In the arts and particularly in music, the artist-teacher is socialized into the master-apprentice tradition in one-to-one tuition and is accustomed to holistic assessment where the criteria are often not specifically articulated and in which assessment can be seen as an extension of the individual teacher’s artistic expression. However, there is a substantial body of literature surrounding the issue of assessment in music. The approach taken by the research team has been informed by engagement with this literature.
Specifically in relation to music and the other arts, Elliott (1987) comments that there have been unique problems and arguments over appropriate methods of assessment. Swanwick (1998) indicates that this is related to the “tacit, unspeakable, in-communicable” (p. 2) and that traditional modes of assessment may not be applicable in the music sector. As teachers of music tend to teach the way they have been taught (Karlsson & Juslin, 2008) there is a danger that stagnation of learning, teaching and assessment practices can be generationally embedded. More recently, Curruthers (2008) suggests university performance programs still embrace a kind of learning and assessment approach that is, at best, limiting. Recent publications by Helena Gaunt (2008, 2010) and Andrea Creech together with others (Creech, Gaunt, Hallam, & Robertson, 2010; Creech & Hallam, 2010) have provided valuable insights into current practices in the United Kingdom, particularly in the context of one-to-one performance teaching.
Researchers Australia-wide (McPherson, 1998; Zuhkov, 2009, Monkhouse, 2007) and within the host institution (Denson & Nulty, 2010; Wrigley, 2005; and Lebler, 2007) have also recently engaged with new approaches to the assessment process. Lebler calls for “teaching practices that have dominated in the past to be rethought, and alternatives considered that are likely to produce graduates with the abilities and attributes necessary to adapt readily to a rapidly changing environment” (2007, p. 206). These abilities and attributes relate to the TLOs “Develop, research and evaluate ideas, concepts and processes through creative, critical and reflective thinking and practice” and “Work independently and collaboratively in the Creative and Performing Arts Discipline in response to project demands” (Holmes & Fountain, 2010, p. 11). Denson and Nulty (2009) claim that activities students undertake in the Conservatoire are authentic to the profession of being a musician: “The tasks students undertake do not simply mimic what a musician does, they are what a musician does” (p. 4). In this instance, student musicians make music in an ensemble situation, in exactly the same way as occurs in the profession, engaging in an authentic activity rather than an emulation of an authentic musical practice. Based on his study at QCGU, Wrigley (2005) identified a need to improve accountability in teaching and learning outcomes in tertiary music education. This has been a priority for the host institution for some time, as part of a university-wide focus on assessment.
This project used a consensus moderation methodology to assure consistency of interpretation of the TLOs in the specific context of music, and to assure consistency in the awarding of marks and grades. The methodology drew on a current Griffith University project focused on developing consensus moderation approaches and processes (Sadler, 2007, 2009) to assure comparability of standards of student achievement within and between areas of study. In this process, academics consider a range of student responses to a particular assessment task and share their views on the standard of achievement demonstrated by these responses. This produces a common understanding of what standards are represented by the grades and marks awarded in the assessment process. This approach has been adopted at the QCGU as is the case elsewhere in Griffith University, and has been found to be effective in ensuring rigor within music assessment practices. A similar process was undertaken with the partner institutions as a means of working towards the goal of inter-institutional consensus on standards of student achievement. This process provides a means of ensuring comparability of the grades used to measure student achievement, both within and between courses and programs of study, and also between the partner institutions, providing a model for moving towards sector-wide consensus on such matters in a particular domain.
Each of the three partner institutions in the project has introduced new undergraduate programs during the time-frame of the project. This has provided an opportunity to examine the sustainability of initiatives that support new models of assessment and pedagogy.
Creech, A., Gaunt, H., Hallam, S., & Robertson, L. (2010). Conservatoire students’ perceptions of Master Classes. British Journal of Music Education, 26(3), 315–331. doi: 10.1017/S026505170999012X
Creech, A., & Hallam, S. (2010). Interpersonal interaction within the violin teaching studio: The influence of interpersonal dynamics on outcomes for teachers. Psychology of Music, 38(4), 403–421.
Curruthers, G. (2008). The pedagogy of interpretation. Paper presented at the Educating Musicians for a Lifetime of Learning. 17th International Seminar of the Commission for the Education of the Professional Musician (CEPROM), Spilamberto, Italy. http://issuu.com/official_isme/docs/2008-ceprom-proceedings?viewMode=magazine&mode=embed
Denson, L., & Nulty, D. (2010). Peer and Self-assessment in Music Ensembles from http://www.griffith.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/134349/MusicEnsembles.pdf
Elliott, D. J. (1987). Assessing Musical Performance. British Journal of Music Education, 4(2), 157–183.
Gaunt, H. (2008). One-to-one tuition in a conservatoire: the perceptions of instrumental and vocal teachers. Psychology of Music, 36(2), 215–246.
Gaunt, H. (2010). One-to-one tuition in a conservatoire: the perceptions of instrumental and vocal students. Psychology of Music, 38(2), 178–208.
Holmes, J., & Fountain, W. (2010). Creative and Performing Arts Learning and Teaching Academic Standards Statement. Sydney: Australian Learning and Teaching Council.
Karlsson, J., & Juslin, P. (2008). Musical expression: an observational study of instrumental teaching. Psychology of Music, 36, 309–335.
Lebler, D. (2007). Student-as-master? Reflections on a learning innovation in popular music pedagogy. International journal of music education, 25(3), 205–221. doi: 10.1177/0255761407083575
McPherson, G., & Thompson, W. (1998). Assessing Music Performances: Issues and Influences. Research Studies in Music Education, 10, 12–24.
Monkhouse, H. (2007). Performance assessment of classical woodwind instruments in the Australian Tertiary Sector. 39. http://www.altcexchange.edu.au/system/files/2007 TF report.pdf
Sadler, D. R. (2007). Perils in the meticulous specification of goals and assessment criteria. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 14(3), 387—392. doi: 10.1080/09695940701592097
Sadler, D. R. (2009). Indeterminacy in the use of preset criteria for assessment and grading. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 34(2), 159–179. doi: 10.1080/02602930801956059
Swanwick, K. (1998). The Perils and Possibilities of Assessment. Research Studies in Music Education, 10, 1–11.
Wrigley, B. (2005). Improving music performance assessment. (Doctor of Philosophy), Griffith University, Brisbane.
Zhukov, K. (2009). Exploring approaches to instrumental music learning in higher education. Paper presented at the Australian Society for Music Education Inc. XVII National Conference, Launceston.