Tag Archives: LTS

Musical Terms

There was a time when many used to feel that it was fine to question Wikipedia’s accuracy. I never really felt this and can’t recall spotting an error – perhaps I know less than those critics.

I’m impressed by their glossary of musical terms – particularly the iPhone version, the alphabetical arrangement of which is elegant and user friendly. A nervous pupil, en route to a grade exam, could do worse than to look check up a few of these in the car. At home on PC it is a great resource – particularly when used in conjunction with Windows search function – Ctrl+F then the first few letters of the term in question.

Of course, when it comes to SQA concepts, there is no better site than LTS’ one – where audio illustrations of the concepts are included.


It’s fitting when something new, positive and creative comes along for New Year, so thanks to Ewan McIntosh for the heads up on wordia, whose mission is to redefine the dictionary. This is done by means of short videos, to which collection we are all invited to contribute. The part of the invitation I particularly like is, “think of a word which has a special meaning for you.” As everyone in the teaching game knows, wanting to take part is a huge part of the journey.

I see an opportunity here for pupils and teachers of Music to parallel the excellent work of LTS‘s Learn Listening Online. There seems to be room for inventive and fun ways of illustrating concepts. Moreover, the fact that it is a dictionary should reinforce the connection between music and language. Contributors will need to think about parts of speech and perhaps even etymology. If contributing to this is not the embodiment of CfE, in terms of cross-curricular, creative connectivity, then I don’t know what is.

This illustration of the concept of round might give some idea of what I’m describing. My current favourite, however, is parody – this word was just asking for it.

Happy New Year!


National Instrumental Conference 2: Curriculum for Excellence

I spent part of this afternoon with Alan Armstong, Director of Education Improvement at LTS (formerly of HMIe). He wasn’t aware of this nor of the fact that I could, as though by magic, get him to repeat any idea as many times as I needed to hear it. How did this unlikely situation come about? Through the miracle of modern technology.

A Curriculum for Excellence was one of the two workshops I signed up for at the HITS National Instrumental Conference on Tuesday 30 Sept. This session was shared by Alan Armstrong and Aileen Monaghan of HMIe (formerly of LTS). Before the session began I asked if they’d object if I recorded it as an aide memoir – stressing that I hoped to write it up on my blog. They were kind enough to agree. So I placed my Zoom H2 on the neighbouring chair, allowing me to give the talk my full attention.

I had intended to write this up sooner but I’m glad I didn’t because the target audience has changed. Today I received details of our In Service on Monday Oct 20. Feedback from the HITS conference was requested and, as my colleagues were scattered about the other dozen or so session taking place simultaneously, I feel that I should try to make some sense of this session for them – in addition to any readers here. The were slides accompanying the talk and so, rather than attempt a verbatim re-enactment, I shall simply make use of numbered points and paraphrasing so that, on Monday, colleagues can more easily ask me for clarification.

  1. Why change? OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development) report indicates that school doesn’t overcome poverty and disadvantage – as strong as Scottish education is, it does not compensate for the postcode lottery – so some reflection of what schools are for was thought essential – and delivery of the Curriculum for Excellence is the practical expression of this

  2. This reform must come from schools and not be centrally driven

  3. Original draft in 2004 – constant discussions since then – with more detail in the last 6 months

  4. What is going to change? Our pupils will face a future much more prone to rapid change than way in which we (at least the more senior members of the service) grew up. Some will change career several times. We need to provide them with skills for this changing future. We need to prepare them for change? We’re looking for deep and sustained learning which upon pupils will be able to draw whatever the circumstances. The content of the curriculum must be fit for purpose for this changing future.

  5. What will be the contribution of learning and teaching to this?

  6. Is there anything we (instructors) cannot claim to be doing already?

  7. Active Learning?

  8. Choice?

  9. Ownership of learning – encouraging pupils to explain what is and what is not going well?

  10. Encouraging pupils to see the connections between subjects?

  11. Assessment if for Learning is about talking to pupils – letting them express how they think things are going – challenging them – collaborating in finding solutions to problems – is this not already a constant component of lessons and rehearsals?

  12. All teachers (including instructors) are to be teachers of Literacy, Numeracy and Health & Well Being.

  13. School-Community links – concerts?

  14. Collegiate Leadership – Instructors to take charge or their part of the overall picture.

  15. However, the experience and outcomes form only part of the picture

  16. How things are put together matters.

  17. Assessment has to be considered.

  18. So does certification.

  19. The draft of A Curriculum for Excellence was put together by LTS

  20. The experience and outcomes areas have been the subject of much discussion and many checks (Expressive Arts can be found here)

  21. It was launched in January for feedback.

  22. Will the ingredients of this curriculum do what they promise?

  23. Re-professionalise teachers (allow them to take ownership of what they teach as opposed to tight, more schematic approaches of guidelines of 5 to 14?

  24. Will they work?

  25. What CPD will be required?

  26. What changes will be required before the curriculum settles into what could be considered its final form (I don’t believe that this suggests for a moment that the situation will some day be fixed for all time – this would hardly be in keeping with the perpetual change highlighted above)

  27. What do we need in the form of interesting new practice to show others? Do we (Instructors in East Lothian) see ourselves as the provider as opposed to the recipient of new ideas?

  28. Apparently the feedback is already in. Have we missed out here? Does anyone recall being directed to consider and respond to the content?

  29. Some local authorities were given the chance to try out 2 or 3 outcomes – presumably we weren’t in this pilot phase.

  30. Bear in mind that some of these outcomes are broad e.g. a whole term’s work – 2 or 3 years in some cases.

  31. There was also an online questionnaire from LTS. Anyone in Scotland could take part – not solely professionals – I think we’ve missed this.

  32. A report was commissioned from Glasgow University. The time period was short (over the summer) and there were many subjects being considered, so (in Music) they were asked simply to point out flaws:

  33. What’s not clear?

  34. Is more information required e.g. what lies behind it?

  35. Is more exemplification required?

  36. What kind of CPD – nationally?

  37. The rest of the development comes from us – over the next year and beyond – developments will be shared via LTS and GLOW (formerly Scottish Schools Digital Network – each school should have at least one Glow Mentor who can talk us through this).

  38. So the content will be what we can offer.

  39. What was the feedback to LTS from Glasgow University?

  40. People like the broad statements

  41. They feel less secure about the meaning e.g. what constitutes any given level

  42. In general they were happy with the Music outcomes – perhaps the required change will be small

  43. Any Gremlins? The word magic was not popular – too vague – more specifics are required – without being in danger of inviting an over prescriptive situation – Scotland, has had open curricula in the past – relative to other countries – and people are keen to retain this

  44. More generic (negative) points – the CfE document was not easy to navigate

  45. So – what needs to be elaborated?

  46. There will be a fleshing out of points on the curriculum over the next few months – not every single outcome, but where there is a barrier to progress or a lack of clarity

  47. What additional support might be necessary? How will we adapt, where necessary, the content?

  48. How will achievement and reporting flesh out?

  49. Further clarification of music technology required (this would form part of Aileen Monaghan’s contribution to the session).

  50. How will assessment strategies flesh out? People seem unsure of what constitutes a certain level – and this makes planning difficult.

  51. More exemplification required – visual and aural to refine idea of content

  52. How does all this link back to Citizenship & Sustainable Development?

  53. CPD needs – training for non-specialist – how will they cope with changes – particularly when they will be dealing with changes to almost every other element in their working day? Does this apply to musical activity in, say, a primary school over and above that provided by visiting Instrumental Instructors and Primary Music Specialists?

  54. Independent Learning? Surely not an issue for an effective, modern Music Department using differentiation etc.

  55. In Service talks by pioneers of new practice, technology, software, ideas etc.

  56. Interesting that people continue to seek clear explanation, four years down the CfE road.

  57. The big professional judgement at the heart of this is how much to prescribe (given the apparent need for clarity) and how much to leave to the experience and judgement of individual departments

  58. The Four Capacities being at the heart of everything, how do we organise things to ensure that they materialise? By referring constantly – not simply to the headlines but the attributes

  59. Remember to include literacy and numeracy in this

  60. How does it all come together? It’s all about what we plan for children – and not just us – any planned activity – cubs; sport; trips; rehearsals; concerts etc.

  61. Four main ingredients are meant to be present: ethos; curriculum areas; interdisciplinary subjects (in our case – how music links with everything else); personal achievement.

  62. The above four elements are really the definition of the curriculum – but it’s much broader – not just the in-school stuff

  63. We also need to be aware of: challenge; breadth; progression; personalisation; coherence & relevance

  64. this means linking in-school, out-of-school, ethos etc.

  65. There have been many changes in curricular content – in my time – since late 82, I’ve seen the transition from O Grade to Standard Grade (resulting in the disappearance of the non-certificate class); the new Higher Music; Higher Still; Advanced Higher (and the disappearance of the Certificate of 6th Year Studies); Intermediate I & II…… 5 – 14

  66. BUT – this is the first time that the entire 3 – 18 span has been rethought

  67. One result will be that secondary school will no longer be thought of as S1-2; S3-4; S5-6 but rather S1-3; S4-6

  68. The S1-3 phase will be about breadth of education

  69. The S4-6 phrase will be about certification for continuing education or employment

  70. The values will include – effective teaching; personal support for every pupil (we’ll surely be part of this); qualifications

  71. How will schools deliver this? We will be part of this and it will require, for example, specifics of how Literacy, Numeracy and Health & Well Being fit into our lessons & rehearsals

  72. Given the freedoms involved, the manifestation of the curriculum could vary from school to school – surely this, more than any individual component will be the eventual challenge for the Instrumental Instructor.

  73. Two final questions to finish this part of the presentation:

  74. (1) Framework for Learning & Teaching: look at the ingredients for 30 seconds (in one area) and discuss with your neighbour how the instruction service fits into everything

  75. (2) Given that everyone will be a teacher of Literacy, Numeracy and Health & Well Being – how will you capitalize on these three things – either individually or as a network (service)?

  76. What now? Where do we fit into the remaining development? Perhaps not a terrific amount of change in day to day practicalities but certainly more elaboration of our contribution to the three above elements.

  77. New awards in literacy and numeracy will be available – exactly when remains to be settled – early S4 perhaps S3 but, in either case, evidence will be collected from across the curriculum – that includes us.

  78. Scottish Government consultation (online questionnaire) on qualifications remains open online until 31 October.

It’s difficult to believe that what is merely sketched out here was delivered in proper prose in under 28 minutes!

Unfortunately, the batteries in the Zoom H2 packed in 8 minutes into Aileen Monaghan’s contribution – but I’ll try to piece together something in a separate post.

* the definition of literacy is much wider than what might normally be assumed and includes digital literacy (podcasting, blogging, uploading multimedia etc.), musical literacy the ability to give a talk/presentation etc.

Following the heard

I would describe myself as aurally blessed but visually cursed. How bad is it? I have absolutely no sense of direction and part of this is the fault of poor observation. If I visited your house on two consecutive days and the living room had undergone a change of colour that fell short of drastic, it’s quite possible I wouldn’t notice.

That’s why I was intrigued to see a few posts on Dave Gray’s Visual Thinking in Practice (from the CAIS Conference) on Laurie Bartels‘* blog, Neurons Firing. Among the links** was a short video from Visual Thinking Strategies featuring some eloquent observations of paintings by primary school pupils.

I understand that visual input takes up 90% of the brain’s processing power and it seems a shame for this to be undernourished. However, I also find myself frustrated at the difficulty experienced by people – including pupils – to articulate musical content. There are various levels to this:

  • description of techniques – seen in action; the need for one identified in the music; identifying the individual elements in a compound technique

  • description of concepts heard in music – ascending; descending; scale; sequence; repetition; variation etc.

  • description of mood of music – even after many years, many people do not get beyond happy/sad – a vocabulary too coarse and impoverished to depict their everyday emotional life

The third of these strikes me as the most problematic. Is it possible to calibrate and database the expressive intention as encoded musical content of a composition in the way that LTS has for concepts? Or is it simply a subjective minefield, best avoided?

*Laurie also contributes to the Sharp Brains  blog

**Another interesting link was to an Online Encyclopaedia of Western Signs & Symbols