- The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical and Qualitative Assessment in Music Education ed. by David J. Elliott, Marissa Silverman and Gary E. McPherson
Three leading voices in music education, David J. Elliott, Marissa Silverman, and Gary E. McPherson, consistently work to reconceive how music educators create and challenge the discourses of music learning and the ways in which people engage with music. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical and Qualitative Assessment in Music Education furthers their contributions and serves as a break from the familiar and common “default philosophy of assessment” of tests, standards, regimens, and rankings to invite new ways of approaching music assessment.1 They, along with their coauthors, apply their theoretical, research, and teaching experience to examine music assessment through social praxis and how individuals and communities “deepen their growth as knowing and compassionate human beings.”2 In short, this Handbook is an invitation for music educators of all levels to reengage with their values and name them in their current and future practices.
Using the current neoliberal state of education as a backdrop, Elliott, Silverman, and McPherson portray schools as spaces that yield corporate types of learning practices and assessments which “place little value on arts education.”3 Countering these realities, the diverse cadre of authors examines assessment [End Page 123] from different settings, roles, policies, and practices, organized around four themes. The first theme examines assessment through theoretical ideas including critical pedagogy, pragmatism, and Deleuzean frameworks. Next, in methodological practices, new ideas for assessment are considered through teacher evaluation, working with students with disabilities, and incorporating habits of mind. Creativity explores assessment through technological possibilities, popular music, and drawing, among others. Closing with international perspectives, the authors explore assessment through German and Scandinavian bildung/bildning, care as a driving force of assessment in South Africa, and an Iranian non-regulated perspective of assessment.
Alexandra Kertz-Welzel asks: “Who decides what is assessed? How it is assessed? By whom is it assessed?”4 These questions are embraced and challenged throughout the Handbook. Instead of conceiving of assessment as something diagnostic—reaching musical benchmarks and aptitudes deemed by outside authorities—the authors welcome an epistemological shift of assessment. What might happen when music educators replace written self-assessments, quizzes, and playing tests in favor of, say, habits of mind (as Jillian Hogan and Ellen Winner describe in their chapter5) such as listening, noticing, being part of a community, persisting, expressing oneself, imagining, and making decisions? These changes might transform a community, one where students and teachers embrace music making beyond mere replication.6 The authors suggest ways of engaging in acts of subversion, resistance, care, and pragmatism to push past the product-driven view of assessment dictated by neoliberal and for-profit discourses.
Historically, assessment has been contextualized, discussed, and critiqued through its practices; its purpose has been to gain information which aids in making decisions about teaching. In many contexts, particularly in the U.S., assessment practices stem from current educational policies, namely those noted in teacher evaluation systems.7 Such practices are intended to show student growth and drive instruction, to better label teaching quality and student success.8 In my own research on teacher evaluation, I found that music educators struggle with definitions and strategies of assessment; as a result, they defer to assessments based on hierarchies of musical skill and technique.9 Yet, Charlotte Danielson, a creator of many U.S. teacher evaluation frameworks, reminds that teaching “is not simply a matter of following a script of carrying out other people’s instructional designs.”10 Having to uphold the demands of assessment and evaluation forced many of the participants in my research to become compliant, even when they knew their teaching strategies were ancillary to who the students were and what they needed. They fabricated their assessments— often in the form of exit slips and inauthentic writing and musical compositional activities—to comply with policies. As a result, teachers’ values for music [End Page 124] teaching and learning were omitted from...