MusicSENDT - Know thyself

Evaluating your own lessons is the best way to improve

Anthony Anderson

"Um ... I don't really know," she said, looking at me studiously as if she'd find the answer written on my forehead. Never before had I come across a trainee teacher who had no opinion about how well they had done in their lesson. We got there in the end, but it was a tricky start to a post-lesson chat.

After 12 years of teaching music I still have a long way to go in evaluating my own lessons. Looking back, it's almost painful to see how little I used to value its importance: if I'd taught something twice it would be perfected, I reasoned, and there would be no more to be done. Yet evaluating lessons and letting this influence future planning is a crucial part of good teaching. If you don't know what works and what doesn't, it can be hard to know how to fix problems or what to build on.

Teaching practical music-making can involve taking huge risks in the classroom. And to do it well, teachers need to have their finger firmly on the musical pulse. Whole-class arrangements or improvisational sessions can be among the most rewarding lessons to deliver, but they can also stretch our management abilities. Such classes demand instant teacher direction that reacts to the quality of the music the pupils are making. Learning from the experience is also vital. These sessions can produce moments of quality music-making. But without careful thought and reflection they won't be repeated.

The intriguing article The Validity of Student Evaluation of Teaching in Higher Education: love me, love my lectures? (available at bit.lyJWO506) is helpful. Or look at the self-evaluation framework available from the University of Warwick's Learning and Development Centre (bit.lyMeXSNV).

I watched another trainee teach this week. She took a risk based on her immediate evaluation of the group she was teaching. It involved the class walking freely around the room - surely a recipe for chaos? But no. By the end of the lesson there was no doubt the Year 7 pupils knew what musical pulse was. A reminder to me to keep evaluating my own lessons. Teaching isn't always about telling.

Anthony Anderson is subject leader for music and an advanced skills teacher at Beauchamp College, Leicestershire

What else?

Make more of music in the classroom - ttrb shares an interesting Ofsted research report.

Engage students with rhythm and pulse in a lesson from Matt.Ashford.

In the forums

How do you prepare peripatetic music teachers for the new academic year? Teachers are suggesting ways to get them all singing from the same hymn sheet.

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Anthony Anderson

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