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Assessment is always about what we value, which leads to passing judgment and evaluation. Assessment involves preferences, and anytime we prefer one structure over another, that assessment has ethical implications that are constrained by kairos (Harker).

Coursera Course: Songwriting

The Songwriting course, offered by Berklee College of Music professor and lyrics specialist Pat Pattison, is described as an efficient and compartmentalized learning experience that “will show you an efficient, effective process for tailoring songs to express your ideas and emotions … by examining the tools available to you, all revolving around the essential concept of prosody.” The message of efficiency and prosody—a traditional rhythmic scansion method derived from poetry— suggests that songwriting can be taught without art or talent (or even without playing music yourself) and that this genre of writing can be boiled down to steps that are just like introductory computer programming. Fair enough, songwriting can be formulaic, but is it then something we value? This course suggests that both learning outcomes and methods of assessment will be formulaic, noncontextual, and perhaps elided with creative writing pedagogical processes.

The course description later mentions peer review for rough drafts that will not focus on performance and in doing so attempts to allay students’ performance anxiety:

Assignments will ask you to post something for peer review—sometimes lyric lines or sections, sometimes melodies, sometimes both. None of it has to be polished. The course is about writing, not performing.

No guidelines appear here, however, for exactly how to support and critique other people’s work. We acknowledge that it is unrealistic to expect all course syllabi to articulate criteria for every assignment. However, what we are calling attention to is how general expectations about learning, criteria for participation, and methods of evaluation are subsumed and blurred by the commonplace of assessment.

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