Establishing an "assessment for learning" culture in music classrooms in Hong Kong

Essay, 2015

8 Pages, Grade: 3.7




Getting evidence: Guided group teaching

Locating levels: Teaching pairs

Locating levels: Identifying errors

Follow-up work: Feedback

Follow-up work: Differentiation in contents

Follow-up work: Differentiation in cues




The focus of assessment for learning is to diagnose learning problems, as opposed to the measuring of students' attainment in assessment of learning (The Curriculum Development Council, 2004). Assessment for learning involves two processes (Wright, 2007, p.196). First, teachers get evidence about students’ learning (Wright, 2007, p.196). Second, they analyze the evidence to locate where the students are in learning and how they should take their next steps (Wright, 2007, p.196). This essay will discuss what mechanism is suitable for assessment for learning in the music classroom, including in getting evidence, locating levels and substantial follow-up work.

Getting evidence: Guided group teaching

Guided group teaching is a form of teaching in which students form groups to question, clarify, summarize and predict issues within their group (Boyle and Charles, 2014, p.34). Brown asserts that after teaching students how to use these four strategies to learn in group discussion, they can automatically engage in interactive learning given a topic by instruction (as cited in Boyle and Charles, 2014, p.34). Through this kind of teaching, teachers can have the time to walk through the groups to notice individual differences between each student, by identifying strengths and weaknesses, learning patterns and personal characters demonstrated in the learning process (Boyle and Charles, 2014, p.36). Guided group teaching enables such comprehensive identifications as it also allows teachers to read students’ thinking on the topic they are learning, as opposed to the Initiation-Response-Evaluation method (teachers ask question and students answer), which only allows teacher to know whether the students get a particular answer right or wrong (Heritage, 2013, p.59).

Music in fact supports this kind of teaching practice very well, for example through discussion on listening materials and theoretical analysis. Students can easily be motivated to demonstrate different ideas through these discussions as there are always more than one correct answer, as opposed to other subjects such as Mathematics and Physics. Even though stronger students may have said a correct answer, there is always other answers for weaker students to propose and they can still have the chance to give a correct answer of their own. Such existence of hope in being able to giving a self-deduced correct answer is essential in maintaining student motivation to learn in the guided group teaching context. Teachers do not have to worry about motivation issues when carrying out guided group teaching to collect evidence. Music, as an Arts subject, benefiting through the subjective nature of the discipline, acts as a good platform in carrying out guided group teaching.

Locating levels: Teaching pairs

Frey and Fisher (2011, p.39) suggests that being able to retell a certain topic requires ‘students to process information, think about the sequence of ideas and their relative importance’. As retelling requires excellence in the whole thinking process of a certain topic, we can easily know from retelling that what aspect of the thinking process they have mistakes in (Frey and Fisher, 2011). A very useful way to exercise retelling in classrooms is teaching pairs what they have learnt in groups. By adding pre-assigned reading into guided group teaching, students can learn a certain aspect of the topic at home themselves and teach their pairs about what they have learnt in class. As the group members each contain a certain aspect of the topic, they can then discuss the topic using different angles and learn to respect the others’ point of view, establishing constructive discussion. Embedded in the daily teaching process, pair-teaching mechanism in guided group teaching enables the effective location of problems each individual students face without delaying the course schedule.

Locating students’ problem using pairs teaching method is relatively useful in teaching song singing and instrumental playing. In asking students to teach others singing a song or playing a piece, we can know from their teaching whether there is any important musical elements they tend to belittle. The holistic consideration of all musical elements, including pitch, rhythm, tone quality, dynamics, affection, articulation, processing of phrase structure, recognition of composers’ style etc., is vital for musicianship training in classroom, but this also leads to the problem of students’ inability to take into consideration of all the elements, very often one or two are missed out. Locating individual students’ levels and inclination in taking consideration of each musical element therefore is essential in knowing what content to cater for them in their musicianship training and teaching pairs acts as a useful means to such location.

Locating levels: Identifying errors

‘Errors often represent the current understanding of the student’, as Frey and Fisher (2011, p.96) puts it. In order to give students specific feedback on what aspect of the complicated tasks they do better and do worse, we need to identify and summarize these errors systematically, when carrying the pairs teaching mechanism. A good way to do this would be coding the errors (see figure 1).

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Figure 1: Error Analysis

From the above analysis chart originally suggested by Frey and Fisher (2011, p.98) for usage in English writing, we can know not only the strengths and weaknesses of each student, but also their progress in improvement, the nature of certain errors, relationship between errors and even teacher’s instructional success. This essay tried to apply it in the musical context. We can find out from the above chart that E, F, D and G are more better-achieving student while A is relatively lower-achieving. L’s strength is in logical processing of practical techniques while A’s strength is in artistic interpretation. A’s strength is L’s weakness, which is artistic interpretation and vice versa. The progress of improvement for A is slow, improving one to two item at a time, whereas B learns relatively fast, being able to improve all six errors after one rehearsal. Tone quality is a relatively less-made error, which is easier for students, whereas rhythm is a frequently-made error which many students still make mistakes on in the third rehearsal, and even the high-achievers would make mistakes on it in the first rehearsal. Errors on processing of phrase structure and articulation can return easily as there may be factors restricting them to stably perform over this realm, such as ease in fatigue in producing clean articulation, which requires endurance training over a long period of time. Errors on rhythm, comparatively can be easily eliminated once they understood the concept, and would never return. The relationship between processing of phrase structure and articulation is prominent, as when students made mistakes on processing of phrase structure, they always make mistakes on articulation as well. The same situation applies to affection and recognition of composer’s style. The sudden improvement of the five students (even including lower-achieving students such as A) after rehearsal 3 may indicate instructional success in class and this indicator is helpful in assisting teachers in finding out what did they done well in teaching.


Excerpt out of 8 pages


Establishing an "assessment for learning" culture in music classrooms in Hong Kong
Education University of Hong Kong  (The Education University of Hong Kong, Department of Curriculum and Instruction)
TLS3003 Curriculum and Assessment
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Music Curriculum, Assessment for Learning
Quote paper
Bachelor of Education (Music) Kwan Lung Chan (Author), 2015, Establishing an "assessment for learning" culture in music classrooms in Hong Kong, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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