Creating and Implementing a SLO

Student Learning Objectives in the Music Classroom: Tips for implementing SLO's in your music room!

I know it's been a while since I wrote, but I've been busy preparing for the school year! I will be posting pics of my music room soon, but besides preparing my music room and music lessons, I also just finished taking a class about student learning objectives, or SLO's. 

For those of you not in the state of Ohio, legislation was recently passed in which teacher evaluations will be based 50% on observation and 50% on the results of two SLO's. Student learning objectives are plans each teacher writes for a specific concept, estimating adequate yearly growth for each student. We give a pre-test, teach for several months, then give a post-test and compare the data. The geeky part of me is excited to have data to back up what I do in the music room, but I am also nervous the data won't support what I think is going on! It will be an interesting experience for sure!

Fortunately, my district hired a consultant just to give professional development about SLO's. I realize how lucky I am to have taken the class, so here are some insights:

  • Be conservative: This was repeated to us a few times throughout the course. Although you may know that your students can achieve amazing things, since this is the first year, and you might not have baseline/ trend data to support your estimates, don't overestimate what your students can do. You can always raise the bar later!
  • Be specific: This really depends on your district, but in my district, they want us to just focus on one indicator/ concept, which I think is great. This makes it so much easier to assess and focus on. For example, instead of focusing on reading rhythm, reading melody, and singing, just focus on reading rhythm. Check with your district, though, because some districts are wanting their teachers to be more comprehensive.
  • Choose a concept new to your students: To really show the greatest amount of growth, choose a concept your students have not learned before. We are lucky as music teachers, because it is more common for students in our class to have no previous knowledge of a concept than in the grade-level classroom, as a student may have been taught multiplication by their parents! I'll give you an example. Last year, I took some baseline/ trend data to prepare for this year. I was teaching my students lines on the treble clef staff (you can read more about how I did this here: http://aileensmusicroom.com/2013/04/a-new-way-of-teaching-notes-on-treble.html.) After I taught the students the letters in the musical alphabet (and before I showed them any note letters on the staff or taught any silly sentences) I had them complete a pre-test for the lines of the treble clef staff. This seems odd, because of course they weren't going to do all that well–but that's okay, because it will show how much the students learned from the beginning to the end! (I told the students some of them might know what to do because of piano lessons, but if they handed me a blank sheet because they had no idea, that was okay!) The pre-test was a mad minute, in which students had to label as many line notes as possible in sixty seconds, and 70 out of the 88 students answered only 5 or less because it was brand new to them; no students answered over 22 (out of 46) correctly. After a few months of practicing lines, I gave the post-test, which was the same mad minute, and this time, only three students out of 88 answered 5 or less, and 39 students answered over 22 correctly. This was a great amount of growth, but much of it was because unless they had piano lessons, they had never learned about labeling notes on the treble clef before they learned it in my class.
  • Collaborate!: This is the easiest way to write your SLO. I was lucky enough to have another music colleague in the class with me, which helped tremendously!
  • Choose three plans to begin with: This was my colleague Emily's idea. Throughout the course, we were actually able to write five SLO's, and she decided she would choose three to begin with, take the pre-test data, and then decide from the data which one she would eliminate. Since many of us don't have baseline/ trend data from previous years, we don't know how exactly our pre-test data will stack up, so I plan on choosing three as well.

Emily and I wrote five SLO's, for the following: recorder sound production, rhythmic audition of ta and ti-ti (which can be adapted for later grades and concepts), melodic audition of “do” (which can be used for later grades and concepts), lines for the treble clef staff, and identifying echo and call/response songs. I think I'm going to take pre-test data for recorder sound production, rhythmic audition, and lines for the treble clef staff. For which topic are you planning on writing your SLO about? What other questions do you still have?

Looking for more ways to track data in your classroom? Check out this set!

Have any advice for implementing SLO's? Feel free to comment below, and good luck!

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