How do we provide for progress?

A blog about measuring and measurements for progression

Very few people can be the best; everybody can be exceptional. If we think about how individuals could be exceptional - rather than how they might be the best, or how they might match up to what we think of as the best, or indeed how they could aim for what we think of as best but probably not get there - then we stand a chance of helping them to fulfil their potential. Exceptional is not second to best; it's just individual, where best is, necessarily, exclusive.

Behind support for progression there is often an aspiration to be the best or to be excellent and, inevitably, that is often guided by the most recognisable and accepted forms of excellence - e.g. concert soloists, pop stars, A*s at A-Level etc. But these recognisable and accepted excellences might not be where everybody could be exceptional: the reality is that you can be excellent at whatever you do - there are myriad different excellences. And it seems that what brings individuals to progress towards excellence and being exceptional is having excellent progression journeys. Whether they become a concert pianist or a parent or a behavioural specialist or an administrator, or all of these, or something else - if their individual journey was excellent, they stand the best chance of being fulfilling their potential, of being excellent, of being exceptional. 

But often in education, particularly for what appear to be pragmatic reasons, we focus less on individual journeys than on well-trodden and well-known progression routes, that lots of people could go down, towards recognisable, accepted forms of excellence. But it is not excellent routes - from one institution to another, or from one set of abilities to another, or from one teacher to another - that result in excellent journeys but excellent environments, through which those journeys unfold, towards individual excellence - being exceptional. And also, in education as elsewhere, we focus on being excellent organisations and institutions, or on providing an excellent service, and less on the actual experiences of our students/users/customers. Often the entire progression arena is really about the question "What do I do with this person next?" - in other words, it's very educator-centric. Sometimes the answer is "nothing - see what they can do themselves, and who else could help".

What are these environments? Someone's holistic progression environment will comprise many things - people, places, spaces, interactions and experiences. What, it seems, makes these environments excellent for progression, is having the right ingredients. We've identified 21 of these (see Progression Ingredients poster. When you look through these 21 ingredients, it's quickly evident that nobody can provide all of them - education isn't something that just teachers do but something that a broad range of stakeholders have a role in: teachers, parents, children and young people, the internet, out-of-school experiences etc. So collaboration and co-working are an important first principle for progression environments.

In summary, 

  • Very few people can be the best; everybody can be exceptional
  • Learners are at the centre of their own learning - it is always they and only they that do the learning - but they are not always at the centre of their own education
  • Individual progression journeys need to be the primary and guiding focus, rather than the systems and organisations that might support some of those journeys
  • The whole environment, through which those journeys take place, needs to be considered holistically, rather than focussing on particular well-trodden progression routes through that environment.
  • There are many ingredients in an environment for progression, and they are often complex. These ingredients can only be provided in full by many different stakeholders (including schools, music organisations, music leaders, parents and young people individually and collectively) and therefore informed collaboration is essential.
  • Musical adults take many different forms (e.g. listeners are still musical adults), so we should consider excellences not excellence, and progressions not progression
  • We don’t know what will be considered excellent in the future, nor in which fields it will be considered, so today’s excellence(s) should be used to inspire and enrich today’s journeys, but personal or even collective opinions on what excellence is should not overly determine the destinations of those journeys: ‘whose excellence is it anyway?’ 

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