Institutes for Music in Contemporary Education - A Preliminary Statement Concerning Evaluation

Grant Beglarian

It would be an understatement to say that it is hazardous to establish a scientific connection between the musicianship demonstrated by a student and the courses he has taken in basic music studies. Because the awareness of the existence of musicianship in a student depends to a large extent on the subjective opinion of the observer, the CMP administration will rely heavily for the evaluation of the Institutes on the reports submitted by regional directors and program heads in each Institute, as well as on the opinions voiced by the students themselves and outside observers. Never-the-less, in the light of existing knowledge concerning evaluation and testing of educational procedures, and through the efforts of the CMP Symposium on Evaluative Criteria for Music in Education, a preliminary method for assessing the work of the Institutes has been established.

The criteria and procedures outlined below were formulated at a four-day Symposium held at Airlie House, Virginia, May 1967. Attending the Symposium were the six regional directors and a large representation from those actually teaching IMCE courses, plus members of CMP Policy Committee and staff, and a number of high-level experts in the field of education, testing, and curriculum design.1

The Symposium was organized to see to what extent relatively objective criteria and procedures could be agreed upon for evaluation of all IMCE programs. The number and diversity of these programs were reduced to certain common elements shared by all. It became possible then to devise an evaluative framework closely paralleling the theory of comprehensive musicianship and retaining at the same time the characteristics of each local program. The resulting evaluative procedures are to be based on the assessment of the student's growing ability to apply and demonstrate the techniques and attitudes he has acquired in his IMCE course. The assessment is expected to produce a profile of the student's musicianship at the beginning and the end of the current school year. By grouping individual results it should be possible to obtain the profile of a local program, and, by generalization, the profile of each regional institute and ultimately the IMCE program as a whole. This assessment is not thought of as an achievement or aptitude test for passing an academic muster.

It is expected that the orderly gathering of information about all IMCE programs, whether they are successful or not, will increase the current knowledge of evolving educational principles and practices in music.

The assessment of the student's comprehensive musicianship will be made in two ways: through direct testing and through an independent student project. (All assessments will be addressed primarily to second-year college students.) Direct testing is intended to determine the student's musicianship in response to an external demandperforming a piece at sight, for example, commenting on its structure, style, and other matters affecting its interpretation. The independent project is intended to determine the student's musicianship in carrying out a self-generated musical task over a long period of time.

Four overlapping and related categories will comprise the proposed assessmentsdescriptive competence, performing competence, creative competence, and attitude. The first three are based on the student's knowledge and experience in musical techniques and materials, while the latter category attempts to assess his attitude towards various musical activities and interests. The specific questions to be put to the student in the direct test will be devised by the local IMCE instructor. He will also advise the student in his independent project.

Questions in all recommended categories will be put to the student even though certain items may have had little or no emphasis in the local IMCE course. Each instructor is to keep a detailed log of the content of the IMCE course so that a connection may be established between the instruction the student has received and the assessment of his musicianship. To the extent possible, materials used in devising the questions will be those not directly taught in the local course.

The general outline of the assessment is as follows.

A. Descriptive Competence: The student is expected to listen to specific musical examples from various style periods including the contemporary scene and describe:

  1. The musical elements relevant to structure,
  2. The formal elements relevant to the example,
  3. The relation of musical and formal elements to the expressive character of the example, including the role of extra-musical elements, and
  4. The relation of musical, formal, and expressive elements to the stylistic factors in the example.

B. Performing Competence: The student is expected to demonstrate his:

  1. Literacy in conventional notation and terminology, and other systems of notation,
  2. Ability to study and perform a solo work and an ensemble work,
  3. Ability to evaluate performance, including his own, with respect to technical accuracy and interpretation,
  4. Ability to coach and instruct in a variety of situations, and
  5. Knowledge of musical repertoire in general and program-building in his own field of specialization.

C. Creative Competence: The student is expected to demonstrate his ability to:

  1. Write examples illustrating a variety of melodic and rhythmic constructions and harmonic and contrapuntal procedures,
  2. Write examples illustrating the characteristics of various styles,
  3. Adapt and re-arrange music from the original medium to a different medium,
  4. Improvise in a given style or in his personal idiom, and
  5. Compose an original work for available performing resources.

D. Attitude: A profile of the range and intensity of the student's involvement with music. The assessment in this category will follow a separate course. The student will be asked to indicate on a questionnaire the degree of importance he attaches to thirty specified activities and experiences outside his class work. His instructor will be asked to fill out a separate questionnaire in which he will assess the student's attitude towards specified classroom activities. Both questionnaires, perhaps with certain revisions, will be used again at the end of the school year.

It should be reiterated that the main purpose of the Institutes is to provide the student with opportunities to synthesize all aspects of basic musical studies. The evaluation of his work will document his ability to relate various facts and skills he has been taught to musical insights he must conceive and communicate as a practicing musician. This private and creative potential requires careful attention. Although an enormous amount of collective time and thought has been spent on determining the evaluative procedures which may reveal this potential in the student and describe the educational process which brought it forth, the ability to synthesize previously disparate elements into an esthetic whole is, perhaps and fortunately, outside and beyond the realm of pragmatic education.

As stated by Mr. Monte Tubb, the IMCE program head at the University of Oregon and a former CMP composer, "in music education, it is what the student does on his own, when no one is watching, that really matters in the end."

Perhaps this remark should be extended to include teachers, scholars, performers, and composers, as well.

1The full report of the Symposium will be published by the Contemporary Music Project in January, 1968.