Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

The Measurement of Student Achievement in Music Using a Rasch Measurement Model

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

The Measurement of Student Achievement in Music Using a Rasch Measurement Model

Article excerpt

This paper explains the making of an objective measure of music achievement for students in Western Australian government schools. Forty-five music achievement tasks were developed to reflect exemplary classroom practice for three levels of music achievement. The tasks included analysis and process type questions relating to listening and appreciating, identifying music aspects and performance, with some linked tasks across levels, to enable the tasks (items) for the three levels to be calibrated on the same continuum. The sample consisted of students from Years 3, 7, and 10. The tasks were placed onto a continuum of student achievement which was matched to a standards framework based on Student outcome statements: The Arts. A Rasch measurement model was used to create a music achievement scale and transform student raw scores into achievement estimates and item difficulties on the same scale, with a computer program called RUMM.

Introduction

The need to gather information about the effectiveness of education in `the arts' has been emphasised by the current push for accountability in education and recognition of the arts as one of the eight compulsory learning areas in the Western Australian K-10 curriculum. The generic title, `the arts', subsumes the disciplines of dance, drama, media, music and the visual arts. In Western Australia, it is intended that, during the primary school years, students will have the opportunity to experience several art forms and develop broadly based achievements in each discipline, with a view to specialisation in particular art forms at secondary school (Education Department of Western Australia, 1994, p.2). The present study, within a climate of educational accountability and a wider offering of the arts in Western Australian schools, focuses on the measurement of achievement in one aspect of the arts namely, music education.

The recognition of the arts as one of the important learning areas in education systems, as evidenced in initiatives such as the National Curriculum (Department of Education and Science, 1989), the American National Standards (Consortium of National Arts Education Associations, 1994), The arts--a curriculum profile for Australian schools (Curriculum Corporation, 1994a) and the Western Australian Student outcome statements (Education Department of Western Australia, 1996), reflects a trend towards wider recognition, within schools, of its importance in the development of the `whole person'. Arts educators involved in the writing of the Australian and Western Australian documents received strong support for the central role of the arts in school curricula in response to the draft versions of the documents (Emery, 1994, p.6) and this support and recognition of the importance of the arts, together with an emphasis on accountability in schools, has led to an increased awareness of the necessity to evaluate student achievement in music, objectively.

Although teachers regularly use methods of observation, checklists and anecdotal records within the classroom, the most common form of formal assessment used to establish levels, or compare students with the rest of the population, is test data that comprise formal gathering of information involving a structured situation, in which performance is assessed under standard conditions. This form of assessment is usually a requirement of entry into special educational courses or tertiary institutions and successful achievement in formal assessment is often a requirement of employers (Griffin, 1991, p.13). In learning areas that have been regarded as the core subjects such as mathematics and English, schools regularly use this type of formal testing to establish student grades or levels and, indeed in the area of music, formal testing of performance is commonplace. This testing in Western Australian schools, however, has been confined to the playing of set pieces and identifying students' knowledge of the musical elements, such as rhythm, melody, harmony, texture, and notation, and there has been no obvious attempt to gather information on students' creativity skills or their knowledge in the areas of aesthetics, criticism, or past and present contexts. …

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