This August we held the first of our community workshops at Newtown Youth Centre in Southampton. The centre has a regular attendance of between 50-80 young people and the workshops were available as part of their summer programme of events: four, two-hour sessions, over two weeks.
Over the four workshops, staff wrote journals reflecting on each session and evaluation forms were filled in by participants and setting staff. This blog aims to summarise and share what we learnt along the way.
Musical Assessment and participant Feedback
Staff have been using an evaluation journal format, developed based on the Youth Music Evaluation Toolkit. They are asked to reflect on our three outcomes in both a quantitative and qualitative way.
To measure the musical ability of students, staff use a "Composition Progression Framework" (downloadable from our resources page), a framework that has been adapted from the hub's Primary and Secondary Progression Frameworks.
When trying to get participant feedback we had two issues to learn from. Firstly, the open nature of the sessions meant that with participants coming and going freely, that whilst we were able to get committed participants to fill in an evaluation at the end of the session, it was much harder to get evaluation responses from participants who left early, or came back and forth. Secondly, some of the participants had additional learning or physical needs, and so filling in a paper evaluation form was not easy or appropriate in some cases.
For future workshops we will look at alternative methods of conducting evaluations at the end of the sessions: possibly giving all participants a token and asking them to put it in one of multiple labeled buckets as they leave, with the option to leave more detailed feedback if they wish to.
Developing Composition Skills
Over the course of the four sessions, we saw a diverse range of composition skill levels among participants. As open access sessions, we saw some participants take part for very shout amounts of time, and some much longer periods over multiple sessions. With those students who took part over longer periods, we saw a big increase in their composition abilities: some increasing their skills from level 1 on the Composition Progression Framework to level 3 in some areas.
Participant feedback suggests that they felt the workshops had really given them new ideas and apps that they could use to make music at home. They asked for more workshops, and more ideas to help them take this even further.
The biggest challenge in conducting workshops came with providing participants with ideas and skills for how to progress and develop their skills. The accessibility of the apps on offer meant that we saw high levels of engagement among participants, and the resources available to them meant that they had some options for knowing what they could do next, but accessing a wider range of resources more easily would allow participants to have a more self-motivated approach to making progress.
Developing Confidence and Communication
It was frequently noted by setting staff that the workshops had attracted the engagement of young people who would not normally take part in the music activities at the centre. Whilst the open nature of the workshops meant that we saw some young people more comfortable with observing rather than directly participating, it also enabled young people to engage in their own time.