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

Assessment in Music


Participants’ perceptions of assessment were important for this project, and focus groups were conducted with teachers and students to explore their views in depth. Results of focus group sessions with students in the Performance, Musical Theatre and Composition streams of the Bachelor of Music degree, revealed that students are enthusiastic about ensuring that assessment practices and teacher feedback enhance their growth as musicians, ultimately enabling them to become self-regulated learners. In the teachers’ focus group, it was clear that teachers value holistic assessment of musical performances but are happy to structure their feedback with reference to criteria, particularly if they have the freedom to choose which aspects of the performance they can focus their feedback on.

Teachers were confident that their existing practices assessed the CAPA TLOs effectively.

Student views on their performance course assessment were also gathered from the University experience surveys which all students are able to complete online every semester for every course they take. Likert scale responses to questions about the course’s organization, assessment and overall effectiveness and quality are supplemented by open responses about the strengths and weaknesses of the course. In Semester 2 2013, 85.5% of respondents to the course experience questionnaire for performance courses regarded the assessment as clear and fair, with 89.8% saying their feedback on assessment was helpful: 91.3% of respondents were satisfied with their performance courses overall. There were several comments from students in support of the Performance Studies Portfolio (PSP), and about an equal number from students who disliked the PSP entirely. Many more students offered suggestions for improving the PSP by reducing its complexity and its marks weighting. Both of these suggestions have been implemented.

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Mapping results

Stage one
In the first stage of the process, the team collated the learning objectives for each undergraduate assessment item and mapped the relationship between these assessment tasks and the nineteen Griffith University Graduate Attributes (GGAs). These were further aligned with the Creative and Performing Arts Threshold Learning Outcomes. The initial analysis indicated that all Griffith Graduate Attributes (and by extension, CAPA TLOs) were assessed repeatedly.

In comparing the mapping results from semester 2, 2011 and semester 2, 2012 in the Bachelor of Popular Music (BPM) program (for example), the least frequently assessed Griffith Graduate Attribute was E1, Awareness of and respect for the values and knowledges of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander First Peoples which was assessed twice in the 2012 course profiles.

On average, Griffith Graduate Attributes were each assessed more than 20 times in semester 2 2011 in the 34 assessment activities analysed, and more than 18 times in semester 2 2012 over 23 assessment items. This translates to the Threshold Learning Outcomes in the Creative and Performing Arts being assessed between 28 and 34 times across the duration of the degree program. If the claims in course profiles are valid, then the required learning outcomes are being thoroughly assessed in this program.

The test applied in consideration of the validity of a claim that a particular Griffith Graduate Attribute was being assessed by a particular assessment item was that all students achieving a pass mark for that assessment item would have demonstrated that attribute, not that they might possibly have demonstrated that attribute.

An analysis of the initial mapping of assessment items revealed that existing claims for alignment seemed excessive. Particularly noticeable were the large number of courses that claimed to be assessing for capacity to recognize, reflect and engage critically on social, cultural and ethical issues, and apply local and international perspectives.

Stage two
As a result, a form of consensus moderation was requested whereby QCGU staff members responsible for the design of course profiles consulted with another academic to ensure they were in consensus as to the claims made for the assessment of Griffith Graduate Attributes and where necessary, modify selected QCGU assessment practices to improve alignment. A second mapping was then conducted. Assessment tasks were further categorised to align with the new Griffith Assessment type titles.

Mapping data for each of the following programs and streams follows:

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