Measuring Progress in Drama


Measuring progress in a subject like drama is very difficult, a teacher can make assessments but these are likely to be very subjective. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it is a thing. If someone comes into the lesson, say a senior manager, and wants to know how pupils are ‘progressing’ you can show them notebooks and written work but these do not tell the whole story. In fact they tell very little about how someone is progressing in the practical part of the subject and without the practical the subject becomes a shadow of itself. When asked by a new teacher: “If a non subject specialist comes into a lesson and wants to see the progression pupils had made over time, what do you use?” I say get them to look at your mark books, of which there should be two.

Let me explain: mark book one is your ‘day to day’ marking and mark book two is your more in-depth ‘director’s notes’ written at important moments and ‘break-through’ throughout the student’s course. Both rely on your professional judgement and are open to accusations of inaccuracy but over time they become a rich resource to show progression to managers, inspectors and, also, most importantly students and their parents.

Mark book one should begin with an ‘impression’ marker as to where a student is in the first few weeks of their course. Base this on where you think they are as a drama student on your experience as to where you might expect someone to be at the start of the year at that age. Then every week put in a marker as to where they now are. I do this in the following way: if they are ‘doing ok’, improving gently as one might expect, I put in the mark book an arrow pointing to the right. If they are staying at much the same level, plateauing, if you will, I put in an arrow pointing to the left. These two arrows are likely to be there for most of the time. If they fall below expectations, I put an arrow pointing downwards, if they exceed expectations then the arrow points up. If they have a real breakthrough moment I draw a lightbulb (or a star) and write about it in mark book two.

Mark book two has a page or two dedicated to each pupil. A photograph of each pupil is stuck into the book to allow easy identification, at first, for yourself and subsequently any visitor. The initial assessment is written here and then any lightbulb moments are written about. Any major assessments are written about here too.

Mark book one can be made more sophisticated by breaking down the arrows into sub sections, say voice, gesture, movement, audience awareness etc. should you so wish.

Anytime a visitor wants to see how progress is measured and how you feel the class is progressing they can see at a glance without having to look through videos or any other over-complicating methods. Mark book one is a good one to show students every now and then to stimulate a conversation about how they are progressing in the subject and to give advice. It is also entirely based on their own progress in your eyes rather than a comparison with others allowing you to focus on areas of need with each child.

Arrows point the way forward.

5 thoughts on “Measuring Progress in Drama

  1. Hi Martin,

    My name is Chris Bolton and I am a senior lecturer of Drama in Education at Birmingham City University. I lead the teacher training provision for PGCE and School Direct Drama trainees and wondered if I might be able to point my trainees in the direction of this article? It would provide another way of approaching assessment in drama, which will be a strong focus of theirs following the Christmas break.

    I shall await your response.

    Kind regards,



  2. Hi Martin,

    Evidencing progress in the practical side of core Physical Education is quite a big area of debate at the moment. So much so many PE teachers I’ve spoken to are being asked to evidence it in similar ways to subjects such as Maths, Science and English. I find these approaches not suitable to PE. It’s so subjective anyway, and the time spent gaining evidence could be put to better use such as pupil practice and verbal feedback.

    I like this idea of the second mark book. It’s simple and practical. How time consuming is it? I’m still worried that by doing something like this significantly increases my workload, which then prevents me offering opportunities for students to get involved in exercise and sport at break, lunch or after school.

    Thanks for sharing.


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