Sight-Reading Assessment Practices of Secondary Vocal Music Directors

April 9, 2009 / By: Randi L. Erlandson

The intent of this study was to investigate assessment practices of secondary vocal music directors.  Research in this study sought to determine if secondary vocal music directors considered the following criteria when assessing the sight-reading abilities of their students: (1) the amount of time spent assessing students; (2) the assessment of musical elements; (3) consideration of conditions under which assessment occurs; and (4) use of various assessment types and tools.

Subjects of this study were secondary vocal music directors who are members of the Minnesota chapter of the American Choral Directors Association.  Only teachers who directed choirs in grades six through twelve were asked to participate in the study.  A link to Survey Monkey, an online survey design program, was sent to subjects through the executive director of Minnesota-ACDA.  The survey was self-administered and anonymously submitted online by survey participants.  The survey contained five sections, the first of which collected demographic information about each director.  The remaining sections related to each of the criteria used by directors to assess student sight-reading abilities.  Each question was presented in a forced-choice format, requiring participants to answer “always,” “often,” “almost never,” or “never.”

Fifty-two surveys were completed online for this study.  Survey results for each question are displayed in bar graphs in Chapter Four.  Results indicate a strong desire by directors to employ authentic assessments when adjudicating student sight-reading.  Although directors seem committed to teaching sight-reading, they appear less committed to regular assessment of student sight-reading abilities, especially if the questioned assessment methods were not viewed to be authentic.  Many directors prefer to assess sight-reading during regular instruction through the use of teacher-created tests that contain criteria already known by their students.  Very few of the participants employed a pre-existing sight-reading ability test or made use of recording technologies to document student work regarding sight-reading assessments.  Survey results indicate that some directors do not assess student sight-reading at all, a choice which may be influenced by individual teaching circumstances and/or personal philosophies about assessment.  The opinions of survey participants seem to parallel those of researchers who acknowledge the lack of pre-existing sight-reading assessment materials.