Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Russell Waugh


This study addresses the problem of a lack of reliable and systematic methodology for evaluating progress in classroom music, using an outcomes framework, in primary and secondary schools in Western Australia. An innovative range of assessment tasks was developed for use at system, school or classroom level in order to develop a Music Achievement Scale, so that in the future, meaningful reporting of student outcomes in music, in relation to The Arts Student Outcome Statements (Education Department of Western Australia, 1996), can occur. Music tasks were tested with a representative sample of 2191 government primary school students from Years 3 (946) and 7(921), and 324 secondary students from Year 10. The tests are designed to assess student progress in relation to outcome levels rather than for specific Year levels, thus making them useful for the collection of information on student achievement between Years 3, 7 and 10. The Music Achievement Scale is composed of two parts: an Analysis test and a Process test. The Analysis test is designed to address the two 'appreciating' strands of The Arts Student Outcome Statements (Education Department of Western Australia, 1996) and the Process test is designed to address the two 'expressing' strands of the statements. The Analysis test is a pencil and paper test in which individual students respond to excerpts of taped music. The Process test is a developmental process in which students respond to a stimulus by creating a short musical composition, which is developed, rehearsed and performed in a group situation, and which includes students' critical appraisal of their performance. The tests consist of a combination of multiple choice and extended answer questions types and where possible, tasks are open-ended in order to provide the opportunity for students to perform to the maximum of their abilities. Through the use of common items and common stimulus materials, tasks allow for the linking of items through Years 3, 7 and 10, thus providing valuable information on student progression through the outcome levels. The open-ended tasks are polychotomous, allowing for the partial credit of student responses, rather than being either 'right' or 'wrong.' The tests were administered, in school classrooms that reflected students' usual learning environments, by their usual teachers of music. In primary schools this was sometimes a specialist music teacher and sometimes their usual classroom teacher. In secondary schools, the specialist music teacher administered the tests. All teachers used explicit administration instructions, which included time allocations to be apportioned for specific sections of the tests. All tests were centrally marked by experienced specialist music teachers who underwent training in marking procedures that included processes of moderation. Markers used marking keys that addressed the complexities of open-ended and polychotomous items to allocate a raw score to each student on both the Analysis and the Process test. An extended logistic model of Rasch (Andrich, 1988a) through the use of the RUMM (Andrich, Sheridan & Luo, 1996) item analysis computer program, was employed to analyse the data. The Scale has good content validity and the tasks fit the measurement model, providing further evidence of validity. Reliability of the scale is high: the Person Separation Index is 0.900 and the Item Separation Index is 0.928. The Test-of-Fit Power is 'excellent,' indicating that a valid and reliable Scale of Music Achievement has been created. Results indicate that the mean level for each year group shows a clear pattern of student development in music appreciation and music expression. Around 80 per cent of year 3 students demonstrated skills associated with level 2 outcomes in classroom music, in excess of 55 per cent of year 7 students demonstrated skills associated with level 3 outcomes, and over 80 per cent of year 10 students demonstrated skills associated with level 4 outcomes. To increase the awareness of teachers and Principals in the differential performances in music of sub-groups, a collection of data was undertaken on the performances of boys and girls, Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) students and non-Aboriginal students, and English speaking background and non-English speaking background (NESS) students. There were significant differences in the performances of some of these sub-groups that raise issues to be addressed in the future. The study is of importance to Western Australian teachers and schools because, for the first time, specialist and generalist teachers will have access to reliable, authentic assessment materials that reflect exemplary classroom practice, as well as an instrument that allows for the mapping of student progress on a continuum of achievement related to the outcomes framework. Reporting to parents using the method of assessment developed in this study will provide more information on students' skills and abilities than in the past. Issues related to the differential performances of sub-groups as well as issues of access and inclusivity, will be important at the system level for future developers of curriculum, as well as future developers of music assessment materials. Now that baseline data has been gathered and new methods pioneered, the way has been paved for future, improved methods of assessment in the Arts, and music in particular.