Specifications Grading as an Outcomes-Based Approach to Aural Skills Courses

Stefanie Dickinson, University of Central Arkansas

Most aural skills instructors would agree that the primary objective of their courses is fluency in audiating notated scores and transcribing sounding melodies and harmonies. Unfortunately, a traditional points-based grading system is not necessarily an accurate indicator as to whether these outcomes have been met. Replacing this system with a "specifications grading" model offers an effective means of ensuring competency in all outcomes and motivates students to take ownership of their learning. Specs grading emphasizes communication of learning objectives, flexibility in assignment load, higher expectations through pass/fail grading, and opportunities for self-reflection.

This presentation reports on successful implementation in a course at the author's university. Discussion emphasizes course organization, converting traditional grading to specs grading, grade comparison to traditional systems, faculty and student response, and assignment samples. Due to the success of this experiment, specs grading is being phased into the remaining courses of the four-semester aural skills sequence.