Intensity vs. Effectiveness (BOTH should win!)

So, the most effective and toughest class I took as an undergrad was Japanese. It beats out Advanced Calculus (you know, that class with Multi-V as a pre-req where you study different sizes of infinity) by a long shot for this honor. It was challenging and effective not because I’m bad at picking up languages, but because it met daily and I could never slack.  The class only had 11-12 people in it, and we had to prepare daily conversations. I remember keenly how painful it was to stay caught up when the semester got tough. Continue reading

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

‘Tis the Season: Meaningful Grading and the Role of Redos

This post is a corollary to the post: Meaningful Grading: Is It An Oxymoron? 

I imagine I will remain unsure about the correlation between grades and learning for the foreseeable future. But, one thing I am pretty sure about is the correlation between grades and doing your work. If, then, the work has been constructed in a way that promotes learning, there might be a more meaningful connection between grades and learning…

I’m headed into what I call the Season of Redos. I have a very generous redo policy for my lower division classes (aural skills 1-4, music theory 1-4): any non-exam grade may be redone once, assuming you turned something in the first time (even if it was a blank piece of paper or showing up to class like a blank sheet of paper, unprepared to perform). I think about one-third of my students take advantage of the redo policy. Combining this policy with a +/P/nP grading system and a set of assignments designed with specific learning objectives (transparently shared with students) is increasing learning for a significant number of students without significantly increasing my grading burden. Here are the logistics, the pros, the cons, and a few concluding thoughts: Continue reading

Meaningful Grading, Is It an Oxymoron?

Grading is such a slippery slope. As a kid, it was why I wanted to teach. I wanted to mark spelling papers with grades so badly. I thought grades were important. I thought good grades meant I was a good person. Very late in life (relatively speaking, that is), the light bulb came on. Grades reflect a combination of educational savviness, work ethic, and aptitude. The mixture is different for every student. They say nothing about being a good person. Most important, they [usually] say nothing about the learning that happened.

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