubric; (3) The only aspect of singing that is consistently assessed is pitch.  Other aspects that are relatively consistently assessed are rhythm and steady beat; and (4) Even when there are clear definitions for the nature of singing proficiency, the subjects participating in this investigation disagreed with each other regarding their view and documentation of a proficient singing performance.

The results of this study suggest that there is a need for additional and clearer assessment training made available to music teachers.  This training should consist of research-based best practices for how to assess singing, and how to record and report these assessments.  The school district in this study, and perhaps other school districts, needs to ensure that teachers understand assessment terms commonly used when assessing and reporting student progress.