Assessment: a wider view
As part of my ongoing professional development I have been reading Martin Fautley's Assessment in Music Education (OUP, 2010).
In the first chapter, the author argues for a wider view of assessment over and against the view that real assessment = summative assessment. This isn't particularly groundbreaking, but in examining the foundational principles of assessment, the author (p. 4) makes some stimulating comments.
... informal assessments take place all the time, and form a constant background against which any teaching and learning encounter takes place. Viewed from this perspective, assessment becomes an essential and integral component of every lesson.
It is after this comment that the author makes reference to assessment for learning and it is through this lens that the author (p. 4) makes the point that
... it is impossible to separate assessment from teaching. Indeed, as Swanick (1988: 149) observes, '... to teach is to assess.' Considered in this way, assessment becomes an integral part of teaching and learning, perceptions shift '... so that it is used to help students learn and to improve instruction rather than being used only to rank students or to certify the end products of learning' (Shepard, 2000: 31)
The author (p. 4) also makes the point that it is only viewing teaching through this perspective that the role of the teacher is augmented back to its rightful place within the learning process:
The folk view of assessment carries with it the commonly heard phraseology employed by teachers, "I will be carrying out an assessment next lesson." A side effect of this view is to unintentionally downgrade teacher's judgements when compared to the 'curiously separate' assessments, yet it is the teacher's judgements which are essential to make process in music. This downgrading can be seen to create a false dichotomy, as during the course of every lesson the teacher will be carrying out hundreds of informal assessment judgements necessary for her to help her pupils to progress, and for the lesson to proceed. The assessment judgements of teachers do matter, they are important to the successful development of every child in learning music, and, as a number of recent initiatives observe, every child matters (p. 4, emphasis in original).
I could not agree more with this statement; these ideas are already present within my classroom. I use the app iDoceo (which I mentioned in a previous post) to document these judgements. An excerpt of my S2 notebook in iDoceo shows how I manage these:
The majority of these notes were made informally as I circulated the classroom during the lesson (and talking with the learners about these judgements) or after the lesson plenary as the students were responsibility tidying the instruments and music away.
I know the pupils in my care very well. So whilst some of the comments are not in depth (and not everyone has a comment for every week), they provide a 'trigger' for me personally to effectively plan future lessons (both on the individual level and as a whole class). They also provide a great overview of the pupils' progress which often inspired and encouraged the learners in the learning process when they are shared.
I can not underestimate validity of these assessment snapshots. They are an integral part of my teaching practice and will stay central in my teaching practice.