I’m getting super excited about re-entering the classroom after a semester away. This fall, I get to teach an old class in new ways: Music Theory 1. I last taught this class a lifetime ago: 2003(!!!!). I surely won’t teach it the same way in 2013. I’m extra excited about this class because it is the “intensive” class. Essentially, we identify the 18 students with the least amount of music theory preparation and put them in this four-day-a-week class. Historic tracking shows that they do marvelously in the next three semesters (when they are “mainstreamed” into a standard three-day-a-week schedule). The class spends considerably more time on fundamentals than the other seven sections of music theory 1, yet reaches the same ending point content-wise as those other sections. I think the students thrive in future semesters for two reasons: (1) they work hard, and (2) they had a great teacher for theory 1. Of course, this makes me completely nervous, too… I have big shoes to fill!
I finished my syllabus during a 14-hour road trip this week. I’m continuing three previous policies that I like a lot and adding in a fourth new one. I think it will work for this class, but will be checking in regularly with the students to see if it’s actually working:
(1) podcasting. I think podcasting is especially good for this class since it allows students to revisit the basic facts as many times as they want. Assignments based on podcasts will be due on Mondays, and Mondays will start with a brief five-minute quiz on the podcast. My personal rules for podcasts include limiting them to 5 minutes and allowing them to be imperfect (if one of my progeny makes background noise, I’m not going to redo it!). They must, however, be clear.
(2) +/P/nP grading. Assignments are divided into nuts-and-bolts (think low-level Bloom’s taxonomy and granting only P/nP grades) and summary paragraphs on concepts or analyses we do in class (+/P/nP). Quizzes (two 5-minute quizzes per week) are also graded P/nP and focused on nuts and bolts. Exams are graded nP (0-6pts), P (7-8 points) and + (9-10pts). If you pass everything all semester, you earn a B-. +’s raise your grade above that level.
(3) Unlimited Redos. But, unlike previous semesters, I’m limiting the timeframe to one week after an assignment is returned. I will write the redo due-date on their returned assignments.
(4) The New One: Huge sheets of drill-based homework with instructions to stop when they think they’re fluent enough to pass a timed quiz on that topic. My P/nP will be based on whether or not the types of mistakes they have (if any) are flaws in understanding (definitely a nP paper) or flaws in concentration. I’ll have to figure out how many flaws in concentration can still lead to a Passing paper.
I’ll be blogging on these policies, hopes, and dreams this semester!