Unpacking Standards and Building Learning Scales in Music


The standards have always baffled me. They are really broad topics. So broad that I have always been challenged to implement them. The Music standards in particular create "Anchor Standards" which were in a sense specific attributes of the larger topic. I thought for a while that these were going to become my Proficiencies but struggled to figure out how to actually use them in my classroom. Should Composition be a focal point of a performance ensemble as an example? Not really. It could be a component. I began to realize that every anchor can be applied differently based on the course you are delivering.

I retreated for a bit and decided to write down the key components that I thought were needed in an Ensemble setting. I had always built my course around Rhythm, Pitch, Articulation, Shape, and Time. With fundamental skills supporting these concepts. I.e., steady beat, tone quality etc.

In an attempt then to align this thinking with the Standards, I realized that the 'CREATE' standard could apply to Music Shape, and Time Manipulation = basic musicianship. PRODUCE and PERFORM required specific mechanics - rhythm, pitch and articulation. Things started to line up. The anchor standards that they created helped me with the alignment. I started to see some gaps in my thinking and have added additional constructs to align with the Anchor standards.

While working on another project for Transferable Skills, I quickly found that the learning scales that we were creating were being interpreted as Rubrics. I was forced to look at when assessment kicks into this process. To understand what I mean, you must know about how this all unpacks:

Standards get reviewed and become 10-15 proficiencies for a course. These proficiencies contain another subset of Learning Targets or Measurement Targets that can be sequenced or put into levels. For every Learning Target, we create performance tasks or learning activities that can be measured by performance indicators within a Rubric. Holy cow! This framework took time to figure out. People call proficiencies, competencies, standards, measurement targets etc. To sift through all the jargon was a daunting process. I know think I have a handle on it.

In an effort to provide clarity, I decided to create a metaphor for myself. This metaphor clarified the process and made it known when it was best to "grade." There is a difference between assessment and grading. I can grade a student using a rubric on a particular performance task. Once I have that information, I can easily determine where on the Proficiency scale they are located. The scale is a type of marker, a placeholder for where a student is in the pursuit of the overall proficiency. Each level has learning that is viable and worthy. In contrast to a rubric where the early levels are usually a deficient state. To understand this I made a silly video outlining the structure:

If you need summative grades, one can use the work on the rubric level and individual performance tasks. I wonder if the Transferable Skills should be the basis for all grading. If you are not progressing, the transferable skills will serve as the tool to figure out why. If built with rubrics, this process can be objective.

I am still learning.


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