November 7, 2008

Teachers On Teaching: Professional Practice and Authentic Assessment

The November “Teachers on Teaching” session is on professional practice and authentic assessment. Facilitated by Drs. Vincent Kantorski and Sandra Stegman from the College of Musical Arts, this session aims to provide instructors with practical assessments centered on authentic, professional skills and tasks. For more information, we asked Vincent and Sandra a few questions about their upcoming session:

Q: What exactly is “professional practice”?
A: Professional practices are tasks, activities, reasoning, etc. that are reflective of how real-world practitioners work within their field. Teachers can then assess those authentic activities to determine how well prepared students would be to do similar activities as novice professionals.

For example, in Dr. Stegman’s Choral Methods course, students analyze a piece of music that they then introduce and rehearse in class. The rehearsal is video-taped for self-assessment in addition to the verbal and written feedback that she provides. Students prepare vocal warm-up cards that they use in actual practice with their field site students. Feedback is offered from their cooperating teacher.

In another example, Dr. Kantorski has students in a music education class write a letter to a newspaper editor urging readers to vote against a hypothetical levy that, if passed, would result in drastic cuts to the school district’s music program. Students are required to provide rationales, based upon research and the benefits they derived as music students in the school district, for each point of their argument.

Q: Why is PP&AA helpful/important for faculty and/or their students?
A: Professional practice and authentic assessment provide relevancy to course information, assignments, etc. They connect students to the real world of work and life outside the classroom. They can be helpful and important to students because they actually practice, rather than simply discuss or read about, activities they will be expected to do as professionals. This process can be especially valuable to students because they receive their teachers’ feedback and suggestions for improvement and self-evaluation.

Q: Is PP&AA something instructors can implement right away or is there a fairly steep learning curve?
A: It can be introduced in small doses immediately; however, ideas for how to do so are not always quick to arise. That is the benefit of sharing methods and strategies with colleagues from same and different disciplines, as will be the case at the November 12 session.

This discussion session, “Let’s Get Real: Authentic Practice and Assessment,” will be held on Wednesday, November 12 from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. in 201 University Hall. For the full description or to register, visit or call 372-6898.

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