100, 101, 101, 100, 99, 98, 99, 100

Well, the results are in. I’m never going back to the old way of teaching.

I’ve just finished grading Intro to Music Tech mid-term exams from the inaugural class of the new “Joy First, Theory Second” teaching method. The results were … staggering.

First, a little orientation. In this exam, the students walk into the room, I hand them a piece of music that looks like this:

They have 60 minutes to reproduce everything on the page, exactly as it appears, using Logic Pro notation software. Any of you who have tried to get Logic to spit out a basic worship chart can appreciate just how difficult some of the things on this page are. After 60 minutes, they email me a PDF file of their work.

In previous semesters, the average grade on this exam is about a 76%. This semester, the average grade was a 95%. I had one entire section (the best section, you guys know who you are) that averaged 100% – AVERAGED!! The lowest grade in the class was like a 94, and everyone else nailed it, including the extra credit.

Alex Wen, my impossibly awesome TA, deserves a huge chunk of the credit. He grades most of the projects leading up to the exam, and his corrections are very pointed, and help the students figure out how to correct their errors.

We also made a pretty substantial shift in the level of training for the lab techs, and made them more readily accountible and accessible in the lab, to help students with their projects.

Finally, this is a pretty unique group of students coming through the class. They are almost all freshmen, and they are very much on the ball. The next few years in the School of Music are going to be fun, if this crew is any indication.

When you add all of those factors up, whatever remainder there is between that and the outstanding test scores, I’m chalking up to the shift in teaching method. I love how effective it is in getting students deep into the content, and meeting them with instruction at their point of interest.

Next semester, I’m going to find a way to adapt this philosophy to my other courses, and better integrate it into the second half of my Intro to Music Tech course. I’m hopeful.

Joy first, theory second.

27 thoughts on “100, 101, 101, 100, 99, 98, 99, 100

  1. Stick

    Do I have that Jazz font with Logic now?

    I think I might be able to get all that down, but 60 minutes would be pushing it… heh, heh. Is there a keyboard controller attached for playing the notes in? That would speed it up some.

  2. michael lee Post author

    They can bring one if they want to, but about half have gotten so fast with the key command for sibelius-style key entry that they just do it manually instead.

  3. michael lee Post author

    I used to, but I was sent a sternly worded email from the Professional Arbitration Review Board asking me to stop.

    Apparently, when you give students an affirming hug that lasts for 12 seconds, and sway slowly, and also there happens to be some Michael Bolton playing on the lab computer, and the lights happened to go dim at just that moment, the student can get the wrong idea.

  4. Chad

    I really think it was the gentle cupping that made everyone feel a little off. I mean… I’m cool with it, but then, I’m a little gay.

  5. Chad

    I’m gay in all the good ways.

    I work out. I care about colors. I can sing in tune. I know expensive jeans when I see them. I like to talk about feelings.

    Oh, and showtunes. Let’s not forget showtunes.

  6. michael lee Post author

    Sharolyn, the email address that you keep entering on your comments is wrong. Your cool picture won’t show up without the right email address.

  7. Sharolyn

    How is this?

    Also, I remembered in the last few minutes that creepy chemistry professor’s assistant took me to Denny’s for a study group (and played Alice Cooper in the car on the way), but it ended up that I was the only one in the study group. And that he was married.

  8. michael lee Post author

    AWEsome. That reminds me of the girl who invited me to go with a big group to see Cats, except it wasn’t a group, it was just me and the girl who invited me, and I had to pay.

  9. Stick

    We’ll assume that wasn’t Gretchen. If it was, Gretchen you’re sneaky and evil. We like Gretchen.

    Well, we like Gretchen even if she wasn’t the sneaky, evil Cats lady.

  10. michael lee Post author

    If it was Gretchen, I would be telling the story about how AWESOME it was that this totally rockin’ hottie thought she had to trick me into going out with her.

    The truth is, G turned me down like 9 times before she finally agreed to go out with me.

  11. Daniel Semsen

    oh man…this post is…GOLDEN…

    gay in all the right ways…HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA…

    SHHhhhhhh…I watched Enchanted last night with the boys and welled up SEVERAL times…and also sang along. SHHH…shhh…shh.

  12. Daniel Semsen

    Also–I’ve been stretching myself to use Sibelius on print-only projects for which I would otherwise have used Logic…and it has actually become QUITE comfortable…and the things that happen in Sibelius to make it look so great is JUST amazing. I think I’m falling in love…

  13. Stick

    Yeah, I was going to use this film score I was going to do this fall as an excuse to buy Sibelius, but then they ended up going with some other guys because we wouldn’t work for free. Huh. Imagine that.

    Though, I can probably get Sib pretty cheap now that I teach at a college, eh? I’m sorta waiting to see how in-depth the new scoring function in ProTools 8 is before I jump though. I’m pretty sure there’s no lyrics implementation at this point, which is deal-breaker for me. Lead sheets and BGVs and all.

  14. michael lee Post author

    Until you decide to start making changes to the score. Then, it’s a bitch and a half.

    “You know, this whole section would read better if I put it in 3/4, but I want all the notes to stay where they are rhythmically – oh, I can’t? I have to rewrite all of the notation? Oh well that’s fine. Maybe I can just drag the notes over to their proper location – no? that’s no good? It’s fine, I’ll just go to the arrange window and stretch the region until … son of a …”

    Sibelius and Finale charge you a huge penalty for changing your mind on something you’ve already notated. The solution for even the most minor changes is usually to delete and start over.

    This makes the flex-time keyboard entry particularly frustrating. In Logic, if what you play in is 95% accurate, all that’s left is nudging one or two notes over to where they belong, then going on your merry way. In Sibelius, it usually means deleting an entire measure and reentering by hand.

    I love Sibelius. I really do. I used it exclusively on the choral work I just finished. But it seems to lack some of those basic things that Logic does so well, by virtue of being a sequencer first, notator second.

    I’m trying to perfect my Logic-to-Sibelius workflow, so that I can compose and arrange in Logic, up through the demo, and then switch to Sibelius for final engraving work.

  15. Stick

    Yeah, that’s where I’m guessing the PT8 to Sibelius thing will be great, especially with the new scoring side in PT. They already have a MIDI to Sib function in PT7. So, you’ll do all that “sequence” related stuff in PT, and just dump it to Sib and make it look all pretty.

  16. michael lee Post author

    I hope you’re right. That would be a killer production platform, to be able to work virtual instruments, audio, and score in the same app.

  17. michael lee

    don’t do it. She’s a total diva to work with. You’re better off outsourcing to some kid in India.

Comments are closed.