Performance assessment can be simply defined as tasks performed by the student which indicate to the teacher the scope of the students’ understanding and application of his/her learning in a particular subject area. These assessments often require the student to perform a task which asks him/her to apply this knowledge in a new way. Examples of performance assessment include portfolios, exhibitions, learning logs, performances, journals, projects, presentations, tasks, teacher observations, open-ended test items, checklists, inventories, and experiments. Each of these assignments actively involves the child because assessment becomes part of the learning process.
Quality performance assessment requires a new paradigm of teaching and measurement. A change to outcomes > assessment > curriculum > instruction occurs. Outcomes must be clearly defined at the outset. Rich, multi-faceted tasks are created which seem realistic, engage the mind, support multiple solutions, and oblige students to synthesize their knowledge. Criteria are selected on which to judge the task in a reliable, fair and valid manner.
Performance assessment is in its infancy as a technology. The creation of a quality assessment is complex and time consuming. The performance assessment, however, is not just a test but a powerful learning tool for students. Moreover, it forces educators to examine the objectives of their program and quality of their instruction, in order to make curricular improvements. In this time of accountability, music educators must consider the significance of using assessment in the scope of the curriculum.
This study describes the creation of a note-reading performance assessment for a fifth grade music classroom. The assessment tool, grading rubrics, scoring grid, and pre-assessment lesson plans are included.
Three fifth-grade classes reviewed and practiced the note reading process through cooperative group work. Students were presented with an imaginary music performance, after the preparatory lessons were concluded. Each group played the selected musical piece for the rest of the class as the final outcome. That performance was graded with criteria selected for minimal, satisfactory and superior achievement. To aid in the grading process, groups were videotaped. The second part of the assessment consisted of a written or oral report which discussed the note-reading process and cooperative group work from the students’ perspective.
The test was graded by two observers. The results of the assessment revealed the following:
1. Most students scored highest on the written component.
2. Most students scored lowest in the group performance of the musical piece.
A discussion concerning the ramification of the results and possible modifications of the project is presented.