Putting assessment back in its box

The Silent Disco project reported on in last week’s blog provides an example of what has been described as authentic learning connected to the real world. The school reaches out and meets cultural practice. [1]

There was the commitment that all year 9 pupils, yes all, would make ‘excellent work’ (well crafted, polished) and for this to be communally celebrated. [2]

While the process of making was heavily schooled and scaffolded, teacher-led and thoroughly formal in many respects, the commitment to communal achievement resonates with what is thought to be the informality of community music-making where the pedagogy serves the idea of forming a musical community.

The ethos of building a community of music-makers overrides interest in individual talent, differential achievement and the paraphernalia of assessment that marks out formal systems of schooling.

‘This would mean that instead of focusing on clearly defined goals, assessed with some measure of achievement, evaluation would be first and foremost interested in musical experience, valued in qualitative terms. If we accept that education is, at root, ‘a process of living and not a preparation for future living’ (Dewey [1897] 1996), it makes sense to pay attention to the richness of music-related meanings emerging from the active relationships of sonic events, music(k)ers and physical space.’ [3]

So instead of following a typically schooled pattern of assessment where each pupil is measured against norms derived from (in this case) Club Dance practice, the communal achievement of the year group would be evaluated in wider socio-musical terms.

For example, how well has our silent disco enabled us to live/experience/know music, think about what it means to live music together with others? Have we created a community of practice, explored new relationships, musically-socially? Where do we go from here?

But wait a minute, let’s rewind to the commonly understood alternative referred to above where, in the case of Club Dance, assessment would focus on the ways in which the sonic hallmarks of this particular musical practice have been worked with and mastered by these year 9 pupils. For example, how effectively has sonic material been phased, gradually layered, morphed?

In returning to assessment, and leaving aside evaluation, we are faced with the question of norms and standards.

Club Dance is a musical practice that has gatekeepers, that is, those who provide the exemplars and models of successful practice and standards to emulate.

I gave one example of year 9’s work anonymously to one such gatekeeper. It was thought the work represented a standard expected at Key Stage 3. And if all forty pieces had been examined then most likely we would have found some ‘working towards’ this standard and some ‘working beyond’.

Whether focusing on evaluation or assessment or both is there really a need for levels, numbers, grades?

Perhaps the place to start is to develop a music-making community that together produces ‘excellent work’ (music made well, polished). Only then should we consider letting assessment out of its box.


[1] I have been wondering whether a Silent Disco is a dynamic life enhancing form of contemporary sociality or as Roger Scruton might say a form of collective solitude. I have been talking to silent disco experts who are telling me about the new kinds of musical-social relations brought about by such an event.

[2] Is this the ultimate expression of ‘inclusion’?

[3] Odendaal, A., Kankkunen, O., Nickkannen, H. and Vakeva, L. (2014) ‘What’s with the K? Exploring the implications of Christopher Small’s ‘musicking’ for general music education.’ Music Education Research, (16) 2, 162-175.

Dewey, J. [1897] 1996. ‘’My Pedagogical Creed.’’ In The Collected Works of John Dewey, 1882-1953. The Early Works of John Dewey, 1882-1898. Vol. 5, edited by L. Hickman, 84-95. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Teaching music without learning objectives

[A note for email followers. I have expanded my blog site to include a place for scholarly articles, twitter feeds, a category index and blogs of the week.]

‘Sometimes I like it all to be a magical mystery tour – with surprises round the corner. How boring always to know where you’re going/what you’re going to do!’ (Lis McCullough)

At last week’s music teacher symposium here in Cambridge I dropped into the conversation that Robin Hammerton HMI had recently announced that there was no expectation that teachers use learning objectives.

There was one of those group gasps.

These were teachers well socialized into the technical rationality of contemporary schooling.

Learning objectives – non-negotiable as their managers would say and until fairly recently no objectives on the board meant a lesson observation being rated ‘unsatisfactory’. [1]

Without learning objectives how can learning experiences be planned, outcomes stated, criteria for success determined or assessment brought under control? All those things percolating through National Strategies, reinforced by Ofsted of the time and that have become part of the woodwork. [2]

No learning objectives! But doesn’t that mean no Bloom’s Taxonomy? No purpose, no direction, no way of evaluating the success of the teaching, no way of measuring the effectiveness of the learning? [3]

Presumably Robin Hammerton had behavioural objectives in mind, those objectives that are sufficiently precise for their effect to be visible and measurable. [4]

For Robert Mager ‘an objective is an intent communicated by a statement describing a proposed change in a learner – a statement of what a learner is to be like when he has successfully completed a learning experience.’ [5]

I am drawing from chapter 6 of Elliot Eisner’s ‘The Educational Imagination’. The chapter is called ‘ Educational Aims, Objectives and Other Aspirations’ and must rank as one of the most thorough investigations of the topic. [6]

Eisner comes to the conclusion that a curriculum determined by behavioural objectives would seriously reduce the view of what might be possible. In fact ‘to expect all our educational aspirations to be either verbally describable or measurable is to expect too little’. [7]

Eisner proposes three possibilities in designing curricular.

  1. Behavioural Objective ———–Behavioural activity
  2. Problem-Solving Objective——Problem-Solving Activity
  3. Expressive Activity—————Expressive Outcome

In the arts there will be a place for 1, but it is 2 and 3 and 3 in particular that would mark out creative arts practice as being distinctive.

Eisner again:

‘I believe that it is perfectly appropriate for teachers and others involved in curriculum development to plan activities that have no explicit or precise objectives.’ [8]

This would mean that there could be no specific formulation of what behaviour will be exhibited by pupils at the conclusion of the project. Rather like going to the cinema, the zoo or a musical event, we can’t specify what will be gained from the experience. The experience will of course yield much thought, conversation, questions, the exercise of judgement and associated criteria that help to make sense of what has been experienced and to suggest what may have been learnt.

So, teaching without objectives opens up interesting possibilities and encourages me to think in terms of extended projects with enquiry questions bringing together Eisner’s 2 an 3 above. [9]

Enquiry questions or what some refer to as essential questions help to create structure and direction.

I like the questions that pupils provide like ‘Why does Reggae exist?’ ‘What makes one composition better than another?’ ‘How does beat-boxing turn your voice into an instrument?’ ‘How many times is it good to repeat a musical idea? What is a musical idea, don’t you mean a riff?’ ‘Why did Jay-Z slow down that 1970s riff?

So now we are teaching without behavioural objectives but through critical enquiry and expressive activity and with scope for a dialogic pedagogy. This seems to me to offer the possibility of some musical depth and rigour and to give these weasel words some meaning.

But wait a minute. I would like my pupils to know how to talk well about their music-making and this means that I will need to create a behavioural objective:

Pupils will know how to conduct a group conversation giving each other a voice.

No doubt the true behaviorist will point out that this is too vague, not precise enough.

Nevertheless my critical enquiry-expressive activity is willing to give way to a behavioural objective as the situation calls for.

Enough of all this. We need a living example. I can only stand so much theorising. So, next week I go inside a school in Stratford, East London.


[1] Stories of music teachers playing the objectives game abound. Rarely it seems is the quality of the stated objective or its potential to generate worthwhile experience examined.

[2] This cat and mouse game of Ofsted calling the tune, changing the tune while fermenting bi-tonal conversations is becoming close to farce.

[3] The discourse of ‘effectiveness’ is usually tongue-tied when asked ‘effective for what?’

[4] Behavioural objectives are sometimes referred to as instructional objectives.

[5] Mager, R. (1962) Preparing Instructional Objectives, Fearson Publishers, Palo Alto, Calif., p.31.

[6] Eisner, E. (2001) The Educational Imagination: On the Design and Evaluation of School Programmes. Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.: New York. Third Edition.

[7] Ibid. p.98.

[8] Ibid p.104. For 13 0bjections to learning objectives see http://www.lh.umu.se/digitalAssets/40/40552_inquiry_mckernan.pd

[9] See https://jfin107.wordpress.com/wpadmin/post.php?post=202&action=edit for discussion of the idea of the project.

Music teachers taming the audit culture

@tallgirlwgc MusicEdExpo I don’t want to use sub levels in music but how on earth can I not when ENTIRE school systems are set up around them?

And this after National Curriculum Levels have been abolished and officially viewed as detrimental to pupil progress.

And a space created offering emphasis on formative assessment rooted in a framework of knowledge, skills and understanding. And with a cumulative record of musical achievement, a gift from Ali Daubney and Martin Fautley. [1]

However, schools are moving with caution knowing that the efficient tracking of pupil progress lies close to the heart of Ofsted judgements about their goodness and right to exist. [2]

Nevertheless Teaching Schools are out of the slips with their report ‘Beyond Levels: alternative assessment approaches developed by teaching schools. Research Report 2014.’ [3]

And now a government commission on assessment without levels is announced in response to the hiatus confusion. [4]

Compounding the problem we hear of school systems unwilling to recognize the case of music, defiant in the face of Music Ofsted’s ‘There are no sub-levels’.

And so to Anna’s question:

‘I don’t want to use sub levels in music but how on earth can I not when ENTIRE school systems are set up around them?’

This is the context for the third visit to my case study school where you may recall the music teacher has been given licence with one year 9 class to teach without levels. [5]

On this visit I talk with a small group of pupils from the class and also with Mike the music teacher.

At the beginning of the new school year and after discussion with the class Mike has experimented with the idea that pupils identify as beginner, accomplished or expert in relation to tasks that are described as simple, intermediate or complex.

Hence the matrix:

Beginner               Simple
Accomplished      Intermediate
Expert                   Complex

referenced to what is being learnt, what is of immediate interest. In this way the students are able to identify on the grid what they are setting out to achieve. In this there is no reference to National Curriculum Levels.

Now six months later I am interested to find out how Callum, Sophie, Phoebe, Jai and Alana have managed without levels.

Jai tells me about his expertise at scat singing; Callum about his accomplished improvisations; Alan’a expert bluesy singing and how Sophie learnt to take it more slowly as she moved from beginner to expert as a keyboard improviser.

Overall the group were getting used to this and they seemed content to have quietly forgotten about levels and sub-levels in their music lessons. They were however able to tell me their current sub-levels in other subjects. They gave a unifying nod when Sophie pointed out that in year 9 Level 6 was where they should be.

Mike was coming to the conclusion that the matrix was too complex and that what was evolving was not only a classroom without levels but one without the clutter of any other markers. Instead it was a matter of getting better at things and diagnosing and removing the barriers to progress.

‘We all know where we are at and where we are going’ was the message.

‘But what about the school’s tracking system and termly progress checks?’, I asked.

‘Yes, I am still required to supply a level for each pupil in this class. That’s not difficult.’

It’s just that levels are no longer what Mike and his pupils talk about.


[1]  See http://www.ism.org/nationalcurriculum

[2] Jane Werry gives a vivid account of how the professional life of the music teacher is circumscribed by the school’s management labouring under the damoclescian sword of Ofsted. See http://werryblog.com/2015/03/16/the-national-plan-for-music-is-there-a-plan-b-notes-from-expo-lunchtime-debate-13th-march-2015/ and how this is a obsticle to Jane’s professional flourishing.

[3] See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/beyond-levels-alternative-assessment-approaches-developed-by-teaching-schools

[4] See https://www.gov.uk/government/news/assessment-without-levels-commission-announced. Is there a teacher on the commission?

[5] See https://jfin107.wordpress.com/2014/10/17/teaching-music-without-levels-in-year-9/


GCSE and Music Education’s process ambivalence

This week saw the publication of the subject content for GCSE Music as part of the reformed programme for GCSE, AS and A Level examinations to be first studied in 2016. https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/gcse-subject-content

Also published were the Confirmed Assessment Arrangements for Reformed GCSEs, AS Qualifications and A Level qualifications for first teaching in 2016. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/398252/2015-01-26-confirmed-assessment-arrangements-for-reformed-as-and-a-level-qualifications.pdf

Central to this are decisions about the balance of exam and non-exam assessment. The difference between the case of Music and the case of Art is striking.

‘GCSE in art and design are currently assessed wholly by non-exam assessment, because of the practical nature of the skills being assessed and the content focusing on the student as the artist rather than on art appreciation or art history.’

‘We propose that marks for non-exam assessment in GCSE, AS and A level music qualifications should be 60 per cent, reflecting the balance between the practical and theoretical elements in the subject content.’

In Art the content recognises ‘the student as artist’.

In Music there are ‘theoretical elements’.

In Art the skills assessed are of a ‘practical nature’.

Are there no theoretical elements in Art?

In Art is there no appreciation or art history?

Of course there is. It is inscribed in the process of art-making.

Art education understands that critical and contextual understanding is developed as part of the student being engaged in artistic processes and made manifest through their art-making. And, of course, this art-making is heavy with theory. Understanding of theoretical elements are made manifest in the out-workings of the student.

Different arts subjects have different histories, different trajectories.

Can Music Education learn anything from Art Education?

Might it have the desire to develop a curriculum and pedagogy that has trust in the process of music-making, trust in valuing the process of making, that is assessing and giving value to process?

Art Education has long set out how this is achieved without loss of reliability and validity while maintaining integrity. Art is a popular subject in part because of this along with its approach to the discipline and rigour of art-making.

Yet, Ofqual concludes that Music Education is not equal to this.

I suspect that there are voices within Music Education who would rather Music Education were not equal to this.

And now on to consider those Areas of Study and the opportunity to imagine the unimaginable. [1]


[1] For further discussion relating to the conceptual formation of GCSE Music see blogs of 29.08.14: 16.05.14; 04.04.14.

Music education, high-quality progression and the question of standards

@Johnfinney8 @TTMLondon @EnglishCadence I am happy to report without commonly agreed standards KS1 to 3. That’s what I’m saying.
05:53 PM – 28 Nov 14

In last week’s blog I considered the question of standards in light of a new National Curriculum for Music in England and its revised assessment arrangements; and in particular, in view of the demise of statutory levels of attainment. For the past fifteen years levels of attainment have been the official measure of standards and the markers of progression in music.

The issue becomes more focused with David Ashworth’s question:

‘Can we really say what a given child should be able to do musically at a given age?’ [http://buff.ly/1ycVKv7 #musiced]

At the same time it is pointed out that children at the primary stage may be much more musically capable than is currently realised, and this in the context of Musical Futures proposing a primary Musical Futures to assist in fulfiling statutory requirements.

All this is of interest to secondary school music teachers. Jane Werry writes:

‘What would I like my Year 7s to have experienced/learned before they come to secondary school? I would like them to have acquired a sense of pulse and have an understanding of how this is divided up into metre. I want them to have experienced singing in different parts, and have thought about breathing and tone production. I want them to have used their head voices! I would like them to know a little bit about different instruments and have had some experience of playing something (anything). I want them to know what pitch, tempo, dynamics etc. are and what chords, melodies and bass lines are. I want them to be open-minded about different styles and be prepared to risk getting things wrong.’  [http://www.teachingmusic.org.uk/mod/forum/forum.aspx?lngForumID=1051]

This week I received news of music-making in a Hertfordshire primary school where Jane’s expectations are indeed being met. In particular, I received a christmas carol composed by a group of year 6 pupils to feature in their Christmas concert.

It’s Christmas Time – melody

It’s Christmas Time

The pupils’ work resulted from membership of the school’s after-school composing club, a voluntary extra to the once weekly curriculum music. I wondered about what had been achieved and asked the teacher whether in her view, and it was a long and wise view, most end of Key Stage 2 pupils had the potential to compose a song like this. The answer was:

Yes, IF-

  1. a) The children have been (widely) exposed to this sort of idiom, ie have experienced and have assimilated. Our song is very like a lot of the Christmas songs that are around in (some) schools at this time of year, every year, so Y6 children are very familiar with this sort of song (words and music), eg regular metre, rhyming patterns, tonal melody, certain rhythmic variations. As far as the words were concerned, I only helped a little bit with the scansion; and, for the tune, suggested trying out different last notes for a couple of the lines so they led on better to the following lines. The starting point was one girl’s spontaneous singing and playing of the first line of the chorus. She completed the chorus, with input from the others, and then two of the others (from group of 5) used the white board to play around with words for the verses – grouping phrases that rhymed. The other three added ideas, but mainly explored ideas for accompanying the chorus. Week 2 (each session is an hour) we pulled the words together and made up a tune – 4 of the 5 created a line each, trying out on tuned perc.
  2. b) There is time to compose – both words and music. See above for the process. How would/could this have worked within a whole class setting in half hour sessions? I’ve done similar when in the hall, because enough space for groups to spread out, but couldn’t do in my current music room.
  3. c) There is a culture of composing – ie experience of the act of composing as well as of the genre of music – it is a normal activity. We do it in class (small-scale improvising to class performance of created ‘work’), and also this group are now on their 2nd batch of 5 weeks in composing club, albeit not necessarily with same children, except for one girl who didn’t come before.

Although I don’t think the song is one of the best I’ve seen from top juniors if one is going for that elusive aspect of creativity/imagination/originality, it’s ok, and they are pleased with it, as also are the head, their class teacher and their peers. It is, one might say, a good reflection of (some of) their musical experiences to date, in response to the set task of composing a song for the Christmas concert.’

So, do we have a standard here? Can we say what all children should be able to do at a given age?

Well, in the case above, the teacher is most interested in how these children are thinking musically, that they are thinking ‘idiomatically’, a marker of musical development, and as evidenced through understanding of regular metre, rhyming patterns, tonal melody, certain rhythmic variations.

The teacher is highlighting the role of composing in the primary school as the place where understanding as well as knowledge and skill is in evidence.

The teacher has expectations for a level of musical attainment reached at the end of Key Stage 2 and the quality of musical thinking essential to this. These expectations are an important marker of musical progress. Might such expectations, or shall we call them standards, be commonly agreed? After all the teacher’s expectations are supported by a disitnguished research study.

@Johnfinney8 @TTMLondon @EnglishCadence I am happy to report without commonly agreed standards KS1 to 3. That’s what I’m saying.
05:53 PM – 28 Nov 14

The problem of standards in music education and the loss of happiness

Philip Flood @Philip_Flood 30m30 minutes ago Camden Town, London How many teachers are using levels and sub levels in #KS3music asks @DrFautley – 95% teachers in the room raise their hands @TTMLondon [1]

It seems that music teachers’ classroom lives are governed by systems of accountability concerned with pupil progression and ways of showing this. And this means progression against non-negotiable standards, that is, levels of attainment.

But now that ‘levels’ have been officially withdrawn a window for fresh thinking is available. But before you say: ‘ah, no more levels’, ‘performance descriptors’ for Key Stage 1 and 2 come into view. Not in music yet, but watch this space.

To imagine there would be a world without the benchmarking of standards would of course be utopian fantasy. Or would it?

Are the setting of standards inevitable in music in the first nine years of schooling?

One view might be to simply focus on individual pupil musical journeys. These could be guided by a commitment to core musical values, ways of being musical and the expressed and inferred needs of the pupil. [2]

The pupil, with some guidance, would be setting their own standards, developing that all-important sense of self-identity, self-understanding and other-understanding that we see achieved through out-of-school music making. [3]

However, there is a National Curriculum for Music which sets out what is to be attained at each key stage creating age-related standards. While as yet this has not been translated into ‘performance descriptors’, there are nevertheless statutory expectations implying standards.

Ofsted exists in large part to report on standards including standards in Music. Could this be done without reference to commonly agreed standards? No, it would be perverse for Ofsted to inspect without making comparisons (as we all do) and thus define and defer to standards. [4]

To resist the need for commonly agreed standards in Music would invite questions about the status of music as a National Curriculum subject. On what basis could Music claim its position in a curriculum sponsored by the state without a measure of accountability based upon expected standards?

One solution might be for the arts, while being in the National Curriculum, to be understood differently by government. They could have statutory status while being allowed to flourish with standards emerging from local practice and always something to be negotiated, fluid, never fixed or codified. After all, isn’t this, in some part at least, the point of the arts?

Beyond the school artistic standards shift across time and place. They are negotiated, set, re-negotiated, reset and continually revised through what emerges from practice.

We might envisage music and the arts in school operating as they do in the world where there is no imperative upon ‘learning’, rather upon experiencing, knowing and valuing while still serving worthwhile educational ends. And where instead of assessment there is evaluation, an easily felt ‘taking stock’ or reviewing the situation.

We live, so it seems, with the irreducible tension between music as practiced in the world and as constrained by the school and beholden to ‘learning’ and ‘progression in learning’.

One move might be to abandon the idea of ‘assessment for learning’ altogether, detaching assessment from learning while attaching it to the quality of the music being made here and now. This is how musical practices flourishes in the world.

‘It’s all about learning stupid’, I hear you all shout as I cower to avoid the brickbats.

The language of education is overwhelmed by the discourse of learning. With each week comes a new concept associated with learning. Until the recent Music Mark conference I hadn’t heard of the concept of ‘learning behaviour’, for example.

‘Learning behaviour’: edubable or necessary part of the managerial lexicon? Both perhaps.

We should take care that ‘learning’ doesn’t become William Blake’s worm in the night destroying the concept of education.


[1] Tweet received November 25. It should be no surprise that levels are firmly in place or that music teachers are beholden to sub-leveling. High stakes in-school accountability rules and will continue to do so as long as schooling is conceived of in performative terms.

[2] For the concept of ‘expressed and inferred needs’ see Nel Noddings (2004) Happiness and Education. Cambridge University Press.

[3] A speculative comment. But see the research of Doug Lonie on self-identity in youth music making.

The idea of self-defined standards would need to take into account the way pupils measure themselves against models they aspire to and use to benchmark their own performance. The idea of ‘my own standards’ may be a fallacy. (late edit: ‘chimera’ is better than ‘fallcacy’)

[4] Of course, before the invention of Ofsted HMI monitored standards in music education for over 100 years without the help of levels.

Teaching music without levels in year 9

Music teacher Mike and head teacher Ged have agreed to explore how teaching music without levels might work. Like many schools, and in this case an academy chain, there is thought being given to transition to a world without levels. For this year the school and its associate schools are continuing to work with levels. But here in music, in this school, it has been agreed to pilot an alternative with one Key Stage 3 class of 28 students.

First, the structure within which this pilot is taking place.

1. Teaching throughout the academy chain is underpinned by Bloom’s Taxonomy.
2. All students in all subjects keep a record of their ‘learning’ in a booklet known as a ‘learning dialogue’. This involves a written dialogue between teacher and student.
3. Projects in music are termly in duration throughout Key Stage 3.
4. Projects are designed within the conventions of arts pedagogy. Techniques are introduced, explored and mastered within a cultural context. These become the building blocks with which increasing levels of self-directed learning become possible leading to divergent outcomes.
5. Weekly music lessons are 50 minutes.
6. Teaching is observed by SLT termly and, only if staff request, graded.

The music department is seen as a model of good practice in the school and this has been endorsed by Ofsted as part of a general inspection.

My role has been to share with Mike recent thinking about assessment and progression as set out by the ISM. [1]

Mike is mindful that in creating an approach to assessment, recording and reporting simplicity is essential and that students will need to be participants in its design and implementation.

Students have been used to the awarding of sub-levels. They are heavily level-conscious.

They are also used to coming to understand criteria for success as an inductive process through whole class music-making.

They understand that they must make choices about which tasks they work at and the labels ‘basic; intermediate; complex’ help to define these. Until now it has been these markers that have informed levels.

Now Mike introduces an element that disrupts this. He takes the ISM proposal that any criterion can be met in three degrees: e.g. working towards, working at, working beyond, for example.

Mike experiments with novice, competent, expert but the class discuss this and settle for beginner, accomplished, expert. So now we have:

Beginner               Simple
Accomplished      Intermediate
Expert                   Complex

referenced to what is being learnt, what is of imminent interest.

So, students are able to identify on the grid what they are setting out to achieve.

Their learning dialogues with Mike, in conversation and in writing, speak of matters such as ‘becoming more accomplished at fluent phrasing’, ‘beginning to create a lyrical structure’, ‘being expert at bending notes’…

A popular expression is ‘becoming more …’. The students seem to like this way of evaluating their progress and it serves to nuance judgements about musical quality. [2]

So far Mike has not taken to the proposal that student profiles can be created using curriculum dimensions such as singing, composing, listening, general musicality etc. or personal attributes such as team working, resilience etc.

For Mike, and for the time being, this would create unhelpful complexity.

While formative assessment is embedded in the ongoing learning dialogue, we will need to wait until later in the term to see what makes sense in terms of summative assessment.

I raised the question of standards expected in music in this school and their comparability with other schools with Tony, deputy head responsible for managing data in the school. We agreed this needs more thought, although both Mike and Tony held the view that some reference to GCSE criteria might inform this as the Key Stage comes to an end. [3]

However, there is circumspection in this regard and any over reductive approach to turning Key Stage 3 into a ‘flight path’ to post 14 expectations is firmly rejected.

More to report later in the term on this case.

The transition from a heavily audited system driven by sub-levels to an alternative, while maintaining a highly differentiated approach to teaching, is a challenge with no easy solutions.

What is encouraging in this case is that the students are making good sense of life without levels.

But now to investigate another place doing things differently.


[1] See http://www.ism.org/nationalcurriculum
Also see ‘Further thoughts on radar diagrams for assessing without levels’ werryblog.com
[2] Here and now judgements about musical quality may be at the heart of musical assessment and not at all the same thing as judgements about musical learning.
[3] There appears to be a longstanding resistance to fixing standards in music education and more generally in the arts. While post 14 examinations and the ABRSM examinations leave no option in the matter, in the classroom there does seem to be an attachment to an ethos free from nationally-universally fixed or even negotiated standards. Was it this that lay at the root of the failure of NC Levels?

Some may recall the Welsh Curriculum Authority’s setting out of standards through exemplars in a time before levels when there was an end of key stage ‘working towards, at, beyond’ approach to managing the challenge of setting standards. However, like levels, this was quickly abused in the rush to data fabrication as the maelstrom of ‘performativity’ overtook education.

There is also the question of whether GCSE in Music is fit for purpose with its current and future incoherent epistemology.

See also Gary Spruce (1996) ‘Assessment in the arts: issues of objectivity’. In (ed.) Gary Spruce, Teaching Music, London: Routledge.