How will I continue to develop my teaching practice?

Over the last 10 years technology has advanced at an exponential rate and there have been several major developments the way mixed technologies are used at universities and indeed within society as a whole. (Gosper, M. et al. 2014).

One of the emerging practices in tertiary education as a whole is the way students submit assessments, by this I mean the use of Plagiarism Detection Software (PDS). In the good old days, the ways of detecting plagiarism involved the teacher having prior knowledge of the sources used by the student, in a way the feeling of ‘I have read this before’ in either a book or in another students work would mean that the teacher would need to dive into a mountain of paperwork to indeed find what they have read before (Goddard & Rudzki, 2005).

Students are studying in what we know now as the information age and search engines such as Google, Google Scholar, Jstor and Opus can provide an overwhelming amount of information. A study conducted by Alison Head and Michael Eisenberg found that students had difficulty figuring out if a source they used constituted plagiarism (Head, J. & Eisenberg, M., 2010)

So this leads me to 2 questions:

– How do students critically analyse and the apply information?
– How do I evaluate this tool and how will it improve my teaching practice?

Seek, Sense, Share

Student’s benefit from accessing the vast amount of information readily available to them via an Internet search however, students need to learn how to collect and interpret the data (Pahamov, 2014). So how do students, and we as a whole, critically assess information to validate and then re-use? Based on the principal of Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM), we develop a set of processes to help make sense of our world, or in this case, information more effectively (Jarche, 2014). By seeking, students find out information that is up to date and meaningful within the criteria of which they are applying their information towards, however 61% of these students, according to Head and Eisenberg (2010) collaborate with friends or family members when they needed advice when sorting through information and then turn to their instructors to assist with qualifying the sources for their own work.

By sensing the information, students then personalise this information for their own use, they reflect upon the information and then apply and share to their own work (Jarche, 2014). Thus, students have made the decision about the approach towards sources of information they use, they have become more effective consumers of information and have become more critical when they make decisions about the resources they use. (Hancock, 1993)

Evaluating the PDS

Using Turnitin for the first time I encountered different percentage scores, the percentage scores indicate what is not the student’s own work, however, by quoting a reputable source, the students have the potential to do ‘good work in the world’ (Jarche, 2014) although this must still be scrutinized by a tool such as Turnitin.

Turnitin, to be honest, is a great tool. It is easy to use, easy to annotate and use the rubric. However, how do I evaluate this tool to improve my teaching practice?

These are the steps I will take to evaluate the way turnitin works and how students work is handled:

Student citation
– Compare originality percentage scores among student papers
– Compare the sources of information among each assignment
– Identify how students are using the information within their work.

– Do I use ‘pre packaged’ comments?
– Do I use audio comments?
– What about revisions? How does turnitin handle the sources if the assignment already exists within the database?

Staff members
– What are other staff members perceptions?
– Is there training and support available?
– Is there a specific way the institution wants me to use the software? (ie, comments, rubric layout etc)

So how will these steps in the evaluation process improve my teaching practices? Coming back to the PKM framework, it is my job to teach the students to become adept at filtering information (Jarche, 2014), they need to evaluate web content at a higher level than library/printed materials (Head, Eisenberg, 2010) , reinforcing that Wikipedia is not a scholarly source (even though it still manages to make an appearance in an at least one or two assignment each trimester).

Understanding how and where students obtain their information, how they use this information and recall it for other assessments is important to improve my teaching practice. Using a tool such as turnitin to assist with the processing of citations is important, while it won’t create apathy as the sources still need to be checked should academic misconduct occur, it does save time and reduces the workload in the scheme of things.


Hancock, V. E. (1993). Information Literacy for Lifelong Learning. ERIC Digest. Retrieved from:

Head, A .J., & Eisenberg, M.B., (2010). How College Students Evaluate and Use Information in the Digital Age. Retrieved from:

Goddard, R. and Rudzki, R. (2005). Using an Electroic Text Matching Tool (Turnitin) to Detect Plagiarism in a New Zealand University, Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 2(3). Retireved from:

Gosper, M., McKenzie, J., Pizzica, J., Malfroy, J., Ashford-Rowe, K., (2014). Rhetoric and Reality: Critical perspectives on educational technology. Proceedings ascilite Dunedin. pp. 290 – 301 (11)

Jarche, H. (2014). The Sense, Share, Share Framework. Retrieved from:

Pahamov, L. (2014). Authenticating Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students Through Enquiry. Alexandra. Virginia: ASCD




How could I evaluate a learning and teaching episode?


It is the start of trimester and my timetable is jam packed full of great classes to teach. My academic studies coordinator approaches me and asks if I would like to take over the unit coordinating role of one of my classes, my instant reaction is ‘absolutely’, however I am not quite sure what it is going to involve and upon my discovery, the class materials, assessments and student feedback wasn’t what I was expecting for this unit.

The course is a Critical Studies unit titled ‘Jazz 1 – History and Theory’ it is delivered over 12 weeks, 10 of these weeks is delivery of content with week 11 dedicated to revision and week 12 as assessment week. The course is run at both Melbourne and Sydney campuses and comprises of a 4 hour lecture in total which is broken into 2 parts. Students within this class are trimester 4 – 6 students, the class is an elective which is offered every trimester and has between 10 – 25 students per semester, for many students this is the last academic studies class they will have to undertake in their Bachelor degree. As this unit is situated within the Academic Studies department, any student regardless of discipline (Musical Theatre, Contemporary performance, Classical performance and Composition) can participate in the class.

This post will provide a plan that I will use to evaluate this particular episode, and will provide links back to the previous post for best teaching practices within music education.

The Episode

When I received the unit materials, there were four issues:

1. There was no clear alignment of history and theory topics week to week;
2. The information for students on the lecture slides was vague with no media (audio/video) embedded…. It’s a music course right?!?
3. There is no practice exam for the theory content in week 11
4. There are no worksheets throughout the course to consolidate theory content/

Upon completing my rewrite of the course, I am in need to reflect and evaluate how the rewrite is perceived by students, and as well as other staff members who teach the course at the Sydney campus. I am curious whether the student grade average had increased or decreased, I would also like to find out if the students are satisfied with the following:

  1. Is the theory information relevant to the history topics and do the theory topics unpack in a logical way week to week.
  2. Are the additions of new historical figures ‘important’ enough to be discussing within the evolution of jazz?
  3. Is the theory too hard?
  4. Are the exams too long or too short? Are students completing the entire theory exam?
  5. Are the new handouts appropriate, are students completing them?
  6. Are the readings too long or too short?
  7. Are students reviewing lecture slides? Do the links work to the media?
  8. Do any of the topics and/or content double up with other subjects that students may have already done?
  9. Are the students happy with the delivery, content and expectations that this subject places on them.

The Rewrite

As we beginning the new teaching year I have approximately 3 weeks to review, map out and think about the assessment component for this course. I begin with the research essay topics, students have the option of choosing one of three topics to research and discuss, I find out what the questions where before and found that they weren’t too bad, so I construct my own essay topics and place this into the Extended Unit Outline (EUO).

Next, the theory exam, a review of this I notice that there were questions that were confusing and one question that had no relevance to this particular theory course with no direct link to the use of this theory in historical context, also there was also no type of analysis question, I revised the assessment however my next concern is that the exam is now too long for a 90 minute exam comprising of 140 marks.

Upon reviewing the history/listening exam I noticed the following errors:

  • Not enough room to write short answers
  • Identification of stylistic traits and analysis is too open ended

I developed the exam to include more target questions and for students to write in complete sentences (not dot points). Students are required now to listen to 8 songs, identify the track name, artist, genre and time period and discuss 2 points that are important to the development of jazz in terms of social/political, importance of the artist and stylistic traits.

Next part of the rewrite is the lecture content. Traditionally students will receive the lecture slides prior to the class to follow along with and then review in their own study time. However, the issue with the slides I received for both history and theory were that large chunks of text from the readings were photocopied and placed into the slides. The slides I revised now consist of key terms, summarised points of the readings with page number reference for students to investigate further and media examples (audio/video) with direct links to online content.

Now the course is revised, history and theory aligned and lecture content reworked, it is now time to deliver the course over 10 weeks.

Plan to Evaluate

Evaluation is an essential component within all disciplines, analysis of the planning, implementation of a lesson and the impacts of student learning can determine where teachers can focus their efforts in making revisions and which parts of instructional methods and materials will remain within their future lessons (Danielson, 2007).

My plan to evaluate is much likened to the musical sonata form of a symphony, it will involve an introduction by discussing what and how I am going to evaluate, the exposition which will involve the themes of my evaluation, the development will go through how I will obtain the feedback and data, the recapitulation – what will I do with the feedback and data and then finally the coda – implementation of the evaluation.


The way this plan will unfold is within the student evaluation of teaching approach where students will provide feedback of which will lead to become a learning focused approach where learning activities and materials will be enhanced/modified or further developed in order to construct the students own knowledge (Tran, 2015)

The first part of the plan is to decide which sources of information to draw from and the methods of which I will collect the data (Harvey, 1998). Qualitative data will be used to assess student feedback surveys and previous trimester results, where as Quantitative data will be used to receive feedback via short answer questionnaires from students and colleagues.


As mentioned previously in this post, there are 9 factors of which I wish to evaluate within the course; these can be broken down into 3 distinct themes of evaluation.

Teacher Perceptions Student Perceptions Student performance
– Relevance of theory to history

– Importance of new historical figures

– Topics double up with other subjects?


– Theory too hard?

– Readings too long or short?

– Students reviewing slides/access to media

– Student happiness with content etc.

– Completion of theory exam, too long or too short?

– Are students completing handouts?


By identifying these three themes I can then measure the student understanding/perceptions of the content throughout the course. This will also provide me with an understanding of student engagement within the lecture slides and exams. Using these three themes to understand perception and performance I can then develop the course further, based on Danielson’s four domain framework of planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction and professional responsibilities (Danielson, 2007) to identify and enhance areas that require attention. (Stronge, 2005)


It is now time to consider how I will obtain the data and which type of data I will use. Considering the right series of questions and methodology (Harvey, 1998) will be made easier by taking the three themes and categorizing further by modelling the Evidence Checklist for Teaching Awards (Department of Education and Training, 2016).



Student Reactions

Student Learning

– Review of course material

– Review of assessment material


Self reflection on student feedback

– Critical reflection on content delivery

– Evaluation of content

– Evaluation of assessments and worksheets

– Completion of exam

– Skill/knowledge outcomes

– Student work (ie. Essays)

The stages of this evaluation will take place like this:

  1. Review/examine of academic grades
  2. Obtain data from a student centered perception of the course
  3. Obtain data from peer perception of the course
  4. Self reflection on the feedback and data

My first stage of the evaluation process is to obtain the qualitative data from the assessments and by using a varied form of SWOT analysis (Better Evaluation, n.d.), I will discover where the strengths and weaknesses are within the group, opportunities to develop particular areas and threats within the course. This information will then be compared with participant observation – are the participants who did not achieve good results actually showing up to class? Are they studying or reviewing the content?

The next stage of the student evaluation of teaching (SET) will be a cross between qualitative and quantitative data collection and will take the form of an evaluation document which will include survey and short answer responses. The use of SET is considered to be an important part of evaluation and also acts as a guide for any potential changes to course material and delivery (Shevlin, Banyard, Davies & Griffiths, 2000).

The criteria of this particular evaluation will address the student perception of the course, questions/statements such as:

– “Course material, media links and worksheets accessible”
– “Theory examination is manageable within the time constraints”
– “Students have access to the required readings”

Within each of the criteria question/statement, students will be required to respond to indicators and a rating scale, they will have an opportunity to provide a short answer comment to each criteria.

A sample is below:

Criteria (the question/statement)
Course material, media links and worksheets accessible
Rating Scale (out of 4)
1. Inaccessible;
2. Difficult to find;
3. Able to access but with difficulty;
4. Able to find material easily
Indicators (Yes or No responses)
– Media links work
– Course material easy to find on sharepoint
– Worksheets are targeted to the topic
– Course material relevant to weekly topics
Comment (open ended responses)


Peer evaluation is an important part of the overall process as peers are able to comment on the course material and resources, curriculum development and the aims, objectives and content. They will provide feedback on assignments, learning outcomes, assessment methods and addressing problems in a topic. (flinders website).

Recapitulation & Coda

So now I have the data and using the feedback from peers and the Student Evaluation of Teaching, I can reflect on how my peers and students perceive and experience the course and how effectively they are learning (Schwartz, n.d). The value of evaluation is improving performance and it helps identify the need to improve (Stronge, 2005). A trait of expert teachers is their ability to learn from reflection and observation (Stronge, 2005), in this case the student and peer feedback provides the catalyst for the need to continually improve and develop the course and materials.




Better Evaluation. (n.d.). Collect and/or Retrieve Data. Retrieved from

Danielson, C. (2013). The framework for teaching: Evaluation instrument. Retrieved from

Flinders University. (n.d.). What can peers evaluate? Retrieved from

Harvey, J. (1998). Evaluation Cookbook. Retrieved from

Shevlin, M., Banyard. P., Davies, M., Griffiths, M. (2000). The Validity of Student Evaluation of Teaching in Higher Education: Love me, love my lectures?, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 25:4, 397-405, DOI:10.1080/713611436

Schwartz, M. (n.d). Self Evaluation of Teaching. The Learning and Teaching Office. Retrieved from

Stronge, James H. (2005). Evaluating teaching: A guide to current thinking and best practice. Corwin Press.

Tran, N.D. (2015). Reconceptualisation of approaches to teaching evaluation in higher education. Retrieved from




What is my conception of good teaching practice in my discipline?

By typing ‘good teaching’ or ‘effective teaching’ into Google will return a result of over 15 million sites that offer key principals and ‘hands on advice’ on what good teaching is, however while these resources offer information on pedagogical tools, advice on how to enhance teaching practice, theories and models on teaching, in reality these articles become ‘self help’ or, ‘teaching for dummies’ offering tips and strategies to improve teaching.

To quote Biggs,

“Wise and effective teaching is not…simply a matter of applying general principles of teaching according to rule; those principles need adapting to your own personal strengths and to your teaching context. A characteristic of award-winning university teachers is their willingness to collect student feedback on their teaching in order to see where their teaching might be improved (Dunkin and Precians 1992). Expert teachers continually reflect on how they might teach even better.” (Biggs, 2003, p.41)

No doubt pedagogical techniques are essential to our teaching practice, however they are no way defined as the only way to teach or to ensure good teaching. Ramsden (2003) points out that teachers think they know more about teaching than what they really do, we can be knowledge experts in our particular discipline, memorizing formulas however when it comes to teaching it to a real problem we become stuck, meanwhile McMillan (2007) discusses that publications and workshops provide only teaching skills, a ‘bag of tricks’ rather than changing the understanding of teaching practices.

Music teachers often teach as they have been taught and this is true within my own instrumental teaching, I will offer the same advice, use the same if not similar instructional methods, examination material, warm ups and repertoire as my teachers used on me. Bruhn (1990) quotes “They remember how their teachers did it, how their teachers once asked them to play a certain work, movement or phrase” (p.14).

When I started teaching instrumental music, I believed that the way I was taught was the only way to teach, however it quickly became evident that the students I was teaching did not share the same enthusiasm or motivation for practicing their craft as I did, I needed to find a way to further encourage and engage my students to become active learners and identify and address the broad range of learning characteristics and challenges that were presented to me.

Chickering and Gamson (1982) conducted research on the way teachers teach and the way students learn, they also explore how students and faculty talk to each other and how students work. For these researches, they came up with seven principals for good teaching practices:

  1. Encourages contact between students and faculty;
  2. Encourages cooperation among students;
  3. Encourages active learning;
  4. Gives prompt feedback;
  5. Emphasises time on the task at hand;
  6. Communicates high expectations;
  7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

However, recent research on teaching and learning within universities conducted by Ramsden (2003) goes onto suggest that there was no ‘best way’ to teach, he however formulated thirteen ‘important properties of good teaching’ as:

  1. A desire to share your love of the subject with students
  2. An ability to make the material being taught stimulating and interesting
  3. Facility for engaging with students at their level of understanding
  4. A capacity to explain the material plainly;
  5. Commitment to make it absolutely clear what has to be understood, at what level, and why;
  6. Showing concern and respect for students;
  7. Commitment to encouraging student independence;
  8. An ability to improvise and adapt to new demands;
  9. Using teaching methods and academic tasks that require students to learn thoughtfully, responsibly, and cooperatively;
  10. Using valid assessment methods;
  11. A focus on key concepts, and students’ misunderstandings of them, rather than on covering the ground;
  12. Giving the highest-quality feedback on student work;
  13. A desire to learn from students about the effects of teaching and how it can be improved.

By comparing both approaches from Ramsden (2003) and Chickeren and Gamson (1982) we find that alignment is evident through ‘cooperation among students’ and ‘ways of learning’ from Chickering and Gamson (1982) and ‘…students learn thoughtfully, cooperatively and responsibly’ and ‘showing concern for students’ from Ramsden (2003).

In the classroom and over more recent years my question of ‘what is a good teacher?’ brings me to Harden and Crosby (2000) where he discusses that the teacher’s role extends well beyond the facilitator of information. While a ‘good teacher’ can be defined as a teacher who helps the student to learn, McCarthy et al. (2009) points out that the music teachers attitude, reflectiveness, professional development within their craft (instrument/discipline) promotes better teaching practices.

In music education, the student is very much the ‘active learner’ Bonwell and Eison (1991) defined strategies that promote active learning as instructional activities involving students in doing things and thinking about what they are doing. Active learning involves students to actively construct their knowledge and is the core theoretical concept within constructivism.

Webster (2002) mentions “the basic goal of constructivism is to place emphasis on creativity and to motivate learning through activity” (p. 418). Music students take a subject matter focus through processes of musical engagement which include singing, playing, improvising, composing, describing, representing and responding to music. As teachers build a working model of students’ musical knowledge they make meaning of the music and enable the students musical growth (Boardman 2002).

A teacher who embraces constructivist concepts within their practice have been found, through a study carried out by…. to be:

  • Good learners, they reflect on their teaching and continue to engage in professional development activities
  • Plan, monitor, evaluate and adopt their teaching in response to their student and learning context
  • Enthuastic about their own discipline and convey this to their students
  • Use approach that promote deep learning strategies
  • Use their own knowledge to help students construct their own knowledge and understanding
  • Have clearly defined goals, assess student learning appropriately and provide meaningful feedback
  • Challenge and support students
  • Aware of student needs and are responsive
  • Encourage independent learning

Abrahams (2005) draws a focus on key principals of critical pedagogy within music education, which links to constructivist concepts, he discusses that music education is a conversation, students and teachers both pose and solve problems together and when students and their teacher ‘know what they know’ then conscientization has occurred. According to Freiere (1970) this is achieved by developing an in-depth understanding and critical consciences where critical feeling is developed by engaging student in activities is consistent with what musicians do when they are making music.

In conclusion, the notion of ‘good teaching’ in music education doesn’t necessarily draw on pedagogies of Orff Schulwerk, the Suzuki Method, Kodaly or Dalcroze however by drawing on themes from the above text, good teaching begins with enthusiasm of the discipline, this leads to motivation by the student to actively learn. A good teacher is a good learner, the good teacher has a commitment to encourage student independence and independent learning, they use valid assessment methods, give prompt feedback and have a desire to learn from students about the effects of teaching and how it can be improved. Good teachers challenge students, they have clear and defined goals and are aware of students needs. Good teachers are reflective, ever expanding their knowledge and evaluating their own teaching in response to their students and learning context.


Abrahams, F. (2005). Transforming classroom music instruction with ideas from critical pedagogy. Music Educators Journal, 92(1), 62-67

Biggs J. (2003). Teaching for Quality Learning at University 2nd Edition. Maidenhead, SRHE / Open University Press.

Boardman, Eunice & MENC, the National Association for Music Education (U.S.) (2002). Dimensions of musical learning and teaching : a different kind of classroom. MENC, the National Association for Music Education, Reston.

Bonwell, C. & Eison, J. (1991). Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom. AEHEERIC Higher Education Report No. 1, Jossey-Bass, Washington DC.

Bruhn, S. ( 1990). Reconsidering the Teacher- Student Relationships in the Training of the Performing Musician. International Journal of Music Research. 15, 13-22.

Chickering, A. W. & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undegraduate education. Washington Center News.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.

Harden R M and Crosby J R (2000). AMEE Education Guide No 20: The good teacher is more than a lecturer – the twelve roles of the teacher. Medical Teacher 22(4): 334-347.

McCarthy, M., Carlow, R., Gabriele, K., Hall, M., Moore, J., Woody, R. (2003). Better Practice in Music Education. Maryland, United States of America. Maryland State Department of Education.

McMillan, W. J. (2007). “Then you get a teacher” – Guidelines for excellence in teaching. Medical Teacher, 29:8, e209-e218

Ramsden, P. (2003) Learning to Teach in Higher Education. Routledge-Falmer, London.

Webster, P. R. 2002. Computer-based technology and music teaching and learning. In The new handbook of research on music teaching and learning ed. R. Colwell and C. Richardson, 416-39. New York: Oxford.
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