Tracking Student Learning Objectives in Music

Tracking Student Learning Objectives in Music

Now more than ever, teachers need to document their effectiveness as educators by tracking student progress. Tracking the right student data can help demonstrate student achievement as well as the proficiency of the teacher. These benchmarks are commonly referred to as Student Learning Objectives (or SLOs). Tracking SLOs helps show that your students are meeting standards and demonstrate your impact as a teacher.

Tracking SLOs typically follows a three-part form. First, students take a pre-assessment. Second, the teacher leads instructional segments. Finally, the students take a post-assessment to track their improvement over the course of the process.

Some teachers may have SLOs prescribed by their state or district. In my district, we needed to come up with some on our own. You should choose a unit of study that closely matches your current music curriculum. There may be a district, state, or national document that fits your needs and can help you choose an SLO that is broad enough to cover significant student achievements. Don’t use a daily or weekly instructional goal for an SLO.

For my first Music SLO, I chose to track student progress learning rhythmic notation through creating, performing, and responding to music. My music curriculum units are set up cyclically through several grade spans (K-2, 3-5 and 6-8). This makes it easy for me to track data over a long period of time and helps make sure that my curriculum is vertically aligned. This system also allows me to see where my students’ strengths and weaknesses are as a group and differentiate instruction as needed. These group progress goals set up the perfect environment for creating and tracking Music SLOs.

Planning Your SLO Process

Once you choose your Music SLO you will then need to set up a template to track both student progress and teacher impact.

  1. The first part should include a needs assessment and description of the student population. Here you will analyze what you know about the student group from the data and how you will address the needs of your students to achieve your Music SLO.
  2. The second part will link your SLO to Content Standards. Identify which standards your Music SLO will specifically target, as well as how they link to state and national standards.
  3. The third section is a description of your summative assessment. Here you will include the assessment that you plan to use to capture your student data and accommodations for students with special needs. This includes your pre-assessment and post-assessment.
  4. The fourth section states your growth targets. Determine what your expected student growth will be after teacher instruction. You generally want to see 75-80% of your student group to be able to achieve your growth target. Having a clear growth target will also help you show your impact on student learning. Make sure it’s measurable!
  5. The fifth section describes your Instructional Strategies. Include activities as well as learning strategies so that your daily work in class is clearly connected to your SLO.
  6. The sixth section is your monitoring progress plan. Describe what measurements of progress will help you keep student achievement on track for success. This is a great place to include formative assessments.

Over your interval of instruction (unit), you will need to keep a chart with all of your students’ pre-assessment scores, attendance, and post-assessment scores. Attendance is important to measuring teacher impact and excessive absence from instruction excludes those students from having to meet the growth target. In your final, report you will need to provide your administrator with the data and student growth for your Music SLO.

Getting Started Isn’t Hard

Music SLOs are a part of what you already do. It does not need to be complicated. Take a unit that you already know is successful and track your students accordingly. For example, in beginning band each year I track how long it takes students to become proficient at reading notation and playing the first five notes on their instruments. I can repeat this Music SLO every year because I always have a new group of beginner band students.

At our district music meetings, we collect and collaborate on our Music SLOs to determine targets that we would like all students to achieve at specific learning points. Common standards and units give us the opportunity to build district-wide assessments and Music SLOs. Use your own strengths to prove your impact as a teacher. All SLOs are performance-based and performance is what music teachers do – just record the data to show your success!

Cynthia Streznewski has been an educator for over two decades. She currently teaches K-8 general music, beginning band, middle school band and middle school chorus at Woolwich Central School in Woolwich, Maine. She is also the music curriculum facilitator for Regional School Unit 1.

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