Reply To: peer assessment – music

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Using peer assessments can be a fantastic way to have students grow in their Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and I commend you for incorporating it into your classroom.

I use peer assessments when we are playing the Orff instruments. We don’t have all of the students playing at the same time. I have players, waiters, and lookers. The players are the performers. Waiters just are waiting for their turn but still observing to some degree (and supporting the performers by singing the piece) and the lookers are the assessors. The lookers are in front of the xylophones and are looking for proper playing technique (which they know through a rubric based format) and they also are looking for if the student can perform the proper ostinato/beat/strong beat pattern on the instruments. Therefore, there are two grades given–one for proper playing position and one for actual performance of the pitches &/or rhythm or beat.

The students who are the lookers will give a score on their fingers when they face me. I ask a few of them to explain what the student did to warrant that score. I will sometimes modify the grade saying that I observed something differently. But the key is when learning the material (doing formative assessments along the way), the lookers are constantly helping their classmate improve their skills by giving feedback before we switch. If they have not been giving feedback along with the teacher providing feedback, then it doesn’t help the performer improve their skills. Further, if the looker gives the player a poor score it can really hurt the player because it is never easy to hear from a peer that they aren’t doing as well as the rest. Social and Emotional Learning skills are essential to peer assessments. I do peer assessments from all grade levels and once you integrate it at the lowest level, the students get so used to it they don’t mind the feedback. In fact, many welcome it and I have seen students say, “Can you watch my hand…I forget that I need to be relaxed when I play” or something of that sort.
Oh, one more thought…you can integrate the fishbowl technique where 1/2 the class plays and 1/2 the class watches and the watchers have to say “I saw someone…” so that it is not directed at any one person. Remember that positive comments should be 4:1–for example, I saw someone sitting with proper posture. I saw someone playing the drum with their thumb on the side of the drum which helps the vibration continue. Then constructive feedback such as I saw someone hit the drum with their hand and didn’t bounce off the drum so the vibration didn’t sound right. Then you could have the students try playing it again using the feedback given. Immediately using the feedback given is ESSENTIAL–it does no good to have students say, “You need to fix this” and then not implement it right away…they will forget what was said and never remember it so it was a waste of time.

I hope some of my information helps. Good luck and let me know if you have more questions or need more clarification on something.

Bridget James
Western Division Representative
National Council for General Music Education, NAfME