"All Together Now?": Possibilities for Assessment in Creative Group Work for Self-directed Learners


  • Marit Mõistlik-Tamm
  • Gerhard Lock




self-directed learner, group work, assessment, co-creation, music, arts, interdisciplinarity


This article offers a solution strategy based on assessment possibilities for self-directed learners, focusing on interdisciplinary inspiration-based creative group work carried out at Tallinn University by the authors in the form of the course “Musical co-creation practicum”. In this article we present the strengths and challenges of developing a group work-based course from the teacher’s perspective, provide a more detailed overview of the applied assessment system, present its innovation in the field of music, and share student feedback about the experience and lessons learned during the course. Creative group work or co-creation is naturally interdisciplinary, because among other sources of inspiration, there are also non-music impulses (colors, shapes, words). We approach this from the viewpoint of problem-based learning, the aim being to direct the learner to discover and solve problems independently. Therefore, the central problem question of this course has been how to use non-music inspiration sources to achieve musical co-creation with an authentic outcome (Concert-Exam). The discovery of problems is among the first steps of a number of phase and stage models of creativity. The authors used these five steps to approach musical co-creation: (1) exploring the environment and everyday sounds, (2) experiencing colors, shapes and words, (3) creating a graphic score5, (4) translating the score into music, (5) recording and reflecting the final performance. Interdisciplinarity, composition and improvisation in the context of curriculum. Despite the fact that interdisciplinarity within the arts has existed naturally (and at different levels) for a long time already, in arts education it has been left rather undeveloped so far, with each art field remaining rather conservative and independent. This has its own reasons: true proficiency can be achieved only through focusing deeply on one field. However, since the education landscape has changed internationally, especially with the internet and digital technology age, changes have also come to Estonia, more specifically at Tallinn University BFM with the BA curriculum Integrated Art, Music and Multimedia started in Autumn 2016 (the authors of this article are involved in its development). The roles of the self-directed learner and the teacher in the context of thinking and cognitive styles. It is important to understand that a selfdirected learner does not act in isolation in the learning process; he/she is influenced also by the teacher who can support or preclude this development. This appears to be especially important in the co-creation group context. Here we refer to Grow’s Staged Self-Directed Learning (SSDL) model with four learner (learning stages) and four teacher (teaching style) types as theoretical background (see Example 1 in the article). By understanding the differences in thinking and cognitive styles of teachers and learners, the teacher is enabled to vary the teaching tools, which, in turn, allows the learner to manage the tasks given without being hindered by his/her dominant thinking style. Assessment criteria and strategies for group work are crucial – how should the contribution of each individual member to the co-creation be assessed? The following outlines our experience in four steps: (1) Preparatory homework, which aims to create a reference system and to generate ideas for the next practicum’s group work; (2) Practical workshop (practicum) based on the previous homework; (3) Video recording of the co-creation (performances of separate practicums or the whole as Concert-Exam), which is designed to confirm the co-creative group work task; (4) Written feedback, which is designed to reflect the longer process and its outcome, including video recordings to refresh one’s memory. Student feedback pointed out that some of the homework took more time to do because of the unfamiliarity of the task. There were students who would like to have more limits, but also those who thought that the homework guidelines were too rigid and wanted more freedom. A group of six members was regarded as generally satisfactory, but students pointed out the fact that not all six were always present at the same time, and some mentioned that more members would have meant greater diversity, which was lacking sometimes. On one hand, there were those who wanted less interventions by the teachers and also to remain in the creative process longer. On the other hand, there were those who overcame (creative) difficulties more easily with the consulting presence of the teachers. Group work as a form of learning and creating music (using also non-music inspirational sources) was seen as an opportunity to discover new sides of their fellow musician-students. Finally, the authors want to highlight that although the group (collective, collaborative) work form in music is very common (in ensembles, choirs, orchestras), the newness of the assessment criteria offered in this article is meant to conjoin composition and improvisation as co-creation as well as problem- and interdisciplinary impulse-based group improvisation as an extraordinary experience which, despite the difficulties, can be assessed and graded individually. From the teacher’s perspective, developing such a course together with assessment criteria requires intensive work involving various aspects. On the other hand, it is highly rewarded by enabling an outstanding experience for the learners in different fields: the creative process is enriched by inspiration from several art fields (individual ideas and co-creativity), communication in the group and supporting each others’ creative self-expression, problem-based learning and management, learning from each other (learning by teaching6), result directed time management, work proof technical solutions, successful planning and realizing (performing) of the whole result (Concert-Exam7). It is important to understand that no person is born as a self-directed learner but develops into one, and therefore it is necessary to keep one’s strategies open in this developmental process, where teaching of such learners (including assessing creative group work) takes place.


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