Logic Model Update – V.2 now available


I’m pleased to announce a major update to the el Sistema Logic Model : Version 2.0 is immediately available for download from this site. Updates will hopefully not become a regular occurrence (read: blight) in the manner of patches for Windows, but the new additions to the logic model, few though they are, remain significant enough to warrant a revised version and some elaboration.

  • Identify and evaluate social objectives

    The Needs Assessment conducted by the past class of Sistema Fellows suggested that many organizations in the US are not currently evaluating the social progress of their students. This may be a consequence of another finding of the study – an urgent lack of resources – but the other implication is that the social starting points and end targets of many programs are not sufficiently defined to permit any effective measurement between the two. Musical, or rather technical progress is easier to evaluate than social progress, but the two are not synonymous, and in early stages the former is often achieved at the expense of the latter.

    Members of the inaugural class of Fellows getting excited about data in Venezuela. Seriously.

    Good evaluation is complex, time-consuming and expensive, and while the value of data for the purposes of advocacy is highly debatable, its importance as part of an internal feedback loop for program calibration or optimization is indisputable. Everyone agrees that exposure to music is a good thing: the challenge before the community is to make that exposure more potent, more effective and longer-lasting in a framework of increasing scarcity.(A Logic Model is an essential part of that process.) Evaluation has to start on day 1, and it has to be about more than how many notes the students can play.

    The best advice I’ve heard on this subject comes from the director of a prominent American program who shall remain unnamed, given that the admonition to those looking for assistance with evaluation was “Don’t work with universities.” Academics or students often undertake a program evaluation with a view to their own (often esoteric) research priorities, and given that the answers received depend very much on the questions asked, the answers may not be very helpful at all. There are other complications, not the least of which are securing appropriate expertise and the long-term commitment required.


  • Develop a lifelong love of music

    This addition reflects the common sense conviction that the love of music and music making is a product, an outcome of the right environment. It seems superfluous to place “joyful pursuit” as an input/output because it is so axiomatic to the craft of teaching, one might as well include “quality teaching” as another input. Perhaps there’s an argument for both, however.

    Yet the manifest enthusiasm with which Venezuelan musicians play remains a defining characteristic of el Sistema and thus something worthy of further inquiry. If we make the reasonable assumption that the vast majority of teachers, regardless of geographic location, attempt to convey passion and purpose to their students at all times, there must be an additional element in the Venezuelan “system,” a characteristic of the process that goes beyond the personality of the teacher. If it is magic, as so often described, then the efforts of the international community to achieve similar results are doomed from the outset. For those who reject that explanation, Part 2 of the Logic Model V.2 narrative comes on Tuesday of next week.




3 thoughts on “Logic Model Update – V.2 now available

  1. When ever I discover an activity that a student loves to do, and loves to do over and over with joy, it is most likely the one thing that they need to be doing. It is a ball that keeps moving. As soon as one finds it, you have to figure out where it is going next. How to make it a little more of a challenge. The next new thing is fun to do because at least 70% of the task was mastered in an earlier activity. Think of how many times we heard Simone Bolivar play Mambo and other favorites and yet every presentation was filled with energy and new discoveries. They were getting 200% out of every note by the end of their tour.

    If we teach new piece, new piece, new piece year after year, it is not long before students are only absorbing about 5% from any piece of music. Very little that they can apply to the next new piece they will learn. There is an art to choosing repertoire that can be brought back and played at a new level of understanding each time. There is something derived internally between the neurons when we give students the opportunity to get intimately absorbed in any subject matter with new levels of meaning.

    We worry when we see children consuming empty calories. Shouldn’t we be just as concerned when they are studying to learn empty skills, instead of finding time to connect the dots from one subject to another. To often their academic lives become all about push, push, push to catch up and pass tests and not enough soaking in something up to their ears.

    If music is keeping children engaged and motivated academically could it be that it is one of the few laboratories at school where they spend time learning new ways to process intuitively and make meaningful connections in a sea swirling in disparate facts. To create that environment of engagement we are obligated to keep searching for music that children need to keep doing because it keeps giving.

    1. I really like the idea of “empty intellectual calories” – excess that will have to be expunged later, mental fat to be trimmed. You’re quite right to suggest we spend far too much time on data that is not of value of importance, while ignoring building those critical mental muscles that would make students effective in all walks of life.

  2. I remember responding to one of the critics of the El Sistema movement for being so entrenched in traditional music and having a limited repertoire of New Composers. I attempted to explain to him that this is not driven by the conservative views of Maestro Abreu or his assistants. Mature musicians, they have much broader taste when asked what they would like to play next. It is the children and their attractions to this music that drag their teachers to that place. As we have discovered with babies and toddlers in the Suzuki movement they have much more conservative taste musical preferences than their parents. There is developmentally coherent stuff in that music which they can’t get enough of.

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