Travelling with them

It’s never too late to evaluate.

Back in May, I attended a Youth Music Grantholder Gathering at the Garage in Norwich. I always come away from Youth Music events with something new to think about, and this time was no different; it made me realise that, almost two and a half terms into a music project, I had no quantitative data from the young people involved, relating to their progress and development.

I had lots of anecdotal evidence. I could also tot up the register and point to the fact that they kept coming back: when working with 14 to 18 year olds in a youth club setting, that’s an achievement in itself.

The youth workers and support officers all commented on how enthused and engaged the young people were, and the young people talked about how much they looked forward to the sessions.

Yet I had no colourful graphs, no pie charts or scatter patterns to demonstrate progress – either in practical skills or emotional and social skills. So I devised a brief questionnaire of four, simple questions: -

1. Do you feel confident about your music skills?

2. Do you feel confident about playing in front of other people?

3. Do you feel confident about playing together with other people?

4. How much, if at all, has the one-to-one tuition helped you develop your music?

Whilst obviously the first and last questions related directly to the project outcomes, the middle two were informed by what we, as tutors, had observed when the young people started attending.

For example, they might start to play something, but as soon as another young person walked into the room, they would stop. And once they had got past that stage, they might continue to play, but the slightest suggestion that they might play along with another person (other than a tutor) sent them rushing off for another rollie and high energy drink.

The questions were rated one to five, and split into half-terms, starting in January 2015, so there were three 6-week periods for them to consider. I reckoned the young people – this cohort is aged around 16 – would remember back to January, not least because it was when the one-to-one tuition started, and be able more accurately to reflect on how they felt they had progressed.

You know when something works so well you just want to go outside and hug yourself? Because they know they have progressed, I had anticipated that they would probably want to mark themselves high now – and so would start down the bottom end of the scale for the earlier periods. What I had not anticipated was just how powerful that level of self-reflection would be for the young people.

One young woman sat there saying ‘Oh my goodness – do you remember when I first came? I’d sit there with my head down, whispering a song, I’d keep stopping and saying I was no good. Last time I came here, I taught my sister how to play a song. That’s amazing. I never realised how far I’ve come.’

Another young man, having marked himself quite high from the outset, commented ‘I suppose I’ve always felt fairly confident about the music I make – but what this has done for me – it’s made me feel much more optimistic about my music now – I feel I can take it somewhere now.’

Typically, this sort of evaluation would be done each half term – and then the big picture would be created at the end, resulting in a lovely graph of some description. By encouraging them look back and reflect, it was the young people themselves who plotted their development; they also experienced a level of self-awareness that I do not think would have been achieved, had we done it each half term.

J. went from ‘1-not at all confident’ about playing together with other people in January to a maximum of ‘5’ by May. He said, ‘I hadn’t thought about that, but yes, now I’m showing the others what I’ve learned – we’re sharing the stuff we’ve learnt – I couldn’t do that when I started.’

Another young man, when asked the same question, marked himself low, as in ‘1 – not at all confident’ back in January, and only rose to a ‘2’ by May. ‘What you’ve got to understand,’ he told me, ‘is that, for me, the ‘1’ is me playing in my bedroom – ‘5’ is playing Wembley.’

 

So, now I have my graph, demonstrating a gradual increase in confidence since January. There is, however, one question where the response is the same throughout. The final question, relating to how helpful, if at all, the one-to-one tuition has been.

Each respondent marked it ‘5-very helpful’ throughout; ‘I couldn’t have done this without them [the tutors]’ one participant said, ‘it’s been everything to me.’

Rock Up is a music inclusion project, held at Colville House Youth Club, Lowestoft. It’s the only senior youth club in the town. For more information, please contact the project officer, Candida Wingate, on 01986 873955 or email her at: -candida@suffolkartlink.org.uk

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