An Update on RPG Grading

In June, I wrote a blog post about what Nick Covington and I were calling RPG Grading. Since then, Nick has spent some time updating his Evidence Journal for his Economics course as his department has gone through Curriculum Review. What once looked like this:

Now looks like this:

Evidence Journal 2.0

which can be applied to any of their five standards. The key symbols “signal the ‘certifying’ level work” needed to meet the standard or move into advanced level work. It becomes a process of the teacher certifying the learning through student-gathered evidence, rather than the teacher summatively grading student work. I know Nick is working on some kind of post/screencast about his Evidence Journals, so I won’t discuss them further.

It did prompt me to revisit my idea about RPG grading for music:


The above image is from my first post on RPG Grading, but I began thinking of this in the context of evidence journals and certifying learning. What if we classified certain exercises in method books or passages in repertoire as different levels of rhythm, tonal center, etc.? Take the following image from Essential Elements for Band Book 2 for Clarinet:

Exercise 39 has the following characteristics:

  • Rhythm Level 2: Half notes, quarter notes, and eighth notes occurring on the beat.

  • Tonal Center Level 2: Concert F Major means Bb Clarinet reads in G Major.

  • Articulation Level 2: Requires both tonguing and slurring. Could involve a rhythmic discussion around length of quarter vs. eighth notes.

  • Dynamics Level 2: While it does incorporate a mezzo dynamic, there are really only two dynamic levels required in the exercise.

So if a student could play Exercise 39 with a good sound at a Moderate tempo, they would demonstrate Level 2 in each of these skills. Exercise 42 incorporates some Level 3 through the use of syncopation, accents, a crescendo, and a diminuendo. Exercise 43 also includes Concert Eb and some chromaticism.

Teachers wouldn’t necessarily need to classify each and every exercise in the method book, but they could pick strategically as students progressed. Teachers could also determine how many pieces of evidence would be required to certify a given level (e.g., It takes 3 different pieces of evidence to certify each level) or how each skill level contributes to an overall level (e.g., I am a Level 10 Clarinet because I have …).


Burton Hable

Burton Hable is an instrumental music educator from Central Iowa. In 2013 he helped open Centennial High School in Ankeny, the first time in forty years that a school district in Iowa expanded to two high schools. He served there through 2018 as Assistant Director of Bands: conducting the 10th Grade Symphonic Band, directing the varsity Jazz Collective, co-directing the Centennial Marching and Pep Bands, teaching music theory, and providing individual and small group lessons to brass students in grades 6-12 at Prairie Ridge Middle School, Northview Middle School, and Centennial High School. During his tenure in Ankeny, enrollment in band grew from 450 to nearly 700, the jazz program expanded from four to seven ensembles, and ensembles under his direction were invited to perform at Iowa State University, Harper College, and the Veterans Day Parade in New York City.