Chapter 3: Assessment and Learning Goals

Chapter summary

This chapter is divided into two parts. The first section addresses the role of assessment in education. The second section addresses personal assessment in relation to your professional development and career goals.


Regardless of which field you find yourself in, you will more than likely be responsible for implementing a plan of goals and assessment. In business, education, science, and so forth, most productivity is determined by an evaluation of employees or students, and funding is often allocated based on that assessment.

As mentioned in Chapter 1, education assessment for all subjects and the arts has undergone significant change over the past 30 years, from No Child Left Behind to the Common Core State Standards Initiative. In this section, we will examine various discipline and national standards for the arts, particularly music.

I. Discipline-Based Assessment: National and Common Core State Standards

Beginning in the 1990s, a “Standards and Accountability” movement resulted in states writing goals for what students should know. This movement fueled the Common Core Standards Initiative, which produced the Common Core Standards that most states have adopted as of 2014. The Common Core Standards, however, are only written for English Language Arts and Mathematics, with no further intent to include other subject areas. However, this chapter will introduce the National Core Arts Standards for Music, while the Common Core standards in ELA and Math can be used when creating integrated lesson plans as introduced in later chapters.

National Core Arts Standards: 2014

The National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) is the organization responsible for creating standards for music, dance, theatre, and visual art. Below is an excerpt from the “National Core Arts Standards: A Conceptual Framework for Arts Learning,” which explains some of the background in their creation.

The standards movement emerged with the 1994 passage of the Goals 2000: Educate America Act. Title II of that act established a National Education Standards Improvement Council, which was charged with finding appropriate organizations to write standards. In doing so, there were three goals for the process: (1) to ensure that the standards reflect the best ideas in education, both in the United States and internationally; (2) to ensure that they reflect the best knowledge about teaching and learning; and (3) to ensure that they have been developed through a broad-based, open adoption process. The standards themselves were to define what students should “know and be able to do” to the end that “all students learn to use their minds well, so that they may be prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment in our nation’s modern economy.”

Standards for arts education are important for two fundamental reasons. First, they help define what a good education in the arts should provide: a thorough grounding in a basic body of knowledge and the skills required both to make sense and to make use of each of the arts discipline—including the intellectual tools to make qualitative judgments about artistic products and expression.

Second, when states and school districts adopt the standards, they are taking a stand for rigor, informed by a clear intent. A set of standards for arts education says, in effect, “an education in the arts means that students should know what is spelled out here, reach specified levels of attainment, and do both at defined points in their education” (NCCAS, 2014, p. 4).

The completed National Core Arts Standards include dance, media arts, music, theater, and visual arts. The common Core Standards in the arts addresses some of the 21st-century goals in education as well. Goals in the Core Standards focus on the 4 Cs: Creativity, Communication, Cooperation, and Collaboration. Below is a section from a College Board study entitled “The Arts and the Common Core: A Review of Connections Between the Common Core State Standards and the National Core Arts Standards Conceptual Framework” (2012), which addresses the connections between the two sets of standards.

The standards are based on assessing four areas of artistic process (creating; performing, presenting, producing; responding; and connecting), with each artistic process supported by several anchor standards. In each subject, the anchor standards are broken down further into individual goals and objectives for each grade level. These goals and objectives are used in lesson planning to focus the lesson, and to aid in effective assessment.

Anchor processes and standards as defined by the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards

Artistic Processes


Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work.


Performing: Realizing artistic ideas and work through interpretation and presentation.

Presenting: Interpreting and sharing artistic work.

Producing: Realizing and presenting artistic ideas and work.


Understanding and evaluating how the arts convey meaning.


Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.

Anchor Standards

Students will:

1. Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.

2. Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.

3. Evaluate and refine a complete artistic work.

Students will:

4. Analyze, interpret, and select artistic work for presentation.

5. Develop and refine artistic work for presentation.

6. Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.

Students will:

7. Perceive and analyze artistic work.

8. Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.

9. Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work.

Students will:

10. Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art.

11. Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding.

The National Core Standards for music takes the details from each of these anchor areas and breaks them down into specific, individual standards for use by each grade level.

1994 National Standards for Arts Education

Because the Common Core Standards in the arts or music are quite new, in many organizations the National Standards in Music from 1994 are still in use

1994 National Standards in Music Education content and achievement standards for grades K-4 (NAfME, 1994).

Standards in the Arts: Music, Grades K-4

Content Standard 1

Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music

Achievement Standard 1

  • Students sing independently, on pitch and in rhythm, with appropriate timbre, diction, and posture, and maintain a steady tempo
  • Students sing expressively, with appropriate dynamics, phrasing, and interpretation
  • Students sing from memory a varied repertoire of songs representing genres and styles from diverse cultures
  • Students sing ostinatos, partner songs, and rounds
  • Students sing in groups, blending vocal timbres, matching dynamic levels, and responding to the cues of a conductor

Content Standard 2

Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music

Achievement Standard 2

  • Students perform on pitch, in rhythm, with appropriate dynamics and timbre, and maintain a steady tempo
  • Students perform easy rhythmic, melodic, and chordal patterns accurately and independently on rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic classroom instruments
  • Students perform expressively a varied repertoire of music representing diverse genres and styles
  • Students echo short rhythms and melodic patterns
  • Students perform in groups, blending instrumental timbres, matching dynamic levels, and responding to the cues of a conductor
  • Students perform independent instrumental parts (e.g., simple rhythmic or melodic ostinatos, contrasting rhythmic lines, harmonic progressions, and chords) while other students sing or play contrasting parts

Content Standard 3

Improvising melodies, variations, and accompaniments

Achievement Standard 3

  • Students improvise “answers” in the same style to given rhythmic and melodic phrases
  • Students improvise simple rhythmic and melodic ostinato accompaniments
  • Students improvise simple rhythmic variations and simple melodic embellishments on familiar melodies
  • Students improvise short songs and instrumental pieces, using a variety of sound sources, including traditional sounds (e.g., voices, instruments), nontraditional sounds available in the classroom (e.g., paper tearing, pencil tapping), body sounds (e.g., hands clapping, fingers snapping), and sounds produced by electronic means (e.g., personal computers and basic MIDI devices, including keyboards, sequencers, synthesizers, and drum machines)

Content Standard 4

Composing and arranging music within specified guidelines

Achievement Standard 4

  • Students create and arrange music to accompany readings or dramatizations
  • Students create and arrange short songs and instrumental pieces within specified guidelines (e.g., a particular style, form, instrumentation, or compositional technique)
  • Students use a variety of sound sources when composing

Content Standard 5

Reading and notating music

Achievement Standard 5

  • Students read whole, half, dotted half, quarter, and eighth notes and rests in 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 meter signatures
  • Students use a system (i.e., syllables, numbers, or letters) to read simple pitch notation in the treble clef in major keys
  • Students identify symbols and traditional terms referring to dynamics, tempo, and articulation and interpret them correctly when performing
  • Students use standard symbols to notate meter, rhythm, pitch, and dynamics in simple patterns presented by the teacher

Content Standard 6

Listening to, analyzing, and describing music

Achievement Standard 6

  • Students identify simple music forms when presented aurally
  • Students demonstrate perceptual skills by moving, by answering questions about, and by describing aural examples of music of various styles representing diverse cultures
  • Students use appropriate terminology in explaining music, music notation, music instruments and voices, and music performances
  • Students identify the sounds of a variety of instruments, including many orchestra and band instruments, and instruments from various cultures, as well as children’s voices and male and female adult voices
  • Students respond through purposeful movement (e.g., swaying, skipping, dramatic play) to selected prominent music characteristics or to specific music events (e.g., meter changes, dynamic changes, same/different sections) while listening to music

Content Standard 7

Evaluating music and music performances

Achievement Standard 7

  • Students devise criteria for evaluating performances and compositions
  • Students explain, using appropriate music terminology, their personal preferences for specific musical works and styles

Content Standard 8

Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts

Achievement Standard 8

  • Students identify similarities and differences in the meanings of common terms (e.g., form, line, contrast) used in the various arts
  • Students identify ways in which the principles and subject matter of other disciplines taught in the school are interrelated with those of music (e.g., foreign languages: singing songs in various languages; language arts: using the expressive elements of music in interpretive readings; mathematics: mathematical basis of values of notes, rests, and time signatures; science: vibration of strings, drum heads, or air columns generating sounds used in music; geography: songs associated with various countries or regions)

Content Standard 9

Understanding music in relation to history and culture

Achievement Standard 9

  • Students identify by genre or style aural examples of music from various historical periods and cultures
  • Students describe in simple terms how elements of music are used in music examples from various cultures of the world
  • Students identify various uses of music in their daily experiences and describe characteristics that make certain music suitable for each use
  • Students identify and describe roles of musicians (e.g., orchestra conductor, folksinger, church organist) in various music settings and cultures
  • Students demonstrate audience behavior appropriate for the context and style of music performed

For a summary of the 1994 K–12 standards in dance, music, theater, and visual arts, see The Kennedy Center’s easy to navigate overview.

1994 National Music Standards for early childhood education (NAfME, 1994).

Pre-K Standards for Music Educators


The National Music Education Pre-K Standards are intended for ages two to four. However, guidelines are given below for infant and toddler music experiences. These guidelines include:

  1. Singing and chanting to them, using songs and rhymes representing a variety of meters and tonalities
  2. Imitating the sounds infants make
  3. Exposing them to a wide variety of vocal, body, instrumental, and environmental sounds
  4. Providing exposure to selected live and recorded music
  5. Rocking, patting, touching, and moving with children to the beat, rhythm patterns, and melodic direction of the music they hear
  6. Providing safe toys that make musical sounds the children can control
  7. Talking about music and its relationship to expression and feeling

Toddlers (Two- to three- year olds)

By age four, children should be prepared to learn music at the kindergarten level when they enter school. Guidelines for musical experiences for two-, three-, and four-year-olds are:

  1. Two-, three-, and four-year-olds need an environment that includes a variety of sound sources, selected recorded music, and opportunities for free improvised singing and the building of a repertoire of songs
  2. An exploratory approach, using a wide variety of appropriate materials, provides a rich base from which conceptual understanding can evolve in later years
  3. A variety of individual musical experiences is important at this age, with little emphasis on activities that require children to perform together as a unit

Pre-school (Four-year-olds)

  1. Content Standard: Singing and Playing Instruments

    a. Use their voices expressively as they speak, chant, and sing

    b. Sing a variety of simple songs in various keys, meters, and genres alone and with a group, becoming increasingly accurate in rhythm and pitch

    c. Experiment with a variety of instruments and other sound sources

    d. Play simple melodies and accompaniments on instruments

  2. Content Standard: Creating Music Achievement Standards:

    a. Improvise songs to accompany their play activities

    b. Improvise instrumental accompaniments to songs, recorded selections, stories, and poems

    c. Create short pieces of music, using voices, instruments, and other sound sources

    d. Invent and use original graphic or symbolic systems to represent vocal and instrumental sounds and musical ideas

  3. Content Standard: Responding to Music Achievement Standards:

    a. Identify the sources of a wide variety of sounds

    b. Respond through movement to music of various tempos, meters, dynamics, modes, genres, and styles to express what they hear and feel in works of music

    c. Participate freely in music activities

  4. Content Standard: Understanding Music Achievement Standards:

    a. Use their own vocabulary and standard music vocabulary to describe voices, instruments, music notation, and music of various genres, styles, and periods from diverse cultures

    b. Sing, play instruments, move, or verbalize to demonstrate awareness of the elements of music and changes in their usage

    c. Demonstrate an awareness of music as a part of daily life

Complete National Arts Standards are available on the National Association for Music Educators website, as well as a comparison between the 1994 standards and the most recent revision.

State Policy in Education Database

Because information on state policy in education changes continuously, the Arts Education Partnership has made available a searchable state policy database. This site allows you to track any changes regarding teaching and learning in the arts.

Professional and Standards Organizations

II. Personal Assessment

As you begin to develop the professional goals for yourself and your career, it is crucial to be able to assess these goals in relation to who you are, the people you work with, and the students you teach. Knowing who you are and being able to assess your abilities, strengths, and weaknesses is critical to your success in any field. As you learn to master the core material for your career, you might also be ready to find your moorings in terms of your professional self. This will require the maturity to self-assess and thoughtfully apply criticism towards self-enhancement and development as a professional in your field. Below are some materials to help you create a vision of your “professional” self that will serve you throughout your career and lifetime.

What Is a Professional?

Right now, you are a “professional student,” so as you read the material below, apply the criteria to your behavior and professional as a student.

  • Are you the best student you can be?
  • Do you approach your assignments and classes in earnest and with a commitment towards learning?
  • Are you able to apply the material you’re learning towards your development as a person?
  • Are you developing excellent work habits?

Below, you’ll find a definition of what a professional is, as well as a chart explaining the top 10 dimensions of what it means to be professional, and a professional assessment rubric to determine where you fall on the spectrum of “professionalism.”

Professionals follow through on each commitment and organizational role in a way that exceeds the expectations of others. Professionals are positive, action oriented, opened minded, poised, adaptable, respectful, self-regulated, empathic, organized, prepared, and collaborative. Professionals perform effectively in teams and communicate effectively to individuals and groups through various means. They have special expertise and contribute to a range of challenging disciplinary areas. Life-long learning and self-growth are valued, practiced, and mentored in others. They take care with appearance, language, and productive behaviors to create an image of success. Professionals encourage and support environments that produce trust by demonstrating integrity through ethical and inclusive decision-making.

Dimensions of a Professional

Professionals Are:


Professionals take full responsibility before, during, and after each effort or decision; share credit for positive results with others; and readily accept consequences when things don’t go as expected.


Professionals can be counted on doing what they say within the allocated time and committed resources; they are ready to help others when needed.


Professionals set criteria for each performance; make key observations; reflect and analyze on these observations, behaviors, and actions; and consistently make improvements without being prompted by others.


Professionals understand the implications of their behaviors and actions on others and adapt appropriately for each changing situation.


Professionals are energetic, passionate, and invested in living their daily values.


Professionals achieve success by taking risks that others may consider to be unpopular, and are willing to deal with temporary failure and resistance so long as it is in the best interest of the project or activity.


Professionals actively advance disciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledge with every learning opportunity to remain current on relevant innovations, methodologies, and practices in their own and related areas of expertise.


Professionals effectively express informally and formally through a range of modes and refined interpersonal skills their expertise, expectations, and means to both large groups and individuals.


Professionals place a high and consistent focus on aligning decisions and actions with quality individual, disciplinary, and organizational values.


Professionals represent themselves in a manner that is above reproach at all times in their appropriate dress, language, and behaviors.

Taking Stock: A Professional Self-Assessment Rubric

Even though you may not have officially begun your “professional” career, you are, in a sense, practicing the behaviors that you will perform in your jobs right now. How you organize your time, how you present yourself, and most importantly the type of attitudes you have towards your responsibilities as students, are all harbingers of how you will comport yourself in your future career.

Although you may still be a student, you can begin to develop the personal goals that you will need to succeed. Being honest with yourself is the best policy when assessing. As you read through the section below, try to imagine your behaviors in different circumstances (e.g., behavior as a student alone or in a group, or as a colleague or worker) to see where you are excelling or where you need to apply yourself. Remember, self-assessment is only for your benefit to develop and grow as a person, and is not punitive.

Take a moment to read the rubric below and see where you fit in. Now is the time to grow and develop, so keep in mind where you are, where you want to be, and how you might get there.

Professional Self-Assessment Rubric.

A. Polished Professionals

  • Take full public responsibility of all actions and decisions and follow through in everything on time and above expectations.
  • Use every performance to produce opportunities for increasing future performances, thus seeing what must be accomplished in every new situation.
  • Are very passionate in all that they do and step out in front to do what must be done to accomplish every task with quality.
  • Have extensive interdisciplinary expertise and can help others understand and make connections through formal and informal communications.
  • Constantly make the “right” difficult decisions and represent themselves and their organizations as the leaders they are.

B. Professionals

  • Tackle tough assignments with full responsibility and bring in results that meet the expectations of the immediate stakeholders.
  • Frequently use self-assessment as a means to improve future performance and to increase their effectiveness with those around them.
  • Have aligned their careers with their values.
  • Take risks in their domain that others fear making.
  • Have extensive disciplinary knowledge and some interdisciplinary understanding.
  • Communicate effectively within their discipline.
  • Can be trusted to do what is right in almost all situations and consistently represent themselves and their organization in a positive way.

C. Inconsistent Professionals

  • Will accept responsibility on those things they choose and decisions they owned and will meet common expectations consistently.
  • Self-assess on their very important efforts and know what to do during the routine enterprises, but struggle in new situations.
  • Do extremely well in what they enjoy doing and take risks in areas, but do not seem to like taking risks themselves.
  • Have pockets of strong expertise and can communicate in areas of their expertise when focused.
  • Consistently do what is right in common situations and know how to behave and dress in normal situations.

D. Pre-Professionals

  • Are willing to take responsibilities with moderate consequences and will do their best to please the key stakeholder.
  • Will try to assess themselves when requested and take in things that others point out as important in their surroundings.
  • Occasionally find things that excite and motivate them and will take risks when others in power support them.
  • Will work to become knowledgeable in areas of their current job responsibility and put efforts in trying to communicate effectively.

E. Unprofessional


  • Constantly shift responsibility to others and often find extensive justification for why they couldn’t deliver what’s been asked for.
  • On rare occasions see the need for reflection and are often overwhelmed by the current changing context.
  • Need to be prompted with monitoring on a daily basis and take risks that are small and calculated.
  • Have a small set of trained knowledge and constantly need to have things explained again and their communications verified.
  • Are constantly challenged to do what is right and not convenient and come across as questionable in behaviors and dress.

Activity 3a: try this

Go through the Professional Assessment Rubric in a group. Discuss what types of behaviors fall under each of the five categories. What does an unprofessional person do? A Pre-Professional person? An Inconsistent Professional? Give specific examples.

Now assess yourself as a “student.” Go through the Professional Assessment Rubric, and honestly appraise yourself in terms of how you behave currently as a student in your classes. Where do you fit in? Do you see yourself near the top of the list or towards the bottom? What behaviors do you engage in? What skills and attitudes do you need to work on?



National Association for Music Educators. (1994). National Standards for Arts Education: What Every Young American Should Know and Be Able to Do in the Arts. Content and achievement standards for dance, music, theatre, and visual arts; grades K-12. Reston, VA: Music Educators National Conference.

National Coalition for Core Arts Standards. (2014). Conceptual framework: National Core Arts Standards: A conceptual framework for arts learning. Retrieved from