An Examination of Two Empirical Articles on Music Teachers and Assessment

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An Examination of Two Empirical Articles on Music Teachers and Assessment

Abstract

This paper will explore the characteristics of two empirical studies whose focus is on assessment practices compared to published themes on assessment and the assessment of traits and teaching practices, preparations, and requirements of teachers of adult music students. Specifically, the paper investigates the research questions, literature review, participants, methods, and results for both studies. The expectation was to glean some insight into the practice of adult instruction and assessment. Both authors outline significant recommendations that should be of interest to anyone involved in the education of adult music students.

Introduction

The following paper will explore the characteristics of two empirical studies whose focus is on assessment practices compared to published themes on assessment (McQuarrie, 2013) and the assessment of traits and teaching practices, preparations, and requirements of teachers of adult music students (Bowles, 2010). The first article, “Assessment in music education: relationships between classroom practice and professional publication topics” (McQuarrie, 2013), explores the connection between assessment themes circulated in the literature for music educators and applied assessment methods in the classroom. The author suggests that, based on the study, there is a conceivable disconnect between the methods published and actual classroom strategies.

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The second study, “Teachers of Adult Music Learners: An Assessment of Characteristics and Instructional Music Practices, Preparations, and Needs” (Bowles, 2010), examined the traits and practices of teachers of adult music students. Additionally, the study examined the teachers’ perceived unique features and needs as it relates to teaching music of adults. Based on this study, the author makes several recommendations, including the development of materials aimed at adult music students, and suggests that future investigators focus their research on this group of music educators.

Research Questions

The McQuarrie (2013) article begins with the premise that, although considerable attention has been given to the professional development of teachers and assessment, little is known about the connection between the assessment themes addressed in the published literature and the applied assessment strategies. As a result, the author conducted an experiment that would answer that following questions: 1) What existing assessment methods are elementary music teachers using? 2) What are the assessment methods addressed in the existing music education literature? 3) What, if any, are the existing connections between the assessment methods addressed in the published literature and the applied assessment strategies?

As in the McQuarrie (2013) article, Bowles (2010) also addresses the issue of assessment; however, the focus is on the educator and not the student. Specifically, the article examined the traits and practices of teachers of adult music students. The basis for the inquiry is that, although there is a significant amount of research focusing on the traits of adult music students, little research exists addressing the traits of the music educators for adult students. The main questions of this study focused on addressing demographic traits, years of experience instructing adult music students as well as other age groups, and main career emphasis (e.g., college, private, etc.). Other issues explored include, instructor goals for adult music students, assessment procedures, materials used, behavior management, discussion topics, differences compared to teaching younger students, preparation and evaluation of potentially helpful experiences.

Literature Review

The Literature Review in the McQuarrie (2013) article begins by drawing attention to the journals of expert groups for professional development (e.g., Hughes and Johnston-Doyle, 1978; Littman and Stodolsky, 1998). In particular, the author points to limited studies that focus on educator traits, such as reading habits (e.g., Cogan and Anderson, 1977; George and Ray, 1979; Stopper, 1982; Womack andChandler, 1992; VanLeirsburg and Johns, 1994; Eicher and Wood, 1977; Sanacore, 1995). In the Method section, the author also lists articles excluded from the study (George and Ray, 1979; VanLeirsburg and Johns, 1994; Hughes and Johnston-Doyle, 1978; Littman and Stodolsky, 1998) for reasons, which include extensive educational jargon and lack of clearly stated recommendations for educators.

In contrast to the McQuarrie (2013) article, the Literature Review in the Bowles (2010) article begins by drawing attention to journals whose focus is on adult student traits and the application of those traits in their development (e.g., Bowles and Myers, 1996; Coffman, 2009; Dabback, 2005; Kruse, 2009; Myers, 1989, 2005). The review then moves to the discussion of studies that have focused on older adult (retirement age) music students (e.g., (Dabback, 2005; Darrough and Boswell, 1992; Friedmann, 1992; Myers, 1989) and universal principles that can be applied to all age groups (e.g., Boswell, 1992; Kruse, 2009; Myers, 1992; Nazareth, 1998). The review ends by highlighting research whose primary focus is on the experiences of teachers and students in a band setting (e.g., Coffman, 2009; Coffman and Levy, 1997; Ernst and Emmons, 1992; Rohwer, 2004, 2005a, 2005b).

Participants and Methods

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The McQuarrie (2013) study consisted of data gathered from 100 elementary music teachers. These instructors, who were from the Northwestern United States, partook in a survey intended to identify past experiences, existing assessment strategies, insight of those assessment strategies, variations in assessment strategies, and instructor opinion concerning statewide assessment in music. The survey used was the Washington Music Assessment Participant Survey (WMAPS). The researchers next assessed articles from the Music Educators Journal and Teaching Music. The articles chosen dated back ten years (1999-2009) and focused on the theme of music assessment. Lastly, after ranking the published literature and classroom assessment strategies by frequency of inclusion in the literature and frequency of use in the classroom, the researchers scrutinized the data in order to see if any connection existed between assessment themes circulated in the literature and the applied assessment methods.

The participants in the Bowles (2010) study, who originated from a pool of instructors within the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts and the Adult and Community Music Education Special Research Interest Group (ACME SRIG) of MENC: The National Association for Music Education, included 66 qualified instructors (two or more years of experience teaching adult students). Each respondent received an email containing a 25-item questionnaire that examined several facets of instruction including themes, assessment, behavior management, materials, preparation, methodology, goal, and attitude. The questionnaire allowed for multiple-choice replies, a few yes-no replies, and a section for open replies. The respondents returned the completed questionnaires via post, fax, or email.

Results

The findings in the McQuarrie (2013) study confirm the notion that there is a conceivable disconnect between the assessment methods published in the literature and actual classroom strategies. Concerning the first question (identifying existing assessment methods used by elementary music teachers), the study found that 80.80% of the respondents favored evaluating students based upon participation over other assessment methods. These included evaluating students based upon effort, behavior, in large or small groups, and informal observations. Assessment methods not used by the elementary music teachers included standardized tests, skills tests, portfolios, and assessment software.

Concerning the second question (identifying assessment methods addressed in the music education literature), the study found that, of the 37 articles selected, the assessment method that received the most focus was standardized methods (13.51%). Other assessment methods that received considerable focus included evaluation via software, evaluating group performance, and rubrics. Projects, portfolios, and self-reflective practices received less focus in the literature.

Concerning the third question (identifying existing connections between the assessment methods addressed in the published literature and the applied assessment strategies used in the classroom), the study found that only two of the top five highest ranked evaluation methods were addressed in the literature. The two methods were evaluating students based upon participation and group performance. An intriguing find was that the other three methods (evaluating students based upon behavior, effort, or evaluating individual performance based on casual observation) were not included in any of the 37 articles selected for the study.

The findings in the Bowles (2010) study reveal that, of the 66 respondents, 86% teach private lessons to adult music students and are largely instrumental instructors (67%). The instructors also average 14 years of experience giving music lesson to adult music students, have taught students of other ages, and most (61%) consider themselves primarily educators. In the section for open replies, the majority of the respondents (41%) revealed that their goals for the adult music students are different from those of their younger music students.

Concerning methodology, most respondents (55%) revealed that they tailored the lessons to meet precise goals and integrated more analysis, rationale, and discussion than they do with younger music students. Additionally, the respondents revealed that they allowed their adults students to explore different topics during discussions and felt that the experiences adult students bring to the lessons aid their learning. Finally, respondents expressed a desire for more age-appropriate materials for adult music students and incorporated a variety of assessment methods compared to their young music students.

Conclusion

The goal of this paper was to explore the characteristics of two empirical studies whose focus is on assessment practices compared to published themes on assessment and the assessment of traits and teaching practices, preparations, and requirements of teachers of adult music students. The expectation was to glean some insight into the practice of adult instruction and assessment. Both authors outline significant recommendations that should be of interest to anyone involved in the education of adult music students.

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First, McQuarrie (2013), after outlining some possible reasons for the disconnect between the assessment methods published in the literature and actual classroom strategies (e.g., published topics bound to trends in research, etc.), concedes that the reasons are still largely unknown and suggests that investigators conduct more research on this vital topic. Bowles (2010) outlines four recommendations that would be beneficial for teachers of adult music students. They are as follows: (1) develop teaching resources tailored for adults; (2) develop specialized training for the educator of adult music students; (3) establish a task force to study, advance, and apply strategies that respond to the requirements of the educator of adult music students; (4) conduct further research.

References

Bowles, C. L. (2010). Teachers of Adult Music Learners: An Assessment of Characteristics and Instructional Practices, Preparation, and Needs.Update: Applications Of Research In Music Education,28(2), 50-59.

Hewitt, M. P., & Smith, B. P. (2004). The influence of teaching-career level and primary performance instrument on the assessment of music performance. Journal of Research in Music Education, 52(4), 314+. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE|A130281129&v=2.1&u=nysl_li_5towns&it=r&p=AONE&sw=wdigest=42399bb937a5c990bbf32433866a10c8&asid=c4613fbe5a5c5aa39a5f14ed2fc19a5c

McQuarrie, S. H. (2013). Assessment in music education: relationships between classroom practice and professional publication topics.Research and Issues in Music Education[RIME],11(1). Retrieved fromhttp://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA343156306&v=2.1&u=nysl_li_5towns&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w