The El Sistema-inspired field is filled with questions. How could it not be, given its recent and rapid emergence? Our challenge, then, is to find the right questions – the provocative, testing, and ultimately, formative ones.
One of the focal investigations of the Sistema Fellows this year was how to document and measure the effectiveness and impact of El Sistema-inspired programs in the United States; that is, carrying out evaluation and assessment. The terms “assessment” and “evaluation,” while highly related, refer to substantively different things. Assessment measures the student learning that takes place, whereas evaluation measures the quality of the learning experience (or programming).
Our exploration of these topics proved much richer and more robust than we originally expected once we realized how many facets there were to these topics, from both social and musical standpoints. However, three key overarching questions emerged from our process:
For whom do we assess?
What do we assess?
How do we assess?
As a field, we often feel the need to prove our program’s value to those on the outside through our evaluation and assessment results; assessment, however, can and should be just as introspective as outward looking. We advocate using assessment tools and practices for the purpose of determining effective programming and teaching, improving students’ learning and experiences, and ultimately leading to longer-term outcomes and impact. Thorough and intentional assessment has the potential to inform program growth and provide a clear direction for the field.
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Andrea Landin, Carlos Roldan, Elaine Sandoval, Sara Zanussi
Sistema Fellows '13