I’m watching “Ice-T’s Rap School” on VH1 again. This time, the episode is putting its emphasis on the business/entrepreneurship aspects of being a hip-hop artist: show promoting, making business decisions, deciding what kind of music/rhymes are appropriate for a show, and also the social pressures that come with being an artist. Ice-T is confronting the students and trying to reinforce that he thinks that the quality of the music should reinforce how much effort the students put into their work.
I see Ice-T’s response as a real-world example of the need to look at student work from an objective point of view. In other words, if student work is at the center of the conversation, rather than the relationship the teacher has with the student or the context of the work (i.e. previous work the student has done), one can really pay attention to what the student is learning.
Harvard Project Zero researcher and Arts In Education program director Steve Seidel has done a lot of work in the area of how to evaluate student work, and in fact, we take a similar approach when evaluating MIE student portfolios. Seidel runs an occasional conference at the Harvard Graduate School of Education known as ROUNDS, in which educators and researchers of different backgrounds come together to discuss student work and learn various conference protocols (the most “successful” of which is known as the Collaborative Assessment Conference) that Project Zero has developed to help facilitate reflective discussion.
Although Ice-T’s approach to evaluating his student’s work seems to be pretty effective, what I have noticed is that the show doesn’t really give the viewer much idea about what other students think about their peers performances or lyric writing. Because of the age of the students (middle school?), and the nature of the project (fairly informal), I suppose it might be awkward to show students engaging in lengthy reflective practices â€” though in the reality-cutaway sequences, we do see snippets of students reflecting on their work. We also see students practicing for their performances and engaging in both group and individual work. In a way, each episode ends up working as a mini-portfolio of Ice-T’s residency. [Note: Could this be a model for documenting internships? Perhaps... ] Anyways, this makes me wonder how a tool like Seidel’s Collaborative Assessment Conference could be used to help faciliate student reflection, and what effects it would have on student learning.
Finally, and on a separate note, I find myself raising the following questions (now that I’ve seen a couple episodes of the program):
Although ‘entertainment’ is probably what the main focus of Ice-T’s show is, I would urge other MIE advocates to look closely at the world that surrounds them, and see how they might find other environments or situations that could fit within the context of our world: though the field of music-in-education may seem specialized upon first glance, programs like “Ice-T’s Rap School” help to show how ubiquitous, and closely-connected, the world of interdisciplinary music education really is.