Evaluation Is Crucial to College Music Teaching

Evaluation is a matter of the most central importance to the members of this Society. Indeed, it would be hard to come to any other conclusion after reviewing the real-life consequences of typical evaluation decisions. Which faculty members will receive travel stipends, merit raises, tenure, or promotion in rank? Which courses will be retained in a calendar change, and which degree programs will be sustained in the face of system-wide retrenchment?

The session on the evaluation of college music instruction drew a great deal of interest at the recent College Music Society convention in San Diego. A number of members remained after this session to share their experiences on the subject, and I think we will hear more on the evaluation of teaching at future CMS conventions. Evaluation may be featured in a forthcoming summer institute on music teaching, and those who are interested in this topic should be alert to the possibility that CMS may offer such an institute.

It is only recently that I became sensitive to another great problem of evaluation in college music departments: the evaluation of graded recitals. Though I worked as a conductor at the public school level, all my experience in college music teaching has been on the side of academic studies rather than performance. This year I was appointed to serve as Director of Graduate Studies in my own School of Music, and before beginning these duties I had simply not realized how vital the graded recital is in the eyes of the student performing it, as well as in the eyes of his or her studio teacher. I have learned that evaluation of a graded recital offers a potential for human conflict that easily equals what is possible in a faculty tenure or promotion proceeding.

In contrast with the tenure or promotion proceeding, the graded recital takes in a much briefer sample of performance. That sample is available, however, to all who choose to attend, and they as well as the performers are able to note any instances in which members of the evaluation jury fail to live up to the rules of the proceeding. Just a few of the possible problems include the late arrival, early departure, or even the total absence of some members of the jury.

Graded recitals present a challenge to the music department in terms of both administration and evaluation. I intend to make a study of graded recitals, and I expect that friends made through CMS will be one of my primary sources of insight on this topic. This is an area in which CMS can function as a resource through which concerned professionals can find others who would like to work on a common problem.

When it is well carried out, the process of evaluation forces the evaluator to confront the sometimes competing interests of musical and academic excellence balanced against concern for the individual. Maintaining fairness while working toward musical and academic excellence is the constant goal of the humane evaluator.

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Last modified on Friday, 03/05/2013

Albert LeBlanc earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Louisiana State University and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He served as a school band director in Louisiana and later as evaluation specialist with the Aesthetic Education Program of CEMREL, Inc., a federally sponsored educational research laboratory in St. Louis, MO.  He served as faculty member and later as Associate Director of the School of Music at Michigan State University, retiring in 2003.  He served as Chair of the Society for Research in Music Education and later received the Senior Researcher Award from Music Educators National Conference, the National Association for Music Education.  He is best known for his theory of the acquisition of individual music listening preferences, explained in LeBlanc, A. (1987)  The development of music preference in children, in Peery, J. C., Peery, I. W., & Draper, T. W.  Music and child development, New York, Springer Verlag.  He published a sequential series of research studies (1979-2001) exploring his theory of music preference acquisition in the Journal of Research in Music Education, Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, and Journal of Music Therapy.

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