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Teaching elementary music in the publicschool is one of the most important positions in the music education profession. Teachers in elementary music classes lay the foundation for all future music achievement in their students. Elementary music education and music evaluation at this level is of the highest importance.

Elementary Music Classroom Experiences

A music professor asked students in an elementary music method class (future music teachers) to discuss their personal music experiences in elementary school. The recalled experiences and comments were many and varied including: “singing”, “playing games”, “watching composer movies”, “playing recorders”, “I didn’t have elementary Music”, “playing with sticks, triangles and instruments”, “a teacher came around with a music cart”, “we didn’t have a music teacher, our classroom teacher taught us Music”, “a music teacher taught us but she was in our school only certain days a week”, “our teacher taught Music if there was time”, “we had Music for special occasions – Halloween or Christmas time”, “I went to a big school so we had Music as well as band and choir.” No student recalled having had a low mark or grade in elementary Music. The class reflected that despite “having an elementary music education” all their experiences were not equal and their resulting music skills and music knowledge were not equal, yet all had equally good elementary music marks or grades. The discussion continued about music curriculum content, teachers of music, and music evaluation.

In an effort to get an idea about her students, an elementary music teacher in a new teaching position asked each of her music classes about their success in music. The music teacher was amazed and delighted to learn that almost all of her students in all of her classes had received an “A” or a “B” in Music.

Thinking this to be a music “pot of gold” and too good to be true, the teacher informally checked with homeroom teachers and was told that students always did very well each year in Music. The new teacher thought that she had won the elementary music education “jackpot” and plans of beginner band, elementary musicals, and school choir started flashing through her mind. Within a month or two into the school term the music teacher soon realized that, despite the high music marks, most of the elementary music students could not match pitch, read easy melodies, read simple rhythms beyond “ta ta ti-ti ta”, and some had difficulty keeping a steady beat. The students who could demonstrate these music skills and knowledge were frequently piano students who studied privately outside the school music class. The new music teacher wondered of what content previous years’ music curriculum consisted. As well, she wondered how and on what had these elementary music students been evaluated. What did their high music marks really indicate and represent?

Statement of the Problem

Research has shown that methods of evaluating achievement in music vary from school district to school district and from school to school. There was little consistency among music educators regarding the status of music in the school program. Polar views reflected music as an academic discipline in the same arena as mathematics and English, and as an activity. Certain educators viewed music as the equal of any other school subject, and that music was not a frill but an essential path of study within the core of a young person’s education. Others advocated music as an activity or a vehicle of entertainment that promoted a strong positive school image, and excellent public relations for a school within a community. Colourful uniforms and lively popular music coupled with competitions and trophies easily dominated music programs; consequently the use of music as entertainment was propelled to the position of ultimate importance in a music program and became the focal point. It was evident that there was no common goal among music educators. Addressing these opposing views, Mark (1996) observed:

There remains among music educators, however, a fundamental unease about the purpose and value of music education. . . . There is still little agreement on the appropriate balance between school music as an educational discipline and as entertainment, (p. 300)

Music educators’ beliefs concerning music’s position in the school curriculum has bearing on evaluation. Teachers who viewed music as an activity can generally see music evaluation as not being necessary. Music educators who believed that music was an essential academic subject might envision music evaluation as equally vital. Questions of what to evaluate, how to evaluate, and when to evaluate found no common reply from the music profession.

Research pertaining to music evaluation dealt with evaluation of older children and performing groups such as orchestras, bands, or choirs. Mark (1996) affirmed that evaluation in music was limited to mainly one aspect of music, performance, and addressed the evaluation of groups rather than the evaluation of individuals. “There has been great emphasis on performance in school music throughout most of this century, and student performance is often considered the educational product (p. 11).”

Little research has been conducted concerning teachers’ methods and procedures employed in the evaluation of music achievement of elementary aged children. Inconsistency in the beliefs about music evaluation, and discrepancy in the utilization of music evaluation procedures among and by music educators exist.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this research study was to assess the beliefs concerning and uses of evaluation among music educators of elementary aged children. The researcher developed a music evaluation questionnaire, and the validity and reliability of responses were examined. This questionnaire was used to survey all teachers of grade 3 music in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Teachers of elementary aged students lay the foundation for future music achievement in their students. Music evaluation by teachers at this level is crucial. Data from the survey revealed these elementary music educators’ beliefs about, and uses of music evaluation. Various statistical analysis determined areas of consensus and areas of discrepancy among the survey population.

Research Questions

The following research questions concerning music educators beliefs guided this study:

1. Did music educators consider music an activity or an academic subject for grade 3 students?

2. To what extent did music educators structure grade 3 music?

3. Did music educators believe school boards considered music an activity or an academic subject for grade 3 students?

4. To what extent did music educators believe school boards wanted structure in grade 3 music?

5. Did music educators’ views and their understanding of school board views about the status of grade 3 music as activity or academic subject differ?

6. Did music educators’ views and their understanding of school board views about structure in grade 3 music differ?

7. What specific areas did music educators consider important in their music instruction of grade 3 music students?

8. How often did grade 3 music educators formally evaluate their students?

9. What criteria did grade 3 music educators consider most important when choosing a particular method of evaluation?

10. Were methods of music evaluation in grade 3 music determined by the music educator or by others in the education system?

11. How frequently did music educators evaluate specific areas they considered important in their music instruction of grade 3 music?

12. Did music evaluation of grade 3 music students reflect music instruction?

13. What were the most common evaluation methods used by grade 3 music educators?

Research Study Data

Data gathered from the research study were analyzed using various statistical tests. The researcher used t-tests to compare the means of the sample. A one sample t-test was used to analyze the data from research questions numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 7, 11, and 13. A paired samples t-test was used to analyze the data from research questions numbers 5, 6, and 12. Data from questions number 10 and 8 were analyzed using descriptive analysis and frequency counts.

Summary

Inconsistency in the beliefs about music evaluation and discrepancy in the utilization of music evaluation procedures among and by music educators of grade 3 music students exists. Secondary to this problem was the limited amount of research conducted relative to the evaluation of music achievement in elementary school aged children.

The purpose of the study was to develop a survey questionnaire and to utilize this questionnaire to investigate and assess the beliefs, methods and procedures concerning evaluation of music achievement among grade 3 music educators in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. The researcher developed a survey questionnaire based on the stated research questions. The survey, consisting of a demographics section and an evaluation section collected information regarding teachers’ beliefs concerning evaluation of music achievement. The survey was distributed to all teachers of grade 3 music in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. A pilot study was completed. Based on pilot study results changes were made to the survey questionnaire where necessary. Data gathered from the research study was analyzed using various statistical tests. Areas of consensus and areas of discrepancy among the survey population were determined.

At the time this research study was conducted there were 11 school districts in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The 365 provincial public schools had a pupil enrolment of over 97,400 for the previous academic school year. The education system employed over 6,400 full-time teachers. Each school district is distinct to a geographical location in the province with the exception of School District #11. School District #11, the smallest district in population, covers the entire Province, and provides education in French to the Francophone population of the Province.

One hundred twenty-nine surveys of the 227 surveys sent to schools were returned. The survey response rate was 59%.