Making music or gaining grades? Assessment practices in tertiary music ensembles
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Participation in an ensemble is a significant aspect of tertiary music experience. Learning and assessment practices within ensembles have rarely been investigated in Australia and the perceptions of staff and students as to how they learn and are assessed within ensembles remain largely unexplored. This paper reports on part of a larger project that investigated learning and assessment practices within ensembles at an Australian Conservatorium of Music. Ensembles contribute to approximately 25% of student work in each semester, and the assessment contributes to a final grade for the semester. Using a case study methodology, four music ensembles were studied. The data generated were coded into themes including assessment practices and processes; collaborative learning practices; the development of the professional musician; and communication and transparency between participants and the institution. Findings revealed that both staff and student participants in this study perceived ensemble participation to be valuable to the development of a professional musician, but that assessment procedures did not always support this goal. Institutional demands were found to be an inhibiting factor in the assessment of ensembles, and both students and teachers had problems with current assessment procedures, resulting in confusion and lack of transparency about how ensembles are assessed. Approaches to the development of the professional musician became a dominant discussion point and a substantial finding of the research. By examining dominant and subjugated knowledge in this domain, institutional power relations were interrogated, existing practices were challenged, and assessment practices rethought.
British Journal of Music Education
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