With the publication of National Standards for Arts Education in 1994 (MENC), music educators were faced with a formal statement of what students should know and be able to do in the arts. Valid and reliable assessment of the students’ achievement of these standards is the next logical step and the focus of this project. A portfolio of assessments and related documents was the tool I chose to gather information on a student’s achievement of standards. I also explored what educators can learn through the process of interpreting and communicating the conclusions of a portfolio to various stakeholders with differing information needs.
The portfolios were used to document the musical development of ten 4- and 5-year-old children over a six-month period. Each portfolio contained pre- and post-tests in pitch matching and beat competency skills, a parent questionnaire, anecdotal and observational notes of classroom interactions, 4 videotaped assessments that were evaluated according to specific rubrics by myself and two outside raters, a student reflection transcript, and a music profile.
I explored the validity and reliability of my assessments through the use of outside raters. These music educators evaluated the videotaped performances and responded to a questionnaire on the process of rating assessments.
Review of portfolio data revealed inconsistencies in student performance. These results supported previous research which states that maturity is a factor in the musical development of children (Simons, 1984). The portfolios were helpful in developing an individual music profile of each student. Parent questionnaires provided information and opened doors to communication as parents felt their input being acknowledged and applied.
The use of outside raters revealed the subjectivity of performance assessment. Interrater reliability ranged from 30% to 60%. Responses from the rater questionnaires were helpful in pointing out strengths and areas in need of improvement in my assessment process.
The results of this study demonstrate the richness of portfolio assessment in documenting the musical development of preschool children. This project highlights the need for further studies in the reliability of performance assessments. The positive benefits of sharing assessments with other educators is an area worthy of further research, as are the benefits of involving parents in the assessment process.