Academic journal article Victorian Journal of Music Education

Assessing Musical Achievement in Students with Disabilities and Impairments

Academic journal article Victorian Journal of Music Education

Assessing Musical Achievement in Students with Disabilities and Impairments

Article excerpt

Background

There have always been children with disabilities and impairments, but there has not always been special education. Children living with disabilities and impairments have been viewed through various lenses throughout history (e.g., Ball, 1971; Kauffman, 1976; Lane, 1976). Social and cultural theory suggests that contemporary society and culture is extremely diverse (e.g., Derrida, 1978; Lyotard, 1984). Social and cultural theory shifts thinking from the individual with a disability and/or impairment to environmental responses to disability and impairment (e.g., Gill, 1999; Seelman, 2000). The paradigm frames disability and impairment from the perspective of a social and cultural minority group that is defined as a dimension of human difference and not as a defect, in other words, not to eradicate disability or impairment but to celebrate their distinctiveness, pursue an equal place in society and acknowledge that their differentness is not defective but valued.

Social and cultural theory challenges very powerful economically efficient and politically expedient values with social and cultural values centered on equal opportunity and diversity. These notions call for those who advocate social and cultural values to emerge with voices that have produced very positive effects. For example, these notions have had a profound influence on social and cultural attitudes toward people with disabilities and impairments. Many education systems throughout the world have accepted responsibility for the education of all students irrespective of disability or impairment in recent decades (e.g., Commission on Education of the Deaf, 1988; Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 1997; North Carolina Department of Public Instruction 1993, S. Res. 6, 1975; Visser & Upton, 1995; Warnock, 1978).

Historically, Australian educators have had a substantial concern with the education of students with disabilities and impairments. Long (1988, 1994) and Ashman (1988) provided insights into the broader impact of such policy and program initiatives in Australian public education systems. In the State of Victoria , policy and program initiatives include Better Services, Better Outcomes in Victorian Government Schools: A Review of Educational Services for Students with Special Education Needs (Lake 2001), Blueprint for Government Schools: Future Directions in the Victorian Government System (Department of Education, Employment and Training Victoria, 2003), Collins (1984), Cullen and Brown (1992, 1993), Public Education: The Next Generation (more commonly known as the PENG Review) (Department of Education, Employment and Training Victoria, 2000). Equal opportunity and diversity has meant increased support for many more students with disabilities and impairments in mainstream primary school and secondary college settings where appropriate, and in specialist school settings.

Social and cultural theory appears to offer a discourse with which to liberate and empower pedagogy: the science of thinking and learning. For example, adopting Derrida's approach, special educators and music educators can attempt to deconstruct the role of language that is used to influence these assessment practices and take the side of those with disability or impairment. These views have allowed such people to emerge with a voice in the shaping of assessment practices in music education for students with disabilities and impairments.

What is the purpose and role of assessing musical achievement in students with disabilities and impairments in an increasingly politicized, data-driven and accountability-focused educational environment? In what ways can assessment data be most effectively used to improve music learning for such students? In what ways can effective assessment practices in music education for students with disabilities and impairments be facilitated? What approaches to the planned and systematic process of assessing musical achievement in students with disabilities and impairments would be most appropriate? …

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