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Patrick A Collins

Music Educator | Web Developer

Patrick Collins

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Artifacts of Self-Assessment


During co-planning, we discuss how to self-assess.

At the start of their project, our co-planning sessions are generally an even balance of speaking time between me and the student. As the students start to make significant progress on their projects, they begin to take a more active role in the co-planning sessions. The students generally provide me with a summary of what they have learned, what they have worked on, and what they plan on doing next. During these updates, I probe them about the process they are taking towards completing their project. The goal is that they will gain a model for how to better self-assess their own learning and creative processes. Below are a couple of common question sequences that I use with them in addition to more personalized question sets:

  1. What were you trying to research? What search terms did you use? Did you find what you were looking for? Why or why not? How might you be able to refine your search in future?
  2. How is your project going so far? What are you struggling with at the moment? What have you tried to solve the problem? Did it work? Why or why not?

Blog Posts

Blogs provide the major outlet for self-assessment.

Each of my upper-level students maintains a personal blog throughout the school year. While this blog serves as an archive or portfolio of the students’ projects throughout the year, it also serves a more vital role as a way for the students to self-assess those projects and the process they have taken learning and creating those projects. In preparing students for these blog posts, they know that they are an opportunity for them to probe themselves like I would I our co-planning sessions. We discuss that being thorough with you assessments now will actually make them better learners in the future as they talk though what did and didn’t work for them. Students complete these reflection blog posts every two weeks so that they have a lot of content to write about and reflect on. Additionally, students complete a post at the end of each project for which they go back and read their old posts and provide a synopsis of their project, their learning, and what they have noticed in their self-assessments.

Project Presentation

Presentations force them to self-assess in the moment.

At the completion of each project, students will create and present a summary of their project to the class. Similar to the final blog post of the semester, their presentation includes a summary of what they have learned, how they applied it to their project, what they know now that they wished they would have known at the start, and the presentation of their final product. At the conclusion of this presentation, the student serves as the expert on what they created and learned and has to facilitate a short question and answer period from the class. During this time, their peers can ask specifics about the tools or resources they used, about their process, about the final product, or simply give them praise on a job well done. This helps develop the student’s public speaking skills in addition to their ability to self-assess and reflect on the spot in front of peers.

Artifacts of Learner Demonstration

A list of options with links to resources on presentation formats.

To introduce my first-year students to personalized learning, one of my favorite assignments is a presentation on their favorite album or artist. For this project, the only requirement for the format is that they have to design some kind of presentation that they can share with the class. In the instructions, there is a list of different formats and tools to create those kinds of presentations, but there is also a line stating that if they have another idea for the format they are more than welcome to come talk with me about it. Below is three different formats of this project: Live Tweet, Slideshow, and a Video.


A tweet from a live tweet thread on Justin Beiber.


A slide from a slideshow on Chance the Rapper.


A frame from a video on Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Since each of these formats allows for the student to 1) select and share specific pieces of music, 2) discuss the creator’s intent for that piece of music, 3) evaluate and discuss the qualities of that piece of music, and 4) explain why the piece of music is important or meaningful to them, each of the students is able to meet the content standards of the project, which are listed below.

HSMTC1.RE.1 - Choose appropriate music for a specific purpose or situation.

HSMTC1.RE.3 - Support interpretations of musical works (e.g. arrangement, composition, improvisation, mixed-media project, orchestration, sound design) that reflect the expressive intent of creators/performers.

HSMTC1.RE.4 - Support evaluations of musical works (e.g. arrangement, composition, improvisation, mixed-media project, orchestration, sound design) and performances based on analysis, interpretation, and established criteria. a. Apply criteria to evaluate music based on analysis, interpretation, artistic intent, digital, electronic, and analog features, and musical qualities.

HSMTC1.CN.2 - Relate musical ideas to varied contexts and daily life to deepen understanding. Artifacts of Learner Demonstration

Artifacts of Assessment

Interactive Tools

MusicTheory.Net's Keyboard Note Identification Tool is customizable to each student's experience level.

Music technology is an interesting class in that there is a lot of prerequisite knowledge and skills necessary to be successful. Fortunately, many of these initial skills (such as note names) are things that can be developed overtime through repetition and scaling difficulty-level. Some of the tools that I utilize as diagnostic and formative assessments are MusicTheory.Net’s Keyboard Note Identification Tool, which allows the students to practice identifying notes on the piano, and a tuning trainer that I built myself, which allows the students to start developing their ear for tuning. Since both of these tools have ways to scale difficulty, they become great for getting new students start, but also pushing more experienced to get even better. For example, the keyboard note identification tool can be adjusted so that students totally new to reading a piano can limit themselves to one or two notes to start, but students that have been playing piano for a while can practice their speed or more uncommon note names (such as B# or Cb).

Adaptive Quizzes

A sample question from a quiz - the answer is followed by the feedback based on that answer.

At various checkpoints throughout each unit, the students take a quiz. These quizzes, which are generally ten multiple-choice questions, are a quick way for the students to check their own understanding and to give me an idea of how well students are mastering the content. When the students submit their quiz, the immediately receive their grade and shown what they missed. In addition to seeing what they missed, the students are also provided with links to review resources. Once they are finished self-remediating, the students can retake the questions that they missed until the demonstrate mastery.

Project-Based Learning

Assignment details for a Halloween/Scary soundscape created during October.

To keep the class authentic, all major assessments are completed through projects. In the beginning classes, the students explore all of the different facets of music technology by composing an original song, producing a podcast, creating their own sound design and film score for a movie clip. In the intermediate classes, the students have the opportunity to record and produce school music concerts, compose music with household sounds, produce an audiobook for children, and compose music for contests. In the advanced classes, the students develop their own capstone projects where they focus on something that is applicable to their interests or future career aspirations. When the students submit their projects, they are graded on a rubric and given specific feedback. Students are allowed to make changes and resubmit until they demonstrate mastery.


Kingsbury, G. G., Freeman, E. H., & Nesterak, M. (2014, March). The Potential of Adaptive Assessment. Educational Leadership: Using Assessments Thoughtfully, 71(6).

Mueller, J. (2018, July 1). Authentic Assessment Toolbox.

Office of Educational Technology. (n.d.) Assessment. Department of Education.

Wiggins, G. (1990). The case for authentic assessment. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 2(2).

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Patrick is a music educator, techie, and a giant Disney lover. He is located in North Georgia.