Aligning assessment with Threshold Learning Outcomes in the Creative and Performing Arts

Assessment in Music

Assessment in Music Education: from Policy to Practice

Table of Contents

1. Future directions for assessment in music 

Don Lebler

2. Backwards assessment explanations: Implications for teaching and assessment practice 

D. Royce Sadler 

3. Assessment in music in the European context: the Polifonia project 

Mary Lennon 

4. Assessment in music in the Australian context: the AiM project 

Don Lebler, Jonathan Holmes, Scott Harrison, Gemma Carey, & Melissa Cain

5. Challenging approaches to assessment of instrumental learning 

Katie Zhukov

6. The Bachelor of Music: Purpose, desires and requirements 

Heather Monkhouse

7. Participants’ perceptions of the role of fair and valid assessment tasks in tertiary music education 

Melissa Cain

8. Assessment and critical feedback in the master-apprentice relationship: rethinking approaches to the learning of a music instrument 

Ryan Daniel & Kelly A. Parkes

9. Assessing music performance process and outcome through a rubric: ways and means 

Diana Blom, Ian Stevenson, & John Encarnacao 

10. Embedding creative and critical thinking in performance studies – the challenge 

Helen English & Richard Vella

11. A search for balance: The development of a performance assessment form for classical instrumental music in the tertiary context 

Eve Newsome

12. Linking assessment practices, unit-level outcomes, and discipline specific capabilities in contemporary music studies 

Diane Hughes & Sarah Keith

13. New wine in old bottles: Aligning curricula, pedagogy and assessment through creative practice in classical and contemporary music 

Annie Mitchell

14. Assessments for music theory: Three situations 

Gerardo Dirié

15. The BoPMAT: Bachelor of Music Popular Music program 

Don Lebler 

16. The Amazing Marking Machine. A process for authentic, efficient assessment. 

Jim Chapman

17. Assessment and feedback in curricula design for contemporary vocal studies 

Diane Hughes

18. Musical Theatre assessment: Perspectives on the efficacy of continuous assessment 

Jessica O’Bryan, Scott Harrison, & Paul Sabey

19. Aligning student attitudes, assessment, and curriculum design: A case study using “My Life as a Musician” vocational preparation strand 

Diana Tolmie & Duncan Nulty

Concluding Thoughts

Scott D. Harrison, Don Lebler, & Gemma Carey

About the authors


Don Lebler trained as a drummer in his youth and began working professionally in music while still at high school. Membership of pop groups including the Avengers, Axiom and the Mixtures took him to Europe in the late 1960s where he was based until 1974. A desire to be part of the developing local recording industry brought him back to Brisbane and a career that included teaching, performing, and a major focus on work in recording and television studios. He started teaching at the Queensland Conservatorium in 1995 and accepted a full time position in 2001. His work in the Bachelor of Popular Music program led to an interest in research, completing a Doctor of Education in 2007. He is an ISME CEPROM Commissioner and leads the OLT Assessment in Music project. His research into assessment has produced frequent international speaking invitations and a number of international research collaborations.

Scott Harrison is currently the Director of the Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University where he lectures in music, research methods and musical theatre. In 2010 he was the recipient of an Australian Award for university teaching and in 2012 he was made a National Teaching Fellow. Scott has experience in teaching singing and music in primary, secondary and tertiary environments. Performance interests include opera and musical theatre as both singer and musical director. His major research areas are music and wellbeing, vocal education, research training and masculinities. Scott’s most recent publications include Perspectives on Teaching Singing (2010), Perspectives on Males and Singing (Springer, 2012) and Research and Research Education in Music Performance and Pedagogy (Springer, 2013). Scott is co-editor of the International Journal of Music Education.

Gemma Carey studied at Queensland Conservatorium, specialising in keyboard. While performing initially drew her to the music, teaching has become her passion. Gemma has developed innovative techniques in learning and teaching and has established Pedagogy at both undergraduate and graduate level and for community teachers. She completed her Doctor of Education in 2004 and has since established a reputation as one of Australia’s foremost authorities in keyboard pedagogy. Gemma is Deputy Director (Learning and Teaching) at QCGU and a well-known author in the area of performance pedagogy, curriculum and learning and teaching. Her recent articles have appeared in Music Education Research, British Journal of Music Education and International Journal of Music Education.


Diana Blom is Associate Professor in Music, School of Humanities and Communication Arts at the University of Western Sydney. Current research interests focus on tertiary performance (assessing group performance, collaboration, interpretation, collaborative essay writing); student preferences for, and descriptions of, music; placement of melodic dissonance in the musical; and how arts practitioners working in academia view their practice as research. As a composer and performer (harpsichord and piano), she engages in practice-led research and has organised and drawn composers into several themed projects resulting in performances, published scores and commercial CDs – Shadows and Silhouettes – new music for piano with a Western-Chinese confluence; and Childhood in Music – new music for piano. Score publications are by Wirripang Pty. Ltd. and Orpheus Music. In 2011 Diana received an APRA/AMCOS music award, with Dawn Bennett, for a project of newly composed viola and piano music, Australia East & West. In 2011 she was a member of a team awarded an ALTC Innovation and Development Grant into ‘ePortfolios for creative arts students’. Recent publications in several journals, including Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, Higher Education Research & Development, International Journal of Education and the Arts, International Journal of Music Education, have resulted from some of her research interests. She is co-author, with Matthew Hindson and Damian Barbeler, of Music Composition Toolbox (Science Press), a composition text for secondary and lower tertiary students.

Melissa Cain is a flautist and educator with a passion for Asian and Pacific musics. She has qualifications in music, education, Indonesian and ethnomusicology, and studied Javanese and Sundanese gamelan while resident in Singapore for 20 years. Melissa’s doctoral work explored the ways that philosophy, policy, teacher training and curriculum documents effect practice in the music classroom. Her current research interests include culturally diverse musics education, music and health intersections, and assessment in music in conservatoire settings. Melissa is a researcher and lecturer, and project manager for the OLT-funded Assessment in Music project at Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University.

Jim Chapman is a composer, musician, lecturer and researcher whose recent work has been focused in African fusion music. He has a BA and Dip Psych from University of Queensland in the 1980’s, a BMus from QUT in the 1990’s and a PhD in African Cross-Cultural composition from QUT in 2007. He lived in South Africa from 1994-2000 where he wrote and recorded a six part radio documentary series in 1999 for ABC radio National entitled “When the West Met the South, the music of South African history”. He also has deep roots in the use of music technologies and has managed research projects into the innovative uses of mobile technologies in team collaborations and on-line learning systems. His current album ‘Afro No-Clash’ contains eleven compositions performed by a variety of groups including Kabombo Kombo, The Esplanados, Topology, The String Quartet of the Southern Hemisphere and Quinte Bentos. He has lectured at university since 1986 in psychology, organizational studies, communication and music and is currently a senior lecturer in the School of Creative Arts at the University of Newcastle. His research interests include African music, Music Education and Intercultural Syncretism.

Ryan Daniel holds a Bachelor of Music Honours degree (Class I and University Medal), a Master of Music degree in chamber music performance and research, and a PhD in piano pedagogy. He also holds the FTCL (Trinity) and L.Mus.A (AMEB) performance diplomas. Professor Daniel was formally appointed as Foundation Head of School of Creative Arts at James Cook University from 2007-2011, leading the establishment of new undergraduate programs as well as the design and development of a specialist arts facility.  In 2011 he was awarded the Career Development Association of Australia ‘Research Award’ for the best article by an Australian author published in the Australian Journal of Career Development in 2010. He maintains an active performance, teaching and publishing profile, the latter in leading international publications including the British Journal of Music Education, CoDesign, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education and Music Education Research. Professor Daniel has achieved significant awards for his teaching, including the JCU Vice Chancellor’s citation for teaching excellence (2004, 2006) as well as a national ALTC citation (2010). 

Gerardo Dirié is Senior Lecturer in Music Theory and Composition at the Queensland Conservatoire, Brisbane. He is a composer born in Cordoba, Argentina, where he studied at the National University. He is a founding member of the Collegium Center for Music Education and Research in Cordoba and worked in this institution until 1987. Later on, as a Fulbright scholar he obtained Master and Doctorate degrees in Composition at the Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University. He has served as Assistant Director of that university’s Latin American Music Center until 2003, when me moved to Brisbane. His works for electroacoustic media, chamber ensembles, choir, and the theatre have been presented in broadcasts and stages internationally, such as Carnegie Hall and Town Hall in New York, the National Theatre in Taipei, the Indiana Repertory Theatre, Taiwan, the International Music Festival of Istanbul, Turkey, the Colon Theatre in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Nezahualcoyotl Hall in Mexico, and the Quito Cathedral in Ecuador, among many others. His music appears in recordings from Crystal Records, Melos, Indiana University, Doblemoon, Eroica Classical Recordings, Aqua, and his own Retamas Music Editions label. Besides his career as a composer, Dr Dirié has been an active clarinet player, bass player, conductor, percussionist, and Early Music performer.

John Encarnacao is a performer, composer and educator, and has taught music analysis, performance and composition at the University of Western Sydney since 2004. His first book, Punk Aesthetics and New Folk: Way Down The Old Plank Road, will be published by Ashgate in late 2013. Notable recent projects include the composition of the score for Alana Valentine’s play Tinderbox, recorded by his trio Espadrille, and Spider and Lamb (2011), the third album by his song-oriented project, Warmer. April 2013 saw the release of the debut album of his new rock group The Nature Strip, Stars Turned Inside Out. John has also recently completed Tarantula Variations for viola and piano.

Helen English brings to tertiary teaching considerable experience and expertise from working in a wide range of music environments at diverse levels of the profession. From 2003 to 2008 she was Executive Officer for NACTMUS (National Council of Tertiary Music Schools) where she gained considerable insight into Teaching & Learning across the tertiary music sector. Helen English’s first appointment as lecturer was at the University of Tasmania in 1997. She is currently at the University of Newcastle where she is Program Convenor for the BMUS degree, and where she has been closely involved in the design of a new BMUS program, including a more inclusive and diverse syllabus for performance courses and new ways of assessing Principal Study students. In 2009 she trialled new modes of teaching and assessing keyboard skills for incoming students, for which she received a Faculty teaching award in the same year. She is currently working on a project (in collaboration with ANU) to enable students from low socio-economic backgrounds to study music at tertiary level.

Jonathan Holmes studied at Monash University and the University of Tasmania. He was appointed to the Tasmanian School of Art at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education in 1973 and remained a member of staff when the School became a faculty of the University of Tasmania. He was a member of the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council from 1978 through to 1982 and was a Trustee of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery from 1990 until the end of 1993. Jonathan has been Deputy Head of the Tasmanian School of Art for several terms and is concluding a five year term as Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning with the Faculty of Arts, UTAS. His chief research interest is the history and curating of contemporary Australian art and much of the writing he does is published in exhibition catalogues that are associated with the University of Tasmania’s Plimsoll Gallery. He also has a research interest in wilderness and natural environment issues, particularly in relation to the visual arts, and continues to undertake research in the field of nineteenth century French art and criticism.

Diane Hughes is Senior Lecturer in Vocal Studies at Macquarie University, and is the Director of Learning and Teaching for the Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies. In 2013, Diane received a Vice Chancellor’s Citation for an outstanding contribution to facilitating student engagement and learning through the design of contemporary and innovative music curricula. Diane has an extensive background in contemporary popular singing pedagogy, and has been an invited speaker at conferences and seminars. Her work within the industry has involved artist development and recording. Diane’s research interests include vocal artistry, vocal pedagogy, vocal recording, vocal performance and singing in schools; current research projects include career pathways in the new music industries, emotion and voice, and collaborative producing in recording. Research on singing in schools led her to become an advocate for the development of cross-curricula voice studies in school education. Diane is currently the President of the Australian National Association of Teachers of Singing (ANATS).

Sarah Keith graduated from Macquarie University with a BA (Hons I) majoring in Contemporary Music, and in 2010 completed a PhD titled ‘Standards for Deviation: developing laptop performance of generative contemporary electronic music’. This doctoral research comprised an investigation of technologically-mediated performance and a creative component involving the design of a laptop improvisation and performance system using Max/MSP. Research since then comprises music production technology, computer-mediated composition, and popular music. Sarah currently convenes the Music Technology suite of units and also teaches in media production.

Mary Lennon is a Senior Lecturer in Music at DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama in Dublin, Ireland, where she teaches piano and music education. A former Head of Keyboard Studies at the Conservatory, her research interests include piano pedagogy, instrumental teacher education and practice-based re- search.  She is a founder member and former President of EPTA Ireland (European Piano Teachers’ Association) and a founder member of the ISME (International Society for Music Education) Forum for Instrumental and Vocal Teaching. She was a member of the AEC (European Association of Conservatoires) Polifonia INVITE Working Group on Instrumental/Vocal Teacher Education (2007-2010) and is currently a member of the AEC Polifonia Working Group on Assessment and Standards.

Annie Mitchell has a PhD in Music (Third Stream Composition), Masters Degree in Education (Adult Education in Music), Bachelor of Arts (Music) and Diploma of Education (Music/History). Her Doctorate included the composition of two jazz concerti. Annie is a Senior Lecturer in Southern Cross University’s Contemporary Music Program and Course Co-ordinator of the Bachelor of Contemporary Music Honours Degree. She teaches contemporary music theory, musicianship, musicology, composition and arranging, music education, ensemble, piano, voice and bass. Her research interests include contemporary music theory, jazz and third stream composition, music pedagogy, adult education and edutourism. A professional musician and composer, Annie is double bassist with the North Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra and the Lismore Symphony Orchestra, and pianist with the Northern Rivers Big Band. In 2012, Annie was awarded an Australian Office for Learning and Teaching Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning.

Heather Monkhouse is a Senior Lecturer at Tasmanian College of the Arts, Conservatorium of Music, where she lectures in clarinet performance, chamber music, music history and music theory. From 2005-2012 she was the course coordinator for undergraduate degrees at the Conservatorium and the Director of its Academic Programs. In 2006 she was the recipient of the Vice Chancellor’s Teaching Excellence Award and in 2008 was awarded a University of Tasmania Teaching Fellowship. Heather has completed an Australian Learning & Teaching Council Fellowship (2008-2010) in which she investigated performance assessment in tertiary music schools and is currently Deputy Associate Dean (Learning & Teaching) for the Faculty of Arts at the University of Tasmania.

Eve Newsome has had a versatile and exciting career as an orchestral, chamber and solo player of oboe, oboe d’amore and cor anglais. Several awards allowed her to undertake advanced oboe study in Europe and improvisation studies in London. She has been appointed to orchestral positions in the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra, the Melbourne Symphony and Orchestra Victoria and guested with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Singapore Symphony and the Sydney, Adelaide and Queensland Symphony Orchestras. She is a founding member of a range of ensembles including the recently formed Brisbane-based ensemble The Lunaire Collective, an Ensemble in Residence at the Conservatorium in 2013. Eve’s specialty lies in the area of ‘flow’ or optimal experience in music performance, and she is currently completing her PhD at Griffith University in this area. Eve’s guest appearances have been both in Australia and overseas, including both teaching and lecturing at the Sibelius Academy in Finland.

Duncan Nulty is an Associate Professor in the Griffith Institute for Educational Research at Griffith University. He is nationally and internationally recognised for his expertise on institutional policy and practice in the assessment of student learning, and academic standards. He also has expertise in curriculum design, and the evaluation of educational programs including student evaluation of teaching. Over the last 3 years, he has provided strategic leadership on these matters through three large projects (two national) and through ongoing consultancy to several institutions across the sector. This leadership focusses on assessment practice and policy, and the development of consensus moderation practices which support comprehensive quality assurance of assessment standards.

Jessica O’Bryan is a recently graduated PhD student in the School of Music at the University of Queensland. Her interests lie in the unique characteristics that constitute the one-to-one singing lesson and her research focuses on the values, beliefs and practices of the participants of these unique settings. Her study will explore the experiences of tertiary singing students and their ‘eminent teachers’ through a medium term remote observation of this setting, using both quantitative and qualitative research methods. A singer and experienced teacher in singing, Jessica has performed with the Victorian Opera and Opera Queensland and maintains a busy teaching schedule in addition to her studies.

Kelly Parkes is a tenured associate professor of education specializing in Music Education. She earned a PhD in Music Education/Instrumental Pedagogy from the University of Miami, FL. Her current areas of research are focused in higher education pedagogy, assessment in music, and music teacher education. Her publications can be found with journals such as the Journal for Research in Music Education, Update: Applications of Research in Music EducationJournal of Music Teacher EducationInternational Journal of Music Education, and the British Journal of Music Education.  She is currently the Chair of the Assessment Special Research Interest Group of the National Association for Music Education’s Society for Research and she is the permanent Chair of all competitions, as well as the Research Room, for the International Trumpet Guild. Dr. Parkes has been recognized by her university for her teaching and research; she was awarded the XCaliber Award for teaching with technology, the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award for her research about pedagogy within higher education, and the Exemplary Program Award for her work impacting student learning with ePortfolios.

For 23 years Paul Sabey was the Director of the Musical Theatre Programme and Associate Principal at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, London (one of the premiere courses for Musical Theatre training in the world). Whilst studying, his musical ‘First Time’ was published by Samuel French Ltd and he made his European conducting debut – conducting ‘Dido and Aeneas’ at the Nantes Opera House, France with the European Chamber Orchestra and the English National Opera.

Paul is in constant demand as a Musical Director, vocal coach, vocal arranger and regularly gives master classes in Musical Theatre. His work has taken him around the world working with singers, musicians, as an academic and artistic programme advisor and as a Musical Director, including: Thailand, America, New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden, Amsterdam, Singapore, France, Germany, Malaysia, Italy and Russia. As a musical director he has directed and vocally arranged over 60 London West End Showcases, countless shows and produced and conducted eight annual Christmas Concerts at St. Pauls, Covent Garden, London. Graduates, who have trained under Paul, can be found performing in musical theatre, and drama in all media throughout the world.

D Royce Sadler is currently Senior Assessment Scholar in the Teaching and Educational Development Institute at The University of Queensland, and Professor Emeritus in Higher Education, Griffith University. His teaching and research interests on the formative and summative assessment of student learning began in 1973. Since 2000, his work has focused on assessment-related issues exclusively in higher education, particularly criteria, grading, academic achievement standards and the role of assessment in improving learning and capability. Formerly a member of the Editorial Advisory Boards of two international assessment journals, his publications are widely cited.

Ian Stevenson is coordinator of Sound Technologies in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts at the University of Western Sydney. He is currently studying for a PhD at the University of Sydney. His research interests are in the philosophy of sound, sonic communication and sound design. In recent years he has produced and engineered a number of CDs of contemporary chamber music for Australian labels Wirripang and Tall Poppies, and completed a series of collaborative projects with choreographer/dancer Tess De Quincey and author/academic Jane Goodall. Prior to joining UWS in 2004 he held a variety of positions in product and information management for leading Australian technology companies and worked in theatre sound design and system engineering in Australia and the UK. He has worked as an artist, engineer, sound designer and production supervisor in galleries, theatre, live music, broadcast and post-production in Australia and Europe.

Diana Tolmie has so far experienced an exciting career instigated by a Churchill Fellowship and Queen Elizabeth Trust Award. 25 years of music employment performing clarinet, saxophone and flute, has featured work in national and international touring musicals as well as internationally recognized orchestras. Sessional work encompasses contemporary and mainstream live, television and recording events of all genres. Diana is currently exploring academia as Associate Lecturer of Music Studies and Professional Practice, clarinet and saxophone lecturer at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University. Having had the pleasure to design and implement the unique to Australia, vocation preparation strand My Life as a Musician, she now enthusiastically bases her higher degree research to explore this topic further. Her many possible selves include her role as artistic director of the Queensland Conservatorium Saxophone Orchestra, where she has led the group on a number of exciting inter/national tours and performances. Diana has released many recordings through CD Baby and iTunes with her group Collusion – a nationally recognised new music chamber group based in Brisbane.

Richard Vella is Professor of Music, School of Creative Arts at the University of Newcastle. As a composer Vella’s diverse output includes works for orchestra, large ensemble, choir, film, chamber music, burlesque cabaret, music theatre, site-specific performances, and popular music genres. His film credits include ‘Light Years’, ‘Parklands’, ‘Renzo Piano: piece by piece’ (for which he won the 1999 Australian Screen Composer’s Award for best music for a documentary) and ‘Mr. Strehlow’s Films’. His feature film music score ‘Travelling Light’ (2003) received the nomination ‘Best Music for a feature Film’ by the Australian Film Institute.

Publications discussing his performance work are ‘Arias: Recent Australian Music Theatre’ Redhouse Editions, 1997; ‘The Oxford Dictionary of Australian Music’, Oxford University Press, 1998; and ‘The Currency Companion to Music and Dance in Australia’, Currency House, 2003. His book ‘Musical Environments: A Manual for Listening, Improvising and Composing’, originally published by Currency Press (2000), has become a recognised text for secondary and tertiary music courses throughout Australia. In 2003, an international edition of this book entitled ‘Sounds in Space Sounds in Time’ was published by Boosey and Hawkes, UK. Between 1992 and 1996 Vella devised and implemented a pioneering interdisciplinary postgraduate and undergraduate music program within the School of Mathematics, Physics, Computing and Electronics at Macquarie University. This laid a foundation for the later established Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies within the Faculty of Arts.

Katie Zhukov is a Master’s graduate from the Juilliard School of Music, New York, and has a PhD from the University of New South Wales, Australia. She has been investigating teaching of sight-reading to pianists at the University of Queensland and previously taught at the Sydney, Queensland and Western Australian Conservatoriums. Dr Zhukov has published on instrumental music teaching in Psychology of Music, International Journal of Music Education (Research and Practice), Music Education Research, Research Studies in Music Education, British Journal of Music Education, and Australian Journal of Music Education, and presented papers at World Conferences of the International Society for Music Education, International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition, International Research in Music Education Conference, Reflective Conservatoire Conference, Performer’s Voice Symposium, National Conferences of the Australian Society for Music Education, and Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conferences. She has recorded three solo CDs of Australian piano music and edited three books of the Wirripang Australian Piano Anthology.





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