This paper explored how student reflection can be incorporated into a sequential music curriculum to achieve the content standards of the National Standards for Arts Education. It proposed that students need to become active, independent learners who take charge of their learning and develop their skills in an authentic setting. Ideas were drawn from the writings of Howard Gardner and David Elliott which suggest that the most effective education results when a student is actively involved and demonstrates understanding through creation. For music students this means that their knowledge of the curriculum is reflected in performance, composition, and improvisation as well as in formal and informal writing and speaking. Self-reflection serves as a vital component in each of these creative activities. In addition, student self-reflection can be used by teachers to effectively assess the abilities of their students to perform educational and musical goals which have been identified as valuable to society.
The paper begins with a historical overview that documents how the National Standards for Arts Education represent a culmination of views defined by music education throughout this century. It continues by defining and examining the purpose of assessment in current educational practice and the role of self-reflection as an ongoing form of authentic assessment.
Self-reflection is regarded as not only a means of assessment but also as a teaching tool. The work of Donald Schön (1987), as represented by reflection-in-action, on-action, and for-action, was used to explore the role of reflection in the music curriculum. This type of conscious reflection enables students to justify their decisions and actions, ultimately nurturing active and independent critical thinkers who are empowered to learn, find meaning, and make judgments. The result is music being taught for its own sake with students involved in “doing” music, but in the process also developing critical skills which make an impact on those students’ lives beyond music.
This paper proposes that reflection represents a cross-curricular skill and that the strategies and techniques used to teach reflection should serve as a means of integration between music and other core subjects to achieve overall academic goals. This conclusion leads to the creation of a new learning model for music which is developmental in nature and reflects the conceptual approach used in language arts instruction, particularly as defined by whole language and the writing process.
Practical techniques and activities are presented to aid the teacher in encouraging student reflective ability and assessing student understanding as related to the National Standards for Arts Education. These include brainstorming, mapping, mini-lessons, modeling, journeying, attitude surveys, peer interviews and anecdotal records. The intent is that the examples provided serve as a model and guide, to be used and adapted by teachers as they develop additional materials which reflect their methods and needs.