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Involving Students in Assessment

Susan Wolk
Ashford University

Instructor: Allison Rief


Involving Students in Assessment
The Choral Program at Kendyl Depoali Middle School has made a commitment to
involve students in their assessments. By sharing data with my class garnered from formative
and summative assessments, and by including students in self-evaluations along the way, this
will increase student achievement and require that students be involved and engaged participants
in their own learning. Within the unit, through instruction and assessment, students will learn not
just the how of rhythmic notation, but also why it is done in the manner it is. They will also
be allowed to create and work collaboratively. This unit will include rhythmic sight reading, and
within this paper, descriptors of the assessments used and how students will be involved in the
process will be followed by the commitment to collaboration, and finally, how this approach will
impact students and teachers.

Assessments for Rhythm Reading in Middle School and How Students are Involved
in Managing Data Regarding the Assessments
Approaching rhythm with middle school students is a challenging, but engaging
unit. Most middle school teachers generally do not know what students prior knowledge is, nor
whether their feeder schools provided similar introductory instruction. In determining where to
begin, some baseline data would be necessary. As such, the unit will begin with a selfassessment for actively shared data purposes only.
This assessment is a pre-test that does not count towards the students academic grade in
choir, but rather, is a tool for students to activate their prior knowledge, and for teachers to
determine where to begin the unit. It will also give students data to see where they are at the
start of the unit, and later, the growth they made as a result of the unit. Students will be given a

short rhythmic passage and be asked to fill in the beats under each of the notes. This approach,
though predominately visual and logical, gives a snapshot of student abilities to not only
recognize written rhythms, but how those rhythms are arranged on a staff. An example of this
would be:

(The expectations is that the student would be able to answer: 1-2 3 4 & 1 & [2] 3 4 &.)

Such an example is very telling for both the teacher and the students. First and foremost,
they would need to know there are four beats in a measure. They would then need to know that
beats can be sub-divided into smaller groups (two beamed eighth notes counted with the beat
number and the symbol &). Depending on how the students do, this gives immediate feedback
to the teacher. Students would be given an answer key and would grade their own work. By
including students in the grading process, students are given data on what they remember (their
prior knowledge), and what they will be learning in the unit. They can use this data to see what
it is they need to focus on for greater success. For some students, it may be labeling, for others it
may be more over-riding, and for still others, it may be a complete overhaul of what they need to
master. By including students in the process, this helps to guide those who are in need of other
approaches in order to reach their next level of success (Lopez, 2013).
The next assessment would involve students in a formative manner. Following direct
instruction, group work, and effective questioning, students would be grouped in sets of four and
would be asked to compose a short rhythmic example and perform it for the class. Students
would give each group feedback on their example and how they performed them. Using a
simple rubric, these other groups would inform the group of any errors, and they would have any

of such details explained to them so they can comprehend the error itself. Since this is a
formative assessment, students would have additional opportunities to revise their examples and
try again. According to research, those students who receive peer-based instruction demonstrate
significantly higher levels of rhythm reading achievement than students receiving traditional
teacher led instruction. (Johnson, 2011). As such, this form of instructional practice and
formative assessment helps students to help themselves and one another. It also allows time for
students to communicate with one another about the unit to reinforce their understanding while at
the same time developing their relationship skills (Lopez, 2013). Students and parents would
have open access to an online grade book to check their progress along the way regarding their
actual academic grade on the unit. This will give students the opportunity to see where they are
and where they want to be, setting informal personal goals.
The third assessment would involve students working in pairs. Generally, in choir class,
most students rely on learning rhythms by ear rather than by actual rhythmic accuracy (Henry,
2011). After additional instruction, and the feedback they received form the first two
assessments, students would be given several different rhythmic examples that are purposely
mislabeled and would have to find the errors and correct them. Since this type of assessment is
geared towards visual and logical learners, pairing students who are kinesthetic or aural learners
would be at a slight disadvantage, so as the teacher, choosing the pairings of students should take
this into account. Students would be able to freely engage in collaboration in working out the
puzzle-type nature of this assessment. The ability to get immediate feedback on student progress
in rhythmic accuracy helps students (Henry, 2011). As such, a simple rubric would be given to
each of the partners, and they would assess not only their own contribution and performance on
the assessment, but their partners as well. Following this assessment, student pairs would set

personal goals relating to the final assessment of the unit, then meet briefly with the teacher to
discuss these goals.
The final assessment of the unit would be a culminating summative assessment. This
assessment would be similar to the pre-test, only with more examples. Students would be
required to fill in the beats beneath four measure examples, then, in groups of two clap them for
the teacher. This two-pronged approach to the summative assessment would help students who
need more than one method of expression to have multiple opportunities for success. Since
students had previously set goals for this assessment following the pairings, after grading the
assessment, the teacher would have brief meetings with individual students to understand their

Collaboration Commitment
Involving students in their own assessments can be misunderstood. In order to ensure
that my administrators, the parents, and other choir teachers understand, planning is essential.
Informing parents about the online grade book, and communicating frequently helps to develop
the relationships necessary for effective communication. Openly sharing data with other teachers
assists in seeing what is working, and what needs to be adjusted.
Making sure that teachers are actively sharing assessment data with students and parents
is also key. This is not only supporting one another, but also holds teachers accountable (Lopez,
2013). In candidly sharing with one other, colleagues can also adjust their instruction if
interventions are necessary. Maintaining this level of commitment to sharing data openly and
involving students in their own education can only lead to better buy-in, and more engagement.

Student Impact
This type of engagement by teachers and students impacts student progress in a few
different ways. First and foremost, students are able to be involved in their own goal setting
based on data they are simply and openly able to access (Lopez, 2013). In arranging data in an
online gradebook, students can see frequently where they stand. In addition, immediate feedback
during formative assessments gives students additional data, and drives the onus of success from
the teacher to the student. If students clearly understand what they need to improve from on
assessment to the next, if requires them to take ownership of their own learning. This can only
lead to further engagement and better success in the future.
Within this assessment plan, students are involved from the start. They are interpreting
results of the pre-test from the beginning of the unit. They are working collaboratively in the
formative portions of the assessment process. Students teaching students is often a stronger
approach than direct instruction (Johnson, 2011). By including the student as both an individual
and as a group peer mentor, student, and instructor, students can take ownership over their own
Teacher Impact
For teachers, data guides our instructional practice. By including students in the process,
as with the student, it shifts the onus of the learning from teacher led instruction to peer and
student led instruction and student responsibility. Our reason for assessing students is grounded
in a commitment to use the information in a way that helps to generate greater success for them
(Lopez, 2013). In sharing data along the way, teachers can see what they may need to alter in
their instruction meet the needs of all learners in their class. For myself, on a personal level, this
type of commitment is time consuming, but ultimately necessary for good teaching. It builds

relationships with students, opens doors of communication with parents, allows for true
discovery with colleagues based on data, and drives instruction on the most positive levels. I
have made a commitment to myself to continually include students in the assessment process. I
also plan to continue to build relationships with parents through the use of an online gradebook
and communicating not just interventions, but successes as well. Simply put, nothing negative
can come from open sharing of data and clear lines of communication.

Henry, M. L. (2011). The Effect of Pitch and Rhythm Difficulty on Vocal Sight-Reading
Performance. Journal of Research in Music Education, 59(1), 72-84.
Johnson, E. A. (2011). The Effect of Peer-Based Instruction on Rhythm Reading Achievement.
Contributions to Music Education, 38(2), 43.
Lopez, D. (2013). No Excuses University: How six exceptional systems are revolutionizing our
schools. Ramona, CA: TurnAroundTM Schools Publications