Here we go again!

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! Continue reading

The first dilemma in a new juggling act

So, one of the first challenges I’m facing for next Fall’s pedagogical endeavors involves balancing the needs of my students with the demands of a new aspect to my job. To make a long story short, I took on a one-year stint as a 2/3 time administrator. I am keeping two offices: one in the administrative area for the Conservatory, and the one I’ve always had in the hallway with my professor-colleagues. Continue reading

MOOCs and Music Theory Pedagogy

So, I’ve been watching some of the discussion on massive open online courses (MOOCs) and notice some parallels with things I, and others, experiment with in our music theory classrooms. In discussing the rise of online education, David Brooks’s recent OpEd in the NYTimes, “The Practical University (April 4, 2013),” explores the question that helps me define my pedagogy: “What is a university for?” Continue reading

How does blogging help your teaching?

So, I opened up my institution’s weekly pedagogy email this morning intending to read and blog about the pedagogy article that would be included.  Oops.  The email was advertising my upcoming stint as “guide” at the next brown-bag pedagogy session. I love the brown bag sessions. I try to make at least two a year and I always walk away with two things I value a lot: new ideas percolating away and a strong sense of community built around the shared goal of being a better teacher. Also, I love meeting people who teach different subjects! I am excited and, of course, honored to be leading the next one.

I’ll be starting our April brown-bag discussion with the question featured in this post’s title…  I’ll have several ideas for where discussion could go, but am excited to experience where discussion actually will go. Continue reading

Practice what you Preach…

So, it’s time to really model what I believe in. I’ve been invited to come do a 2.5-hour lecture/workshop at my friend and colleague Jena’s pedagogy class. I’ve thought carefully about what I want to do and feel that it is essential to model as many of my most passionately-held beliefs as possible. On the top of my mind is transparency, movement, honesty, risk-taking, and reflection. Here’s some of the decisions I’ve made: Continue reading

cool pedagogy intersections: engineering and the rest of the world

My friend Sarah recommended The Journal of Engineering Education to me as a really solid and totally awesome source of pedagogy research. So, I went and looked at the most recent issue (October 2012) and picked the article that called to me the strongest: “The Informed Design Teaching and Learning Matrix.” Authored by David P. Crismond (CUNY, City College) and Robin S. Adams (Purdue University), it is a huge article (40 large pages of single-spaced prose before the 20 pages of citations), incredibly well-grounded in previous research, and meticulously written/organized. It inspired many ideas for my classrooms and I was regularly amazed by the universality a lot of what they recommend: it applies to my own learning, parenting, classroom teaching, one-on-one teaching, mentoring, and probably a number of other things I’m forgetting at the moment.

These authors are focused on how engineering design is taught and learned. By design, they refer to the process of creating an object/solution (such as a parachute) according to given parameters. They present their findings as a matrix (table) that “contains nine engineering design strategies and associated patterns that contrast beginning versus informed design behaviors, with links to learning goals and instructional approaches that aim to support students in developing their engineering design abilities.” (p. 738) This sounds intimidating, but it is very cool. The bulk of the article and –for me– the most thought-provoking is the section “Unpacking the Matrix.” Each of the nine patterns is discussed in two sub-sections: a summary/description and teaching strategies.  What a goldmine!  Here are three of my three favorite “ah ha!” moments. I have organized them from the most general to the most specific, in terms of “field of study.” Continue reading

2013 (January – August) Pedagogy Project

So, I’m on my first sabbatical.  This is my 11th year teaching here (nine years on the tenure track), and I have been very lucky to have 1.5 semesters of maternity leave and a mid-probationary leave since starting the tenure track. The maternity leaves delayed my first post-tenure sabbatical by two years, which (a) seems right and (b) is part of why people who take parental leave are slower to progress through the academic pipeline, but it’s finally HERE! Since I won’t be in the classroom, I have a slightly different project for this blog: Continue reading

Semester Wrap-Up with Myself

Sounds kind of silly, but I have a little ritual for closing up my semester. I clean out my course binder of extra photocopies, remove stuff from previous semesters that I didn’t use this semester and can’t imagine using in future semester, write a course reflection, insert reflection into the front of the binder, and put away the binder.

Even though I’m exhausted, I think it’s important to do the course reflection NOW while the semester’s experience is still fresh. Here’s how I go about it: Continue reading

Mirror Mirror on the Wall…

… which post was the fairest of them all?  I am not referring to this blog; rather, this question was posed to my upper-division students in their final informal out-of-class writing assignment. Over the course of the semester, they have written at least once a week in a GoogleDoc visible to me and that student [I resist the urge to call it a journal.]. Each time, they respond to a prompt. I grade these P/nP. To P, you have to follow directions and present your own thinking. I also respond (usually in a colored font) to their ideas and thoughts, which often starts a conversation between us within the GoogleDoc. Here are a few examples of prompts, which ran the gamut from hard core to touchy-feely. Continue reading

Assessment with “The Shire”

We made it to the end! Yesterday was the Module 1 written exam. It’s a small 30-minute exam worth 5% of their semester’s grade. I use it to assess the processing of music they hear into some kind of notation. Since we have spent a good deal of in-class time on harmonic function, I made sure to assess this skill. I found a pretty good example that used ^6 in the bass, a Cadential six-four, and a strong T-P-D progression: “The Shire” theme (Howard Shore) from the Lord of the Rings. The students’ work in this area revealed a lot about how this aspect of the class went.

Continue reading