Assessment and Coffee

Those nice people over at MusicMark have made available a piece I wrote for secondary school music teachers wherein I reflect on one of the common issues with assessment I am asked about, that of progression. In it I respond by inviting teachers to think on these three questions:

1. What are the pupils learning?
2. What does progression look and sound like in this?
3. Are you asking about progression, or proving progression?

The full piece is available here.



About drfautley

Professor Education at Birmingham City University, UK.
This entry was posted in Assessment, KS3, Progression, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Assessment and Coffee

  1. terryloane says:

    Thank you, Martin, for the link to your article. The sentence in the article that I really like is:

    “I think it is useful to think in music about progression being evidenced in achievement, and so I would want to ask how the music that the pupils create sounds different as a result of this new knowledge.”

    Yes, the thing that ultimately matters in music education is how the music sounds. And while the concept of ‘progression’ can be useful in considering how the music that pupils create today sounds different from the music they created a few months ago, the concept of ‘progression’ is nevertheless problematic. For example we can say that Beethoven ‘progressed’ between the composition of his first and his ninth symphonies, and we can say that the Beatles ‘progressed’ between ‘Love me do’ and ‘Revolver’. But there are two important caveats when considering such ‘progress’: (i) accepting that progression has taken place does not mean thinking that the earlier musical creations, Beethoven’s first symphony and the Beatles’ ‘Love me do’, are in any sense deficient (ii) the nature of the progression cannot be predicted or analysed before the later music has been created – the criteria upon which we judge an act of musical creation do not necessarily exist before the act of creation has taken place but are, at least in part, generated by the music that is actually created – by Beethoven, the Beatles or our pupils.

    This paradoxical and unpredictable nature of progression is surely what lies behind the fact that some senior managers just don’t “get it” (as you put it in the article). Unfortunately the nature of what passes for accountability in contemporary schooling does not permit managers to have anything other than a trite, mechanistic view of learning that is incompatible with how people really learn music – or indeed any other creative activity.

    Do you by any chance, Martin, know Jane Green’s book “Education, Professionalism and the Quest for Accountability: Hitting the Target but Missing the Point”? In Chapter 3 she writes:

    “In forcing institutions to adapt to ‘the simplifying tendencies of the quantification of outputs’, the paradoxical result is that practitioners now have to spend ‘more and more energy on the demands of managerialism’ in order to prove their accountability. This leaves less and less time to concentrate on the ‘daily business of teaching and learning’.”

    So managerialism can definitely lead (in the words of the final sentence of your article) to “worrying about how to prove progression” rather than “try[ing] to think about being musical”.

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