Dr. Derrick Fox (our professor from Ithaca College!) presented an interest session entitled, “50 Shades of Grading: Assessment in the Choral Classroom.” He discussed different and practical ways to assess your choir. Statistically, teachers use 35%-50% of classroom time asking questions. So we must ask ourselves, what kinds of questions are we asking? Using Bloom’s Taxonomy, we can categorize them under the rising levels of cognition:
1) Remembering: Such as defining dynamics and key signatures.
2) Understanding: Such as explaining ideas/concepts, and identifying the melody through each voice and explain the meaning of the text in your own words.
3) Apply: Using information in another formal setting--Tasks include singing and sight-reading exams
4) Analyzing: Breaking information into parts to explore relationships, like outlining the form of a piece or comparing sections
5) Evaluate: Justifying a decision, like asking what elements contribute to a certain measure that makes it a climax of a specific song
6) Creating: Generating new ways of doing things such as designing, planning or inventing. This can include video program notes and composition opportunities.
There are two types of tasks--open and closed. Closed tasks would be considered assessments that focus on multiple choice questions, true/false, fill in the blanks, and solve without showing process. It’s essential to have these kinds of tasks because you can quickly assess a student’s basic understanding of the fundamentals, which will allow a singer’s technique and artistry to grow.
Open tasks, or constructive responses, are tasks that require more than one answer with different processes. This requires an ability to apply these techniques and communicate with your choir. Dr. Fox gave a practical activity where you would video-taping yourself conducting, take out the audio, then ask your students what piece you were conducting. This will allow the students to get to know what your gestures are trying to convey and challenge them to justify what certain elements in a song looks like.
Besides these tasks, there is also a performance task, in which this requires a student’s ability to synthesize, and apply information and skills. One of the ways you can assess this is through a basic singing test by having a grading rubric, while the conductor would have each voice part take turns coming towards the front to assess and listen to them.
Informal assessments are also essential, which includes observations and conversations with the entire class or individuals. This will allow the conductor to collaborate with his/her students in a beneficial and mannerly way in order to work out areas of improvement while giving the students encouraging, positive, and constructive feedback. By going through these processes, it will allow the conductor to feel more connected and comfortable with his/her choir while being able to assess their students to continually guide student learning.
-Laura Stedge (Freshman)
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