Arts Assessment Item Development as Professional Development: Stories from Michigan


Stuart Chapman Hill, Webster University

Ryan D. Shaw, Capital University

Cynthia Crump Taggart, Michigan State University


SMTE, through its Professional Development for the Experienced Teacher ASPA, has recognized a need for continued professional growth and development across the life span of a teacher. Yet, a decade ago, Bauer (2007) acknowledged that, despite plenty of scholarship investigating professional development in general education, research of professional development for music teachers remained scant. What research did exist focused mostly on beginning teachers, whereas “few researchers [had] looked at the professional development of the experienced (beyond the first year) music educator” (p. 12). In the years since, as Conway (2011) outlined, professional development for experienced music teachers has enjoyed increased scholarly interest, with dedicated articles in, and special focus issues of, Arts Education Policy Review (AEPR) and the Journal of Music Teacher Education (JMTE). In the most recent special focus issue of AEPR, Schmidt and Robbins (2011) advocated a “strategic architecture” of professional development for music educators focused on “(a) teachers’ leadership roles, (b) teacher communities and networks, and (c) partnerships that support teacher-generated knowledge” (p. 97). Practices within such an architecture might include collaborative teacher study groups (Stanley, 2011) or engaging teachers in action research (West, 2011).


This session examines the professional development outcomes that resulted from teachers’ participation in the Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment (MAEIA) project, which, since 2013, has brought together arts educators to draft an aspirational blueprint of a “gold standard” school arts education program, a program review tool for assessing progress toward this standard, and a suite of performance-oriented assessment items. Many design features of this project resonate with the principles of teacher leadership, professional community, and teacher knowledge discussed by Schmidt and Robbins (2011). The purpose of this research, then, was to understand whether, and how, the process of developing assessment items for the MAEIA project contributed to music teachers’ professional development. The authors, who participated in the music item development team, recruited six practicing K–12 music teachers, also members of the item development team, to serve as participants for this study. The participants varied in terms of grade level focus (elementary, middle, high) and content focus (elementary general, secondary band, choir, and orchestra). The authors conducted semi-structured interviews with each participant, then transcribed the interviews and conducted coding and analysis collaboratively.


Three major themes related to professional development emerged from the analysis. First, the experience prompted participants to look “inward” and evaluate and reinvigorate their own local teaching experiences. In addition, participants looked “outward” and thought more broadly about how their own pedagogical practices fit within the larger endeavor of music education. Lastly, these participants reflected on a variety of “nuts and bolts” of the MAEIA process that caused it to be either more or less successful both as an assessment-writing project and as a professional development experience. The findings suggest that such collaborative, project-based endeavors may be promising sites for experienced teachers’ professional development, yielding important implications for music teachers and administrators seeking to design professional development activities for music teachers in the “second stage” (Eros, 2011).




Bauer, W. I. (2007). Research on professional development for experienced music teachers. Journal of Music Teacher Education, 17(1), 12–21. doi:10.1177/10570837070170010105

Conway, C. (2011). Professional development of experienced music teachers: Special focus issue. Arts Education Policy Review, 112, 55–59. doi:10.1080/10632913.2011.545751

Eros, J. (2011). The career cycle and the second stage of teaching: Implications for policy and professional development. Arts Education Policy Review, 112, 65–70. doi:10.1080/10632913.2011.546683

Schmidt, P., & Robbins, J. (2011). Looking backwards to reach forward: A strategic architecture for professional development in music education. Arts Education Policy Review, 112, 95–103. doi:10.1080/10632913.2011.546702

Stanley, A. M. (2011). Professional development within collaborative teacher study groups: Pitfalls and promises. Arts Education Policy Review, 112, 71–78. doi:10.1080/10632913.2011.546692

West, C. (2011). Action research as a professional development activity. Arts Education Policy Review, 112, 89–94. doi:10.1080/10632913.2011.546697