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.
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.