Should We Be Grading Our Students At Young Ages?

This was a question that I came away asking myself after the first ever Music Education Twitter Chat which took place recently on March 2nd, 2010 involving approximately thirty music educators worldwide. It was a very busy hour with interesting tweets coming from all directions and loads of different opinions, resources and articles to check out.

Throughout the talk we discussed what effective methods of assessments were currently being used and are available to a performance based class or teaching situations. There were many different ways of tracking student’s progress highlighted and loads of resource options to use throughout the talk which are definitely interesting to use and look at.

Grading certainly has it’s place with older students, however I have strong feelings when it comes to young students. I feel that grading a young child with anything lower than an A can harm much more than it helps.

I believe that it doesn’t really matter how good our students at younger ages are at the subject, it’s the enthusiasm and motivation the student has for it that counts most.

If a student is enthusiastic, progressing and is having fun then this should deserve an “A” and as specialized music teachers, we should be able to provide the interest, variety and fun to the lesson so that every student can succeed at a high level in their own way.

I would love to have a discussion of your thoughts on this issue. I know everyone has different teaching requirements within their school settings and studios and I would love to hear your ideas and stories. Just leave a comment in the feedback box below.

Click here to get a full written transcript of the talk.

Some useful resources and comments:

Smart Music is worth every penny – I make my college students use in techniques classes”-MiamiFlute

Just got a Promethean Board. Using the ActivExpressions for “instant” assessments has been [email protected]

“I once set up a BLOG and had all of my students list 3 pros and 3 cons in the comments of what/how they were learning.”[email protected]

“I’ve had good success with Hyperscore. Kids seem much happier with their songs”- @Guitarguy73

There’s an interesting TED talk by Tod Machover and Dan Ellsey which I found on the Hyperscore website about about making music accessible to everyone and what various programs and interfaces do.


  • By Brooke Reply

    I was really intrigued by this article. As a university student pursuing a degree in Music Ed. I have not had opportunity to deal with this first hand but we have recently been discussing the helpfulness and effectiveness of grading in one of my classes. I agree with the fact that giving a young student a low grade could be more harmful than helpful. Music is such a unique and powerful way for children to express themselves that penalizing them for learning at a different pace or in a different way than other students seems harsh. As long as young students are willing to learn and seem truly interested, I feel that grading is simply a waste of time and effort. Of course assessment is important to gauge their progress but grades do not seem that helpful to me.

  • By Chris Reply

    In terms of skill development, I think that having objective standards has its place, even with young students. When I had an advanced recorder group of 4th and 5th graders,for example, I required that they be able to play a particular piece from beginning to end without stops before they could be in the group. They didn’t take it personally if they weren’t ready–they practiced.

    But people (students and their parents) tend to see their musical abilities as a function of “talent”–which they also consider a fixed thing. This is probably especially true of singing. Receiving a low grade could be experienced as defining–and deeply discouraging–for anyone, at any level. I avoid it as a method of assessment.

  • By Chelci Reply

    I am also a university student and we have been looking into the topic of grading in music during our applied music seminar class. My question is, if you have a student that is truly dedicated and works very hard to improve on their instrument, how is it fair for them to receive the same grade as someone who doesn’t work hard and only picks up their instrument during class or lessons? I feel that there should be grades but they should be a little subjective due to the student you are working with. I think a student should be graded based on their progress and effort. I think the student that practices outside of class and works very hard to improve has earned the A, but the one that only picks up their instrument in class does not deserve the same grade because they are not putting in the same amount of effort and more often than not will not be making the same amount of progress due to lack of effort. Also, are we really doing these students a favor by passing them on with A’s if they are really struggling? Would it be more crushing for them to find out they aren’t cut out, either on their instrument or for music in general, earlier or later? My opinion is that we should give the student who shows no effort a lower grade. Sometimes that is enough motivation to get them to practice, or realize that they don’t actually want to be involved in music. I don’t think we are helping students by giving them grades that don’t reflect the effort and progress they have actually made.

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