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Walking in their shoes

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(1 min read)

Today I had spent the afternoon assessing: 20 music students performed contrasting songs to show their work and progress this term and I tippity-tapped away on the laptop while sitting behind a desk with another examiner. We make it as fun an experience as it can be, but it is an assessment and I am not sure I would call my experience with formal assessments fun.

In the morning I was doing something completely different. I was the student –  and it was the last time I would see my teacher before it was my turn to sit a singing performance exam this Saturday.

While writing comments for the first year students today I was aware just how strange performance assessment can be. In a concert setting you know the audience has come to hear and see you. There is still plenty of occasion for nerves, but it is different. They smile at you, clap, and go with you on the musical journey. That is not to say I wasn’t right there with the students today, but when assessing there is a different perspective. The students do received applause, but they also know there will be comments, feedback that will be partially positive as well as having critical comments about how they can improve, and … a grade. That is a very different experience than simply having an audience applaud. As assessors we cannot shout BRAVO! and then look uninspired for another performer. There is an air of neutrality and it makes it tough for the students. They have to really go for it, even when they don’t get much in return.

So I thought of that while I was typing, that it is a strange situation – and doing that it is hard. Somehow I think it is important that the people behind the desk don’t forget what it’s like to be in the position of doing what we ask of students. It’s my turn Saturday, and then I really will know what it is like to walk in those shoes.

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