Using Custom Rubrics in SmartMusic

custom rubrics

Music educators today face a serious challenge when assessing students. Between using formative assessment, self-assessment, creating portfolios of student work, satisfying state and national standards, and tracking student progress, educators need to be careful not to overload themselves or their students. SmartMusic’s custom rubrics can help.

Building A Custom Rubric

The SmartMusic assignment creation process includes powerful options to help teachers customize their rubrics and assessments.

When creating a SmartMusic assignment, the rubric page includes the chance to create custom criteria. The “Assessment Grade” is included by default; this is SmartMusic’s automatic assessment of students’ pitch and rhythm. If you don’t want to students’s grades to be affected by the red and green notes, leave this off of your assignment. You might want to do this to help make sure students don’t suffer from test fatigue, to help empower them to try more difficult music, or just because that isn’t the goal of this assignment.

The ability to customize rubric criteria specific to your classroom is where SmartMusic shines. When you create custom rubric criteria, you can specify levels or leave things open-ended. And because you can assign any number of points to each criteria you include in an assignment template, each rubric can be weighted differently.

Some examples of great musical items to include as rubric criteria include:

  • Tone
  • Articulation
  • Phrasing
  • Dynamics
  • Diction

SmartMusic doesn’t assess these (you wouldn’t want a computer program judging students’ musical and artistic ability), but because you can listen to each student’s submission in the SmartMusic Gradebook, you’ll be able to assess these yourself. You can be as detailed as you want in the description of these criteria.

Standards-based Assessment

Another option for a rubric criterion is to include a state or national standard. You could even copy and paste the wording directly into SmartMusic, or modify it as needed for your classroom. This helps demonstrate to parents and administrators that your music assignments are meeting these important standards.

Be sure to include all the levels of assessment (for example, “exceeds expectations” versus “needs improvement” on these criteria so that your SmartMusic rubrics look the way administrators expect.

Student Responses and Pass/Fail

SmartMusic’s custom rubrics also allow for the inclusion of “pass/fail” criteria. These make grading faster and help create assignments that aren’t focused on the red and green notes. As an example, we’ll use a “Response” assignment.

For this assignment, we want students to listen back to their submitted take (before they submit) and offer self-assessment. The entire grade is about whether or not they completed the self-assessment, not the quality of the playing or the writing. (We’ll work on those in the next assignment). Here’s what to include:

  1. In the assignment instructions, make it clear that the students need to offer self-assessment in the comment box when they submit
  2. Create a custom rubric criteria with two levels. Title it “Response” or something similar.
  3. Mark one level as full points, the other as zero points. Label them appropriately.
  4. In the level descriptions, be clear that 0 points is “did not respond in assignment comments” and full points is “responded appropriately.” 
  5. Include only that custom rubric criteria on the assignment template

Try these custom rubric ideas in SmartMusic this school year!


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