Knowing how a person engages with music – having an awareness of their abilities, propensities and preferences – is essential in order to be able to offer them the most appropriate music provision, whether educational, therapeutic or recreational. This information can be gathered through formative assessment, using the descriptions set out in the Sounds of Intent framework. The framework can also be used for summative assessment, to celebrate an individual’s musical achievements at a given point in time, and to compare levels of musical engagement within and between cohorts to inform the planning and provision of music services more widely.
Formative assessment is best undertaken by adopting a ‘can do’ approach. Starting with Level 2 of the circular framework, work outwards, ticking off the headlines of musical engagement in each domain that, through observation, you are confident lie with an individual’s range of accomplishment. There will almost certainly come a point at which you are unsure, or where you feel a person partly meets a criterion, or who meets it some of the time. It may well be helpful, at this stage, to consult the full matrix of elements [DOC 1] in order to make a secure judgement. Each element in the matrix has associated strategies that can be used to plan musical activities that will be at an appropriate level for the person concerned.
The two methods of summative assessment asscoiated with the Sounds of Intent framework that are most commonly used are the ‘E•A•X’ (’emerging, achieving, excelling’) scheme and the system available on the ‘Classic’ Sounds of Intent website – www.soundsofintent.org.
The E•A•X Scheme
The E•A•X (’emerging, achieving, excelling’) scheme was first used by Lamorna Jewell-Gore, head of music at Linden Lodge School in London, and colleagues, who monitored the levels of musical engagement of a group of 20 young people with profound and multiple learning difficulties over a period of six months as they participated in a targeted programme of class music activities. [LINK A:70 ON DATABASE] Here, three sub-levels were identified, reactively, proactively and interactively, in relation to each of the six main Sounds of Intent levels – yielding a total of 18 indicators in each domain. These reference points consolidated the varying forms of engagement set out in the 24 individual ‘elements’. [DOC 1] They were further developed and refined in a pilot accreditation scheme run by Trinity College London in 2018 in partnership with Sounds of Intent Charity. Music teachers from across the UK entered 112 pupils at Sounds of Intent Levels 2, 3 and 4, by uploading videos of them in action to a secure site, and grading their engagement as ‘emerging, achieving, excelling’ in the proactive and interactive domains at one of these levels. The results were moderated by an expert panel. A high level of agreement was found between teachers and moderators; weighted Kappa = 0.83 in relation to levels as a whole, and weighted Kappa = 0.80 pertaining to sub-levels. [DOC 63] Analysis of the results, and feedback from the teachers and moderation panel indicated where the wording of the criteria and the definitions used could potentially be tightened up, and a revised version is set out in the Sounds of Intent Assessment Matrix (2021) to be found here. [DOC 60] Note that assessment at Level 1 pertains to the musical environment and opportunities offered to someone who, as far as it is possible to ascertain, is unable to engage with music. Assessment at Levels 2–6 is of individuals‘ levels of musical engagement, alone or with others. There are two sheets for recording individual’s achievements, which can be used separately or, preferably, in combination. The table [DOC 61] enables a more detailed account to be kept – data that can be used to populate a visual representation of the profile of a learner’s willingness and capacity to engage with music. [DOC 62]
The Classic Scheme
This enables attainment to be captured at any point and progress mapped over time, and is available as an online assessment tool at www.soundsofintent.org. It is based on an algorithm that takes into account both engagement and consistency as they pertain to any given element, both of which are evaluated on five-point scales. So, for example, in relation to element R.3.C (’recognises and responds to simple patterns formed through regular change’), the assessment criteria are as follows:
A score is calculated as the product of the two, giving a range of 1–25. As there are four elements in each of the three domains pertaining to every one of the six Sounds of Intent levels, this yields an entire scale of 4 x 3 x 6 x 25 = 1,800 potential increments of musical development. Contextual information can be particularly important in understanding how people with severe or profound learning difficulties are able to engage with sound and music, and the Classic Sounds of Intent website gives users the opportunity to log relevant observations to accompany the quantitative data. Many thousands of assessments have been undertaken using the online tool. Among its strengths are that it is particularly sensitive to the tiny changes in engagement that people with profound learning difficulties may show over considerable periods of time. Among the challenges that have been reported is that its very intricacy can be off-putting, given the limited time that practitioners often have to evaluate their pupils’, students’, clients’ or service-users‘ progress. A further issue is that, at the higher levels, there is no read-across to the other forms of music assessment that are currently in the public domain – particularly the graded music examination system in the UK, that is internationally recognised as a benchmark in instrumental and vocal achievement.