1. What assessments for musical growth can be found in the
MI literature was
examined for content inclusive of comments about both musical
intelligence and music assessment (of any kind). The majority was
intended to provide practical ideas for implementing MI theory in
the elementary classroom. The intended audience was elementary
2. What are MI parents', students', and teachers'
perceptions of musical growth?
The question required an
examination of the music activities and assessments, if
any, at Evergreen School. Fifty-four parents or sets of parents
information about their perceptions of musical intelligence and
learning on a researcher developed questionnaire. Teachers and
the school principal provided artifacts such as lesson plans,
tape recordings and word sheets to songs for researcher
analysis. Each teacher allowed several observations of music
activities and other learning tasks and participated in three or
four interviews. Their classrooms became the social settings in
question and their responses to interview questions formed the
basis for focusing the data.
Students participated in
music activities during class observations. In addition, fifteen
students were individually interviewed and asked about their
music activities and their thoughts on music learning. Their
responses and behaviors became the basis for analysis of student
perceptions at Evergreen School.
Targeted areas of inquiry were: 1)perceptions of musical
intelligence as a
construct, 2)musical growth and 3)assessment of musical growth.
Students, teachers and parents contributed conflicting
information, at times. The researcher compared information
provided by the participants with observed behaviors and
artifacts. These comparisons formed the basis for interpreting
3. How are the
assessments provided by the representative models in MI
literature demonstrated in an existing Central Florida MI
question called for a comparison of the music assessments in the
MI literature and the participants' perceptions about the
role of musical intelligence in the curricula. Perceptions about
MI theory, music integration, musical growth, assessment of
musical growth and the school's political climate were all
important areas of study and findings. Since formal assessment
practices did not exist, perceptions were examined for insight
into the value teachers hold for music activities and experiences.
in an existing Central Florida MI school were compared to the
representative model MI schools in educational literature across
several factors. Those factors include: amount of time spent on
music activities, use of assessment rubrics or other instruments,
types of activities, selected, (i.e. instrumental improvisation,
listening to music recordings); and teacher experience and
training. Further investigation into teachers' experience
with MI training; teachers and parents understanding of MI; and
students' teachers' and parents' perceptions of
musical intelligence was used to complete the portrait of music
learning in an MI school.
Qualitative Methodology in MI Research
At the outset of this
research in 1996, assessment of musical growth in MI schools was
sought as an answer to the question of what evidence Central
Florida's MI schools could provide of musical growth.
Teachers were unaware of National Standards or
Sunshine State Standards in the area of music. The standards
quite new and had not become compulsory in education at that
time. Comparison of music activities with the achievement levels
described in the standards proved inappropriate, since
participating teachers had no knowledge of the standards.
At Trailblazer School,
teachers revealed insights about their learning theories
their perceptions of music's role in education. This
of the study allowed participants to raise and discuss
about Gardner's theory, the importance of music, the
of the parents on the curriculum and the students'
perspectives. The teachers' insights and the two-way
nature of the contact with participants yielded data that
illuminated the essence of the role of music, than the more
quantifiable checklist used in the first phase of the
field-focused research into education, teachers'
narratives, including their beliefs and their theories,
the questions that researchers investigate in order to
the setting" (Letoruneau-Fallon, 1996; Liess and Ritchie,
The inclusion of
perceptions of research participants has been established
useful information in qualitative methodology. The
importance of music integration was investigated by Waibel
in a study of elementary curriculum targeting
perceptions. "The research on teacher thinking
agrees that teachers' personal theories and beliefs
as the basis for classroom practice and curriculum decision
making, yet the nature of this relationship is not well
understood" (Ross, Cornett and McCutcheon, 1992).
understanding obtained from the perceptions and insights of
teachers, students and parents helps clarify the relational
aspects of the school as a culture. The role of musical
intelligence is described here through an examination of
relationships between all of the influencing factors in the
curriculum. Those factors include the people, their
and the setting in which the learning occurs.
authored studies on MI implementation in elementary schools
been established as accepted research in MI literature,
growth is not addressed in any of the case studies or
from the field. This study provided a missing perspectives
music learning in a Central Florida MI school by including
qualitative methodology, case study data collection and
descriptive, comparative analysis.
Research Question One: MI Literature
assessment is a
key component of MI (Gardner, 1993), a review of existing
literature suggested confusion over the assessment of
intelligence. In the theory of Multiple Intelligences,
Gardner's view differed from earlier theories about
intelligence, because his theory included the idea that
intelligences can be developed through schooling (Gardner,
1983). Therefore, musical intelligence is more than an
ability, and would logically require some evaluation or
measurement of progress for purposes of quality and
Very few studies
focusing on music activities and their corresponding
were evident in MI literature, yet suggestions of music
activities often appeared in accounts of and articles about
learning. Gardner did not advocate assessing every lesson
intelligence without regard to context or content.
intelligences must be seen at work when individuals are
out productive activities that are valued in a
(1995b p. 207).
assessment generally focused on assessing students'
utilization of music to master non-musical content (e.g.
Bellanca, Chapman and Swartz, 1994; and Campbell et al.,
Gardner participated in Project Spectrum, a research study
designed to determine whether young children have distinct
profiles of ability that included assessments in music
(Hatch and Gardner, 1996). The testing did not attempt to
measure growth, but was used to examine the influence of
in reasoning process. One other assessment model, The
Inventory of Multiple Intelligences was used to demonstrate
abilities in dominant intelligences, but not to determine
growth (Teele, 1996).
One portion of the
literature included works by music educators or advocates
quality music and arts programs, and featured repeated
about the surface applications of music activities, the
of musical learning in integrated and arts-infused
misconceptions about the assessment of musical growth. The
placement of these articles in journals such as Teaching
Music and Music Educators Journal points to
educators as the intended audience for these writings in
cases (Colwell and Davidson, 1996, Kassell, 1998, Hinckley,
Mallonee, 1997, Vincent and Merrion, 1990).
In the MI
available to and referenced by Evergreen faculty,
musical growth was not established as a viable goal for MI
educators who wish to help their students develop their
intelligence. Even where musical outcomes were expected,
to "accompany a recorded song with an
(Campbell, et. al., 1999), no measurement or evaluation of
ability or the improvement of that ability is included.
Assessments of musical growth, which help to determine the
progress of a student's ability to read, perform,
analyze music were not found in the MI literature from 1983
Two: Music Activities
teachers answered questions in the three targeted areas of
perceptions about music used in their children's classes
questionnaire. (See Appendix.) Teachers and students
this information in interviews and observations.
Parents guessed or
assumed that instrumental activities were a regular part of
classroom experience, when in fact such experiences rarely
occurred. While parents correctly reported that their
were singing (90%), listening to recorded music (60%), and
some cases responding to recorded music with actions or
(25%), many parents incorrectly reported that their
playing musical instruments (35%). In fact, teachers
almost no instrumental activities, with only one of the
using any kind of musical instruments more than once per
indicated great value for exposure to a variety of music
music listening as important experiences for developing
intelligence. Misconceptions about the variety of music
type of listening experiences were indicated in parent
and teacher interviews. These two groups reported that
children (students) were engaging in listening activities
that they were listening to a variety of music.
artifact analysis determined that this was not the case,
teachers and parents did not make a distinction between
background music and music listening, and that recordings
usually similar in style.
importance on the music played in the background during
called focus music. Teachers played focus music in order
"put children in the alpha state," hoping to
standardized achievement test scores. During the data
period, one teacher evaluated her students' writing
FCAT practice tests and concluded that students were
"writing better." After the actual test, the
grade students scored lower than the previous year's
grade class. The teacher attributed the drop in scores to
teachers provided additional information about the impact
FCAT tests. The school principal prioritized the test
and teachers reported changes or limitations in music
as a result of the new priority.
Students were, by
teacher accounts, extremely accurate in naming the musical
activities that had occurred during the data collection
Kindergarten and first grade interviewees did not remember
one-time music activities as well as the older children,
accurately report daily singing, their most frequent
activity. Older children accurately reported focus
music every day and singing occasionally. Students did not
remember titles of songs sung occasionally or seasonally,
although they provided much information about the academic
content from the songs. All but one child reported great
enjoyment for the musical activities and felt that the
were very important.
Musical Growth and Assessment
teachers held vastly different views on how teachers
what students were learning and to whom this information
provided. Although both groups felt that students were
musical skills, no formal assessment of students'
ability or musical growth was used. Only 19% of parents
that parents were given feedback by the teacher and 26% of
parents felt that neither the child nor parents were given
teacher feedback on musical projects. All four teachers
disagreed and reported that feedback was provided to
with two of the four reporting that feedback was also
parents. Most teachers and parents indicated that they
children were learning musical skills in their elementary
classrooms, although they did not identify specific skills
learned. Although neither teachers nor parents addressed
growth in their comments and answers, their responses to
area indicate that musical intelligence is developed by
to a variety of styles and musical experiences.
were asked what they had learned from their musical
Songs were the richest source of learning for them. Third
children were specific in their list of academic content
through the music. Pilgrims, polar bears, animals,
earth care, the diet of Hawaiians, the number of people on
Titanic, and Christmas customs in other countries were all
listed. Some children distinguished what they learned
from non-musical learning. They often demonstrated their
abilities for the interviewer, singing, and naming musical
such as line and space notes, rhythms, loud and soft
When asked how teachers could tell what they had learned
their musical activities, only three children were able to
answer. One student reported "she can tell by the
our eyes," while the other two guessed that
keeps track on a paper or something."
Research Question 3: The Role of Music
questions about the importance of music as an intelligence,
of parents stated that some of the intelligences are more
important than others. This group listed the intelligences
considered to be the more important. Their most frequent
were verbal (55%) and mathematical (62%) intelligences.
intelligence was the fifth most frequent response. While
parents indicated that musical activities should be part of
elementary classroom, their reasons varied greatly. Most
was that music helps children memorize or learn academic
but parents also cited enjoyment of learning and relaxation
reasons for inclusion. Several parents also stated that
was important because it was in the curriculum. Exposure
variety of music was parents' most frequent response
what constitutes a valuable music experience, with
play as the second most frequent. Parents clearly
their children were listening to music and playing
regularly in their classes.
that it was very important for children to develop musical
intelligence, although the common belief was that
one intelligence strengthens the other intelligences. One
teacher qualified her answer with this remark. "It
be as practical as some of the other intelligences. If you
in a factory, you need more verbal and analytical skills.
Musical intelligence isn't going to get you that
job." This teacher cited verbal and interpersonal
two most important intelligences, but for her students,
logical-mathematical intelligence was important as well,
"the curriculum calls for more mathematical
intelligence." Another teacher disagreed with the
curriculum, stating that the "musical activities have
justified academically because of the benchmarks."
first grade classroom, development of new music activities
due to her understanding of the priorities set at the
The concept of musical
growth was defined by the researcher, but never used by
unless directly asked. While parents and teachers felt
that musical skills and knowledge were being learned in the
participating classrooms, musical growth was neither
or evaluated by them. Teachers reported no assessment of
growth and agreed that there had been no effort to
teach musical skills, yet felt that students had learned
skills. Student perceptions about assessment of musical
reflect the emphasis on academic content, even during
activities. All Evergreen participants appeared to hold
notions regarding the need to assess all the
Since assessments in the literature exist only for purposes
measuring ability (Hatch and Gardner, 1996) or for
academic content learned (Armstrong, 1994; Bellanca Chapman
Schwartz, 1994, Campbell et al., 1999; Duval and Mark,
Marks-Tarlow, 1996; Smagorinsky, 1995), it is not
teachers did not address the content of musical
omission of assessment rubrics designed to measure musical
in classrooms could be related to the omission of the same
MI literature. Teachers felt that the most influential
their decisions about assessment was the current political
climate at the school and in the school district. Another
influencing factor may have been the perceptions by
teachers and administrators that inclusion of music
would necessarily stimulate musical growth.
In the MI
one suggestion for background music includes the use of
Mozart's music and music at extremely low volumes
(Campbell, D. 1998). Such activities are intended to
learners in the musical or academic material at hand. The
activities involving recorded music observed at Evergreen
were more passive in nature; primarily focus music. During
passive music experiences, no musical skills were required
part of students.
Mozart music frequently, at extremely low volumes, yet
did not demonstrate any knowledge of the composers, titles
stylistic descriptions of background music. Teachers
played what they considered to be educational songs such as
"The Silent E Song" and "Alligators All
Around." One of the teachers played several
popular music in short excerpts. The Native American Drum
as it was identified, was found in one classroom and used
create a sound buffer between the classroom and other
classes. Teachers, parents and students did not
listening to music from background or focus
Singing, was the
frequent activity identified as musical. The singing
classrooms was always led by the teachers, and in low
Using a tuning fork, the researcher determined the
pitch range for most songs as the octave from E below
to E above middle C. Developmentally, this range is far
appropriate singing registers for children (Campbell and
Scott-Kassner, 1995, p. 128). The passive music
not serve to teach music concepts, singing skills or
Context of Musical Learning
Kathy Kassell, a researcher of music and multiple
expressed concern that "much of the MI literature
exercises that link memorizing academic content with
simple songs; it suggests that music is simply a tool for
enhancing memory." Gardner, (1995b, p. 207)
similar concerns about the use of intelligences to drill
students, calling such activities a lack of "genuine
performance understandings, and makes the uses of the
intelligences essentially trivial." The
singing range of Evergreen participants, and the use of
activities, instead of the context of musical problems or
situations are examples of Kassell's and
concerns represented in the school studied.
Reimer's description of the diverse roles found in
domain of music (1998) affirms the importance of musical
for developing musical intelligence. Even Gardner's
critics (Eisner 1994) noted the importance of context in
developing intelligences. From the participating
own accounts, it appears that this portion of MI literature
not reached the audience of elementary teachers who are
music in their MI classes.
literature included some of Gardner's own reflections
revisions of his theory (Gardner, 1995a, 1995b, 1996, 2000;
Gardner and Hatch, 1995), most of the theorizing of this
been left out of mainstream educational journals. None of
concerns from arts educators, the criticism from scholars
disturbances that Gardner wrote about appear in the MI
classes, the integration of music was reported, but did not
conventional requirements for integrating learning in the
(Ackerman and Perkins, 1989; Campbell and Scott-Kassner,
376). At Evergreen School, the scheduling of music and art
classes taught by specialists was reduced from one 45
period per week to one 45 minute period every other week
the study. The principal felt that more time could be
academics in preparation for the FCAT tests since teachers
integrating musical intelligence in their classrooms. This
decision affected twenty-four classes in all six grade
yet only six classes in the entire school reported
musical activities more than once per year.
personnel at the district level, the priorities set for
individual schools were determined by the new district
administration. After the restructuring occurred, the
for teachers and support for their MI studies was
Teachers felt that they had to limit the "MI"
activities to allow time for more activities that could be
justified academically. This seems to represent a failure
perceive the work of MI as a way of approaching academics
resort to earlier models of teach and test that Gardner was
trying to help educators disband. School reform requires
significant support from administrators, and a new approach
teaching is a form of school change. Without administrator
support for an extended period of time, school change is
administrators, parents and teachers would all be concerned
standardized test scores and the severe consequences of
Parents and teachers frequently justified the importance of
academic subjects by deferring to the curriculum –
established by their administrators. Their concerns, as
the fact that they had not been trained to assess growth in
areas of intelligence are as important as their perceptions
musical intelligence. Leaving the teachers to voluntarily
implement MI any way they wished, shows a clear lack of
commitment to ongoing support necessary for teacher
this research, several recommendations are suggested for
promoting the role of musical intelligence at Evergreen
Preparation for MI Educators
Participating teachers suggested improvement in training
materials, as well as clear leadership from
their MI training, they learned how to design learning
for all of the intelligences, but did not learn how to
those activities with the Sunshine State Standards
benchmarks for learning. The teachers felt that although
test scores could be improved by teaching to all of the
intelligences, most of them felt that training was needed
learn the standards and to design effective activities.
Materials and training for teachers interested in an
curriculum need to be available.
literature are needed from the arts community in order to
teachers and parents define the role of musical
based on a common understanding of what it is. Books and
articles about MI intended for elementary teachers often
readers with the impression that any use of music in the
classroom is helpful for developing musical intelligence.
materials emphasize music as an entry point, rather than a
of content as well.
Some teachers may
understand the differences between entry point and content
approaches to music or other intelligences in elementary
classes. Inadequate preparation in any one intelligence
reinforce its place as a frill or non-essential part of the
curriculum. This unfortunate reality which stems from
training and understanding, may cause true change not to
Teachers who continue assessing only the subject area
content do not show any evidence of change from more
treatment of both intelligence and assessment.
Teachers also need
"how-to" materials in which appropriate music
activities and assessments are provided. In order to
determine whether or not students are growing musically,
need music assessment strategies that are included in their
publications about MI. Teachers relied upon readily
curriculum materials, good or bad, for music activities.
expressed that they were unable to spend enough time
about related music for their music activities, yet would
continue improving the musical intelligence areas in their
If a music
specialist can only work with students once every two weeks, then
teachers need to understand musical skills and knowledge well
enough to help their students think musically about music
activities and experiences. Teachers indicated a desire to grow
and learn about developing musical intelligence, but needed
assistance from an appropriate trusted source. If the only music
experiences children have are passive, such as focus sessions,
they will not grow in their abilities to read, perform, create or
analyze music. The music specialist's role could be
redefined, in such a situation, serving as a consultant to assist
teachers in planning their music activities.
Beyond the music
specialist's help, teachers need instruction during
pre-service and workshop training in how to create enabling
conditions for musical thinking. Differences in musical
non-musical contexts should be explored during these
opportunities to help MI teachers discover ways to instruct
children in the use of instruments and assess their music
and singing for musical growth. Students could benefit
teachers' training by undertaking thoughtfully
music activities. Effective integration would integrate
content, musical skills needed or practiced, and
assessments appropriate to musical tasks.
Music and arts
advocates need to bridge the gap between what elementary
and parents read and what members of the arts community
writing for elementary educational journals and training
materials. The MI literature has not integrated concern
education with implementation of multiple intelligences
education. If this were accomplished, strategies for
integration, rather than mere infusion of music activities
experiences might be more available to MI teachers.
might also become more interested in music activities and
involved with the assessment of musical growth.
supportive to musical learning must be provided and
teachers, administrators and parents if students are able
musically, and to develop musical intelligence. Creative
thinking requires enabling conditions (Webster, 1994). Time
allotted for both music class with the specialist and music
activities integrated in the classroom needs to be great
for children to engage in active involvement with music,
than passive experience of background music during non-
tasks. Instruments, songbooks, stereo equipment,
instruments need to be available in all classrooms for
use. In order for teachers to create a context for musical
learning, proper equipment is essential.
to an MI focus in the curriculum needs to be fully
the principal and in the school district. Teachers,
they had received training in MI expressed concerns about
own lack of musical intelligence. Training for those
emphasizing music activities and assessments is needed in
to strengthen MI teachers' musical skills, and their
Teachers' perceptions of musical growth are complex
informed not only by their operational learning theories
1999) or backgrounds, but by district and school support of
musical growth. Parents' perceptions are likely to
affected by the emphasis voiced by the school's
and teachers. Students' perceptions are based on
daily experiences, and largely reflect the perceptions of
parents and teachers. The triangulation of data from all
sources lent consensual validity to the study, however, the
number of participants limits the generalizability of the
In order to
transfer some of the research findings to other settings,
the development of a survey instrument inquiring about
particular conditions in an MI school would be helpful. A survey
using the findings from this study of the major factors influencing
the role of music could be used as a basis for the questions.
Evidence of MI training that includes materials designed by
educators, appropriate facilities and time allotments for
learning, and commitment to MI from school and district
administration are all relevant areas that could be
through the survey. Results of the study might be helpful
formulation of MI schools and schools that wanted to
role of music.
evidence an ineffective model of musical growth and
as a result of developing elementary curricula based on
idea of separate musical intelligence is so new for many
educators and parents that it is not yet affecting policy
or parent expectation. Administrators are required to
higher authority of district leaders and taxpaying
may be unaware of MI or its impact on the current
addition, there seems to be a great deal of confusion about
meaning of musical intelligence. Confusions began with
himself, when he termed musical intelligence as the ability
produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch and timbre; and
the forms of musical expressiveness (1983). The ability to
appreciate may have been interpreted by teachers as a
experience that requires no knowledge about music, or
of identifiable musical skills.
depends on capable teachers, who seek out effective
for teaching and activities for learning. Most teachers
expressed an awareness of the limits of their musical
and experiences. Some teachers attributed the limits to
own perceived lack of musical intelligence, others
limits to external factors, primarily the role of music in
elementary education as a diversion from the more important
activities in an elementary classroom can enhance the
learning environment. Yet the role of musical intelligence
separate, important area of growth and assessment does not
necessarily follow based on this research. Parents are not
trained in the subtleties of assessment and rely on
teachers' judgements about their children's
in school. MI educators and parents need to address music
area worthy of time and expense if they are to succeed at
developing the highest degree of intellect in all
Commitment to facilities and training in all areas of
intelligence should not omit those of musical intelligence
musical intelligence is sincerely valued as a viable part
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Frostburg State University
Susan W. Mills is an Assistant Professor of Music Education at Frostburg
State University in the Allegheny Mountains of Western Maryland. She holds
a Doctorate from the University of Central Florida in Curriculum and
Instruction in Music Education and recently taught music in South African
public schools as part of UMCOLO: The Kimberley Project. Mills has woven
musical and multiple intelligence research into her career as a general and
choral music educator as well as an educational foundations specialist since