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Collaborative multi-stage exams in aural skills education: Theoretical underpinnings and two proposed approaches
Music dictation, or transcription, is an essential activity for both learning and assessment of students’ audiation skills within the context of musicianship training. Dictation is often focused on the individual pursuit of self-improvement, and takes on a competitive form rather than fostering collaboration between peers, in both learning and assessment environments.
Through a synthesis of recent research literature across music education (informal and popular music pedagogy), higher education (collaborative and two-stage exams), and psychology (group dynamics and social loafing), I outline a practice-based research project. In this project, I devised and implemented a two-stage music theory exam. Despite positive feedback from many students, direct observations revealed instances of social loafing, which although inherent to the two-stage exam design were further compounded by the fact that in music theory, responses to many questions are in the form of hand-written music notation. Significant changes to the assessment design were identified in order to enable the implementation of collaborative exams in courses wherein listening and transcription tasks are required. Informed by recent research on two-stage exam methodology in various disciplines, as well as the adaptation of the five factors that reduces social loafing in group contexts (Forsyth, 2018), I conclude by proposing two novel multi-stage exam designs that ensure collaborative peer-learning plays an important role in aural skill development and assessment.