Assessment and Progression: More Journeying Metaphors

Recently I gave a talk for Birmingham music teachers on assessment and progression, which drew on many of the things I have written about both in this blog and elsewhere. As it contained some more developed ideas I thought it might be useful to share some of the thinking, and present it here.


To begin with, I would like to pose some questions:

  • Are you assessing attainment according to fixed milestones?
  • Are you assessing progress as distance travelled towards a known destination?
  • Are you assessing progress as distance travelled from a known starting point?
  • Are you splicing two (or more) of these together?
  • If you are, how might this affect assessment?

Let us dissect the models suggested in the first three of these bullets. Model 1, ‘assessing attainment according to fixed milestones’ has been covered (sort of) in the blog entry entitled Assessment and Progression – A journeying metaphor . Essentially it involves knowing the starting points, and the staging points en route to a final known destination.

Model 2: Assessing progress as distance travelled towards a known destination

This is different from model 1 in that the starting point is not known, and the rest of the journey has not been mapped out in advance. It would like something like this:

JOurney from

In this example all the journeys end up at Birmingham, the known point, and can come from any direction, and for a variety of distances. The important point is the end point is known, and established. This is “what does a pupil look/sound like at the end of KS3” (or whatever). To draw this in a more linear form, results in this:

Journey 3

This has some important ramifications for the programme of study. To begin with (literally) the starting points for the pupils have to be located. This can be done by some form of baselining. Then, having discovered this, the route, the staging posts, need to be calculated. A journey towards Birmingham starting in, say, Oxford, involves very different procedures from one starting in Mumbai. Likewise in music classes; the reality being likely to involve significant differentiation for the pupils (as I often tend to find that music classes, however constituted, are in fact mixed ability). How can this be planned for, and enacted?

Model 3: assessing progress as distance travelled from a known starting point

In this model the starting point is known, but the rest of the journey is not. This would look something like this:

Journeying from

What happens in this case is that the journey starts in Birmingham, and can then go anywhere. In music education terms, the teaching at the outset is sufficient to allow the pupils to begin their journeys, they then can choose their own trajectories. (I wonder if this looks a bit ‘Musical Futures-y’, but I’m not sure?). This means that both the destination and the route are negotiated. Teaching and assessment need to consider this


I think all of these, and more besides, are legitimate models of teaching and learning in music, and the issue I am trying to raise is that assessment needs to take account of them in distinct and appropriate fashions. So, for some teachers in some schools, progression is measured using fixed and known attainment statements. For others, assessment is designed to measure attainment according to the route constructed, and progress towards the destination is assessed. I need to think more about how combining elements of these types might affect what is done. What I do become concerned about is potential progress and attainment being missed, as looking for the V&A museum in Birmingham, means you won’t find it. But this doesn’t mean there is nothing of value in B’ham (!), so assessment needs to be constructed accordingly.

Which goes back to an idée fixe running throughout my current thinking: Are we assessing attainment or progress? And: how do we distinguish between the two? How/can/should  we conflate the two? How does the one inform the other?

More on this to come!

This entry was posted in Assessment, KS3, Music Education, Progression and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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