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Criteria and Student Assessment in Music Disciplines: a Case Study

When implementing Bologna reforms after 1999 most European countries chose to keep their traditional grading scales, with supplementary use of the Bologna (ECTS) scale for ‘translation’ purposes. Norway, however, decided to apply the Bologna scale as a new national assessment scale for all higher education. One of the basic tenets of this scale is its norm-referencing function. A ‘key’ for the distribution of grades is supposed to secure fairness and consistency across subject and institution boundaries: on rough average, percentages of students who pass an exam should be approximately 10 for A, 25 for B, 30 for C, 25 for D and 10 for E. But this premise has not been too well observed and has turned out to be especially problematic in music education.

Two ‘tensions’ – or contradictions – have turned out to be acute: one is between the principle of norm-referencing inherent in the ECTS scale and a criteria-referenced approach that seems to be implied by the Qualifications Framework; another runs between holistic and analytical assessment.

This report presents and discusses a development project that was conducted in order to dig into these problems at the Norwegian Music Academy (NMA), involving teachers in vocal music but taking in data from other music academies as well.

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Author(s): Vidar Gynnild
Date: 05.10.2010
Report no.: 2010-4