The Perilous Path from Proposal to Practice: A Qualitative Program Evaluation of a Regional Music Program

Article excerpt

An evaluation of a particular project has its greatest implications for projects that will be put in place in the future. (Cronbach and Associates 1983, p. 409)

Introduction

In 2004, a committee of educators from a regional secondary school in Victoria, Australia, successfully applied for a government grant to implement a large-scale music education initiative. The funded project, referred to in this paper as 'MP', ambitiously aimed to improve provision of music education within all of the state government funded schools in their area. In addition to building a new community music centre at the secondary school and expanding the existing secondary school music program (for students aged 12-18 years), the MP proposal also included strategies to provide high-quality classroom and instrumental music programs to the primary school students (aged 5-12 years) in its cluster of 'feeder schools', at no cost to the families involved. The aim of the first three-year phase of the program (2005-2007) was to introduce the full program described in this paper into five of the ten primary schools in the cluster, with the remaining five schools to receive benefits from additional community music initiatives.

The MP committee established a partnership with Monash University to develop and implement a comprehensive evaluation of whether implementation of an intensive music education program for school children with varied psychosocial and academic needs yielded significant benefits on a range of student potentials. The effects of the primary level music program on music-related outcomes, measures of academic and cognitive ability and psychosocial well-being were measured and analysed throughout the three-year program using quantitative research methods. Positive effects of the program on immediate recall of verbal information and self-esteem were observed, and the detail of these quantitative findings are to be reported elsewhere (Rickard, N., Appelman, P., James, R., Murphy, F., Gill, A. & Bambrick, C. 2010).

This article will report on a qualitative program evaluation, performed by a research team consisting of academics from three university disciplines (Psychology, Music and Education), which describes how this ambitious music program was implemented into the five primary schools over the three-year period and the lessons that can be learned from this initiative. As the opening quotation implies, the purpose of this evaluation is to provide educational administrators and music educators with a detailed account of the successes and pitfalls of this particular program in order that they can make informed decisions about implementing similar programs in the future. This article will be presented in four sections. First, the music program originally proposed and the program actually implemented will be outlined. Second, the methodology utilised for the evaluation process will be described. Third, an impact evaluation of the program will address whether program objectives and recipient needs were met, why changes occurred to the proposed program as it was implemented, and what unintended outcomes occurred. Finally, the implications of these findings with particular respect to issues of sustainability and transportability will be discussed and guidelines for future program proposals and implementation suggested.

Description of the proposed and implemented music program

The objectives of the program, and how these were implemented (planned vs actual) are outlined in Tables 1 and 2. As part of the evaluation process, it is important to recognise the discrepancies between the original proposal and the program that was actually implemented. The reasons for these discrepancies will be discussed in the impact evaluation.

Participants

The first year of Victorian government primary schools is referred to as Preparatory (Prep) and students entering Prep class are typically 5 years of age. …