Music Evaluation: A Research Study in Elementary Music Education (Newfoundland and Labrador)

By Lane, Ann Marie | The Canadian Music Educator, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview

Music Evaluation: A Research Study in Elementary Music Education (Newfoundland and Labrador)


Lane, Ann Marie, The Canadian Music Educator


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. …

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