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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Assessment Data Tracking in General Music

Assessment data. How exciting! ;)

Much of a chore as it can be to even think about, assessment data (done right) is massively important to effective teaching- especially when you're teaching as many students as we are as infrequently as we do! No matter how well we think we know our students, it's humanly impossible for us to have an accurate sense of each student's musical development in every aspect of their musicianship without assessment data. The problem is, with all those students and so little class time, data tracking is hard to manage while doing it effectively. Today I want to share some tips to make assessment data tracking in the music room a little bit easier.


1. Know your grading scale

The first thing you need to determine for streamlined data tracking is your grading scale. Whatever you use, it needs to be the same for every. single. assessment. If you give grades on report cards, you should use the same grading scale for your own assessments- that way you don't have to "translate" your grades come report card time. If you don't, pick something that's easy for you to remember, whether it's the traditional A-F letter grades or a simple check system. When I first started teaching, I used a made-up scale: zero, minus, check, and plus. All of those symbols were easy to write and easy to remember. Whatever you use, use one system for everything.

2. Keep it accessible

Wherever you are going to be recording your assessment data, make it VERY easily accessible. Some people like to use their iPad, through apps like iDoceo, to track all of their seating charts, grades, lesson plans, and more. If you're using it regularly and can navigate around quickly without losing class time, that is a great option. For me, I find a pencil and paper is much faster and more reliable. I have a colleague who has her traditional grade book out on her music stand at all times. She uses it for attendance, grades, and more. If you have a place to keep it sitting out, that's another great option. 

I don't like having to rifle through so many papers and find a large gradebook is too clunky to keep on my stand, let alone carry around the room or building, so I keep all of my data on my seating charts, which are housed on a clipboard on my music stand. As you can see in the picture above, I have a set of small boxes next to each student's name where I can quickly mark down their grade. I write down the date and content of the assessment in a "key" at the top of the seating chart. It's quick and easy, and I never have to worry about running out of batteries or losing wifi!

I have streamlined my seating charts and music stand to be rather efficient workhorses in my classroom. You can read more about my music stand organization in this post, and see all the ways I use my seating charts, including tracking data, in this post

3. Clarify the assessment beforehand

Once you have the organizational systems for grading scale and where to record everything, the rest is easy. The most important thing to do before each individual assessment is to make sure you have a clear idea of what skill you are assessing, and what each "level" or "grade" in your scale will look like (what does a D look like vs an A?). Whether you write it out in a formal rubric or just make one in your head, you will make the process a lot easier and faster if you know in advance exactly what you're looking for. You don't want to be standing in front of a class hemming and hawing over what grade to give a student after they just sang a solo in front of the class!

I wrote in detail about the process of designing and giving performance assessments, including a detailed explanation of how to create your rubric for each assessment (written or mental), in this post

4. Be consistent

With efficient systems in place for getting and recording your assessment data, the last important piece to making your data useful and effective is to be consistent. Don't wait until the day before report card grades are due to suddenly try to get a grade entered for every student (not that I've ever found myself in that situation or anything.....)! Plan ahead for regular assessments on a variety of skills, using a variety of assessment strategies, so that students have the best opportunity to show you what they can actually do. You can read more about how to design assessments in the post I already mentioned on performance assessments.

How do you collect and record assessment data as a general music teacher? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. 

If you want to try out my seating chart system to track data, here is a set with tons of configurations. Plan out your assessments to meet the National Core Arts standards with these planning sheets (or get the TEKS version here, and the Ontario curriculum version here). 

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