Assessment tweaks 2021

Apologies for the long silence here – like a lot of other music teachers, I have spent the last 18 months disinfecting my Boomwhackers and putting arnica cream on my body-percussion-induced bruises. I will attempt to fill in with a few posts about my current thinking on a few topics. There will be a couple to follow on more curriculum-related topics, but today here’s some info on where we’re at with assessment.

To see info on the evolution of all this, see this post – and, if you really want chapter and verse on the whole system, have a look at this webinar I did for Music Excellence London a little while ago.

Some things have not changed much. Because of the way we work in our department – with almost no computer access for KS3 students in music – we love using our radar sheets on actual paper when we’re doing a longish project in groups. It keeps everything in one place in a format which works well for both teachers and students, with the info where we can all access it when we need to (i.e. on a bit of paper that we’re looking at in the lesson). The only thing we’ve tweaked here is the little section above each radar:

The basic premise with these sheets is that you write on it in a different colour each time, to show exactly what happened when. It works really well (and is a great excuse for having lots of lovely pens).

This now has space to put in a brief target – this will be something that carries over from the previous topic. ‘A2L’ refers to ‘attitude to learning’, which is something that we have to report on in termly reviews – it’s a 1-5 scale where 1 is outstanding and 5 is very poor. It’s a pity that this 5-point scale interferes with our otherwise 3-point scale, but hey ho – the reasoning behind including it here is to bring it more to students’ attention, and to strengthen the links between A2L and progress in general (i.e. if your attitude to learning is poor, then it’s no wonder that you’re not getting very far). The blank space is just to add what instrument a student is playing at any one time, to keep track and monitor any weird chopping and changing.

The big change we’ve made – and this might surprise you – is to completely ditch our tracking spreadsheets. These were the ones that looked like this:

It seemed like such a good idea for a long time… however, here are the reasons we’ve ditched it:

  • It took time (quite a lot) to transfer info from the radar sheets – or other ‘in-lesson’ assessment records – to the spreadsheet
  • It really wasn’t great at showing progress over time – at one point we were screenshotting the spreadsheet once a term in order to get a picture of how it was changing
  • Because students can’t access the info in class, it was really difficult to get students to engage with it in any kind of meaningful way
  • Ultimately, there was no benefit either to students or to us – so it had to go

This year, we are (shock, horror!) using booklets in our KS3 lessons. I know, I know… but we still don’t do a lot of writing. They’re mainly used right at the start of the lesson when we’re doing wider listening (more on this another time). But the back page looks like this:

You’ll notice that this is a pared-down version of the spreadsheet. It’s basically a summary of how the student has done in each project. We think we’ll get them to fill in their estimates first (i.e. ‘how do you think you did on this project?’) and then fill in our numbers – still using 1-3 for not yet/can do/can do very well – afterwards. Then it’s right in front of the student, every lesson, we can refer back to it when we need to, and see how things are progressing across the year.