Assessment in primary music

Music teachers assess all the time. Every warm up,  every song, every single music activity teachers are listening, making rapid decisions when to intervene, when to adapt the activity, when to move on, when to revisit. Music teachers are expert at assessment in real time assessment that influences learning. Yet  because this assessment isn’t written down and doesn’t exist outside the context of the learners and that teacher it isn’t considered as assessment proper.

I tried assessing with the old levels – I really did, but the challenges of writing down comments for every single child proved insurmountable. Also, my judgements seemed ridiculous – the words seem so divorced from what went on in the lessons. Working alone I have never had the opportunity to compare with colleagues to moderate. The categories seem so vague as so be worthless  for example “keeping to a steady pulse” – compared to what? steady for who?

I never really understood the point of it either – it didn’t help me with my planning, no one else in the school cared and colleagues from secondary schools had already told me they didn’t have time to look at hundreds of primary reports and they didn’t trust our judgements anyway.

So why do we bother? Well some colleagues are telling me that performance related pay means they have to prove progression of 2 sublevels in order to qualify for a payrise. And yes, I pointed out music sublevels are beyond ridiculous and that levels are no longer applicable but they won’t listen!

I suspect the way forward is to create and keep some sort of musical portfolio that allows us to see progression and work out the next steps with the individual child but I teach over 500 kids so that is going to need a lot of thought and planning.

I want to find a way to assess musically, that actually helps me and the child. So I have now bought myself a copy of Dr Fautley’s book  Assessment in Music Education and have been looking closely at the framework document Incorporated Society of Musicians have developed. It is really worth a read and I am surprised that Department of Education haven’t done more to promote it.

I have lots of questions about how to make it work for me so am utterly delighted that I am going to be at their  ISM training day this coming Monday.  I am very grateful to ISM. They have spoken out clearly about the need to protect music education, coordinated the huge network of music education organisations and provided the only sensible documents I’ve seen on the new national curriculum for music.

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