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September, 2001
Just For Teachers

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Rubrics in the Studio?

by Rose Eide-Altman

Do your students and parents know what you expect in their lesson pieces?
Which evaluation tools are your students familiar with at school and have you ever thought of adapting them to your studio?

After returning to private studio teaching, from teaching public school music, I thought of utilizing some of the classroom assessment tools in my piano studio to ensure accurate communication, particularly of my expectations. Rubrics were popular in the local school district so students were familiar with them and I didn't have to spend a large amount of time explaining them. Their strength lies in that they provide a form of instant self-evaluation for the student, which in this case can be used in their daily practise as well as in the lesson.

Below is the rubric that I developed for my studio. In a rubric the rating is usually numerical, with a number 1 (at the bottom) being "needs improvement", a 2 = "improving", a 3 = "satisfactory" and a 4 = "excellent". On my rubric I have added a 5th level which is the same as level 4 except that 5 includes memory. This rubric covers the basics for beginners, but you may want to emphasize other aspects of greater detail and refinement for more advancing students. The main point is to choose a few specific, observable items that the student and parents understand. A drawback of rubrics is that at a glance they appear "wordy" or "busy". I combine it with an illustrated bar graph that has 5 bars on the page, (one bar each for pitch, rhythm, dynamics, tempo and body) and the numbers across the top of each bar: number 1 (needs improvement) on the left to number 4 on the right.

After introducing the rubric and bar graph at the beginning of the year I refer to them occasionally, not with every piece that they play in their lesson, the idea being that they are to be a guide, not a club. The key to effective crossover evaluation from school to piano studio is to use an assessment tool that students are comfortable with so that they apply the same critical judgment teachers expect of them in their school work to their piano practice.

--------Piano Performance Rubric------------

How Am I Doing?

As you practice your music for your next lesson
check your progress with this piano performance rubric:
Which number, 1 through 5, are you playing your piece at?

5
Mind
- music was played by memory
Body - thumb over keys; wrist and shoulders relaxed; correct fingering
Tempo - proper tempo with phrasing breaths and ritards included
Dynamics - observed all markings with smoothness and great contrast
Rhythm - all rhythms played correctly
Pitch - all notes played correctly

4
Body
- thumb over keys; wrist and shoulders relaxed; eyes on music; correct fingering
Tempo - proper tempo with phrasing breaths and ritards included
Dynamics - observed all markings with smoothness and great contrast
Rhythm - all rhythms played correctly
Pitch - all notes played correctly

3
Body
- thumb over keys most of the time; wrist and shoulders sometimes relaxed; eyes usually on music; correct (consistent) fingering some of the time
Tempo - steady tempo, but lacking phrasing breaths and ritards
Dynamics - usually made proper dynamic changes but needs more contrast
Rhythm - most of the rhythms were played correctly
Pitch - most of the notes were played correctly

2
Body
- thumb over keys some of the time; eyes looked at fingers often; tense shoulders
Tempo - there were a few stops or hesitations
Dynamics - music began with the proper loudness, but did not change
Rhythm - sometimes the rhythms were correct
Pitch - more right notes than wrong notes were played

1
Body
- thumb drooping off keyboard, eyes looking up and down between music and fingers
Tempo - music would stop and start, or speed up then slow down
Dynamics - forgot about dynamics
Rhythm - quarter notes, half notes and 8th notes all sounded the same
Pitch - more wrong notes than right notes were played

Developed by Rose Eide-Altman
Copyright 2001 PianoWomen.com
Permission to reprint as long as author and source are included
Page last updated 08/30/01
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