In past episodes of this thread on Becoming A Better Music Teacher I touched on several different rules of thumb that I occasionally catch myself breaking even though I know better.  Today's topic focuses on what I call subjective sorrow, otherwise known as grading a playing performance without having a written rubric to grade it with.

The Sad Sound of Subjective Sorrow

In some schools written assignments are a normal part of the routine in band and orchestra.  In others the only time a student picks up a pencil is to mark their music.  It all depends on the teacher, the grade level, and the curriculum to determine what assessments will be used, but sometimes teachers will get into the bad habit of relying on purely subjective assessments rather than rubric based quantifiable assessments that can be more effectively shared with a student.  We may listen to a student play a scale and score it as an eight out of ten for accuracy, but what does that really mean?  Did it just sound like an eight?  What would have made it sound like a nine?

It is my belief after having made the mistake of doing it the other way that we should always assess playing tests according to a written rubric.  It makes it easier for us to assess a performance while at the same time providing more useful feedback for the student because they can understand why they received a specific score.

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