Student-Created Rubrics in the Music Classroom


Assess Yourself


Student-Created Rubrics in the Music Classroom


By NAfME Member Heather D. Waters


How might your fourth-grade student describe a “proficient” recorder performance?


Within your classroom community, do you and your students understand and agree on a set of criteria that constitutes “proficiency”?

music student | Susan_Stewart


Through connections to research and practical examples from diverse classroom settings, my session at NAfME’s National In-Service Conference will examine processes for creating rubrics alongside music students. We will explore connections to general education and music education research regarding rubric creation, and effective processes for facilitating student-created rubrics in your music classroom. Here’s a preview of this session.


Why Use Rubrics?


Rubrics are well suited to assessing music performance (DeLuca & Bolden, 2014) and may help students achieve focused learning objectives (Jackson & Larkin, 2002). Rubrics can create a framework for discussion, exploration, and discovery of creativity (Young, 2009), particularly when they are used throughout the learning process rather than solely as a summative, one-size-fits-all assessment. When designed and implemented effectively, rubrics can potentially bridge student learning and teacher expectations, provide versatility in adapting content to diverse student needs, and promote clearer, individualized feedback for students (Wesolowski, 2012).

rubrics | jaker5000


Why Include Students in the Rubric-Creation Process?


Including students in the process of rubric creation may facilitate student autonomy and accountability, and increase motivation (e.g., Eppink, 2002; Scott, 2001, 2012). When students and teachers collaboratively clarify shared learning objectives and criteria, they facilitate relevant and meaningful musical learning.

However, rubrics are frequently completed by teachers (Scott, 2005), students may not understand why they received a certain grade on a particular assignment (Jackson & Larkin, 2002; Montgomery, 2000), and processes for rubric creation are frequently described in teacher-centric language. Ideally, students are making choices throughout the learning process, and it follows that they should also have choices as to how to assess their work. Students can identify learning outcomes by generating a set of shared values (Brown, 2008). This approach may result in increased student understanding and satisfaction because students more clearly understand expectations (Whittaker, Salend, & Duhaney, 2001).

Engaging in relevant, clear, and authentic music assessment has the potential to inform administrators and policy makers regarding the value of music education. By building inclusive classrooms and empowering students to have a voice in their musical education, student-created rubrics represent authentic, relevant musical assessments that provide specific examples of student learning to share with parents, administrators, and policy makers.

Engaging in relevant, clear, and authentic music assessment has the potential to inform administrators and policy makers regarding the value of music education.

Here are just a few tips for creating rubrics alongside your students. We’ll continue to explore processes for creating rubrics with students, practical applications for specific classroom settings, and characteristics of effective rubrics during this interactive session in November. Modify these suggestions accordingly to match the developmental level and skills of your students.


Tips for Creating Rubrics


  • Use student-friendly and age-appropriate language. Very young children will not have an extensive enough vocabulary to verbally define certain criteria, so consider using icons, symbols, pictures and other images when appropriate.

    grades | matt_benoit
  • Pre-made, one-size-fits-all rubrics rarely address the learning processes of individual classrooms (Young, 2009), so avoid the temptation to stick solely with rubrics created by others simply because they are quick and easy. Although it is usually impractical to create rubrics for every task in every class, periodically facilitating student rubric creation potentially contributes to deeper, more meaningful learning.
  • Engage in frequent discussions with students using questions such as:

What is your goal?

What will you do to get there?

How will you know that you’ve met your goal?

How can you demonstrate your learning?

  • Examine examples of student work for specific tasks (of course removing identifiable student information), discussing examples that were exemplary and why.
  • Collectively define the purpose and objectives of a given assessment, as well as learning outcomes and specific criteria for a given task.
  • Provide time for students to explore and critique different rubrics through self and peer assessment of real assignments and tasks.
  • Revise rubrics as needed based on student feedback. Ideally rubrics are context-specific and should evolve depending on the task or classroom context.
  • Carefully consider:

Is this assessment OF learning

Is this assessment FOR learning

Is this assessment AS learning?

Although there may be particular contexts that warrant assessments OF learning, consider shifting some of your classroom music assessments to assessment FOR learning and assessment AS learning (Scott, 2012) by engaging your students throughout the rubric-creation process.


To continue to explore strategies for creating rubrics alongside your music students, plan on attending Assess Yourself: Student-created Rubrics for the Music Classroom at the 2017 NAfME National In-Service Conference.


About the author:

 early childhood

NAfME member Heather D. Waters earned her Ph.D. in music education at Temple University as a University Fellow. She holds National Board Certification in Music: Early and Middle Childhood, as well as certifications in Orff, Kodály, and Music Learning Theory. She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Music Education at Adelphi University and the Managing Director of the Early Childhood Music and Movement Association (


Heather Waters presented on her topic, “Assess Yourself: Student-Created Rubrics in the Music Classroom,” at the 2017 NAfME National Conference last November in Dallas, TX. Register today for the 2018 NAfME National Conference!


Select References

Brown, J. K. (2008). Student-centered instruction: Involving students in their own education. Music Educators Journal, 94(5), 30-35.

DeLuca, C., & Bolden, B. (2014). Music performance assessment. Music Educators Journal, 101(1), 70-76.

Eppink, J.A. (2002). Student created rubrics: An idea that works. Teaching Music, 9(4), 28-32.

Jackson, C. W., & Larkin, M. J. (2002). Teaching students to use grading rubrics. Teaching Exceptional Children, 35(1), 40.

Montgomery, K. (2000). Classroom rubrics: Systematizing what teachers do naturally. The Clearing House, 73, 324-328.

Scott, S. J. (2001). A task-centered approach to performance-based assessments. General Music Today, 14(3), 10-14.

Scott, S. (2005). What’s in a grade? General Music Today, 18(2), 17-24.

Scott, S. J. (2012). Rethinking the roles of assessment in music education. Music Educators Journal, 98(3), 31-35.

Wesolowski, B. C. (2012). Understanding and developing rubrics for music performance assessment. Music Educators Journal, 98(3), 36-42.

Whittaker, C. R., Salend, S. J., & Duhaney, D. (2001). Creating instructional rubrics for inclusive classrooms. Exceptional Children, 34(2), 8-13.

Young, L. P. (2009). Imagine creating rubrics that develop creativity. The English Journal, 99(2), 74-79.


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