How will I become a master teacher

Looking back on when I started teaching in higher education I formed an assumption that students enroll into my classes with adequate prior knowledge in order to build upon and become successful within the course, my belief that surrounded this casual assumption was that if students are interested in this topic(s) then they have sufficient background knowledge in order to succeed however this was not necessarily the case. (Shively, 2015)

As I become aware of the context of which I draw my assumption I realise that it is personally created based on a historical belief from my own learning where students enter a unit of study with prior knowledge learnt from a previous unit and reflect on previous course material to construct knowledge and understanding of new or advanced topics.(Shively, 2015). It must be recognized however that students enter a unit of study from different disciplines with a broad range of background knowledge (Mironova et al, 2016), therefor my assumption is placed under the spotlight to recognize that students enroll into my theory classes to learn something new or for which they are interested in and some of which will not have the necessary background knowledge to grasp some or all of the concepts taught in these classes, so therefor the driving questions for me to become a master teacher within this context is ‘What can I do to facilitate student learning where students have no prior knowledge?’, ‘How do students engage with content outside of the classroom that they are not familiar with?’, and ‘what can I do to support student learning, what emerging practices are available within music education?’.

I started teaching in higher education 3 years ago. This was the second time I had been placed into a classroom environment (the first being year 8 music technology for 10 months) with previous teaching being one-on-one instrumental music or music ensemble direction. I was excited to be teaching the content of music arranging and theory of what I was knowledgeable about and active within the industry, however I came to realise that being a knowledge expert wasn’t all that that was expected by the students, students expect a master teacher (Wang & Gao, 2016).

To become a master teacher in music education is one that challenges assumptions of how students learn, what they need to learn, how the industry is changing and what skill set a music is now required to have to become succefully within his or her discipline (Christophersen, 2015). The master teacher utilises emerging practices by evaluating options available to best fit the teaching context, they implement the emerging practice and then evaluate the outcomes of this emerging practice, the master teacher utlises Blooms Taxonomy and seeks to improve disciplinary knowledge, in the case of music it is practicing, performing and engaging with scholarly activities.

As a musician and educator I am always developing my disciplinary craft and teaching methods. I am a lifelong learner with no set time frame to undergo professional development and this learning is not necessary based on a need to become employable however it is based on a desire to become knowledgeable and a master teacher of my discipline. Thus my plan to develop my teaching to become a master teacher will unfold with the following processes in mind:

– Identify my own learning goals/create a professional development plan: What is important to me? What do I already know? What do I need to find out? What skills do I require so I do not become stale and deliver the same thing over and over again.

– Identify and challenge my assumptions surround student learning: Based on Brookfield’s (2017) three types of assumptions I will begin to critically analyse teaching episodes and evaluate student perceptions of my teaching.

– Partake in professional development/learning: Based on my learning goals, I will seek out professional development courses through Amuse and VMTA education networks.

– Embark on further scholarly activity: Finish the Grad Cert (Semester 1, 2018), enroll in my masters of Teaching and Learning at USQ (Semester 2, 2018), undergo a PhD in music.

– Involve myself in research on student learning and develop Learning and Teaching grants to accomplish this – in fact I plan to implement this L&T grant application within my context next semester and will follow the evaluation method to validate the need for an ePortfolio in music education.

Onward and upward – everything is awesome!



Christophersen, C. (2015). Changes and challenges in music education: Reflections on a norwegian arts-in-education programme. Music Education Research, 17(4), 365-380. doi:10.1080/14613808.2014.930119

Mironova, O., Amitan, I., Vendelin, J., Vilipõld, J., & Saar, M. (2016). Maximizing and personalizing e-learning support for students with different backgrounds and preferences. Interactive Technology and Smart Education, 13(1), 19.

Shively, J. (2015). Constructivism in music education. Arts Education Policy Review, 116(3), 128-136. doi:10.1080/10632913.2015.1011815

Wang, Y., & Gao, X. (2016). Exploring the expectation differences of teachers’ roles in english MA class presentation. Teacher Development, 20(1), 92-105. doi:10.1080/13664530.2015.1105862


How do I plan to implement and evaluate my chosen emerging practice?

2017 EDU8702 Learning and Teaching Grants
Application Form

1 – Applicant name
Matt Amy


2 – Project title
Measuring the potential of ePortfolios in music education to improve academic outcomes in music theory classes.


3 – Abstract
The ePortfolios is more than just an assessment tool or a collection of work. The ePortfolio encourages independent and self-regulated learning where students become intrinsically motivated to obtain their own learning goals and seeks feedback of evidence to promote motivation. Through monitoring, self-assessment and reflection students will be able to define their own learning trajectory in the field of music while engaging with course materials and improve their academic outcomes in a way that constructs their knowledge from prior learning.


4 – Context
As students enter a music degree they are faced with new demands of performance and academic skills that for many of them have not been addressed from prior learning, the impact on the lack of preparedness of these students result in lower grades, repeating core theory subjects or dropping out (Burland & Pitts, 2007).


At the beginning of the bachelor degree every student is placed into the same music theory subject regardless of study specialization (ie, composition, performance (classical and contemporary) and it is clear that the fundamental knowledge that these students possess vary from no musical theory training to advanced theory which then becomes an issue.

As the difficulty of the theory course progresses, students who are not familiar with topics will often disengage with the course material and exercises and use the internet to find solutions and develop their understanding, while doing this students will not critically analyse information, or store the correct information to reflect on in later classes.

Issues that present themselves within this context are:

– Students who do not engage with course content will seek solutions via an internet search and often use conflicting information without critically analysing the material.

– Students will often ‘forget’ information learnt in previous classes that is needed to fulfil assessment requirements in classes later on.

– Some students do not keep information (digital/hard copy) in one place and will lose key pieces of information.

Emerging Practice

Reinforcing the engagement of course content is the developing use of ePortfolios within music education where students collect, archive, reflect on and present outcomes of their studies (Dunbar-Hall, 2015). While the use of portfolios is not a new concept within higher education being introduced to learning and teaching in the early 1990’s (Dunbar-Hall, 2015). It has been noted by Rowley (2015), that the use of ePortfolios within music higher education since 2014 has led a way of support different aspects of students’ studies through reflective practice, critical thinking, problem solving and independence of thought.


To implement change to the way students improve academic outcomes will be addressed by introducing ePortfolios at the very beginning of the bachelor degree program. Students will take ownership of their ePortfolio by setting their own learning goals by answering the following questions and choosing what types of evidence (documents, video, audio) they select to support their goals.

Questions will consist of:
– What do I need to achieve?
– What do I know?
– What do I need to learn?
– What tasks do I need to complete and when?

Once students have chosen their appropriate goal, guidelines will be in place for evidence selection and how chosen evidence connects to their identified learning goal(s) while addressing criteria of the ePortfolio rubric. Throughout the course students will reflect, discuss, receive and respond to feedback where they will be encouraged to review their progress toward their chosen goal and make any modifications of their learning goal or revaluate chosen evidence if they are unable to demonstrate their learning progression, engagement of unit topics and accomplishments with music theory.


The process to evaluate and determine the outcome of the project will consist of the following questions:

– Are student reactions positive to the eportfolio and view it as a valuable tool or do they view it as an assessment and another thing they have to do?

– Are students using the ePortfolio as intended

– Have learning outcomes improved through the use of ePortfolios?

– What types of evidence are being selected for the ePortfolio and how are students critically analysing the information they find to assess validity?


5 – Aims
The project aim is to implement an ePortfolio into a music theory class as an extra learning tool to promote independent learning, intrinsic motivation and for students to demonstrate their learning progression by setting their own learning goal, gathering and critically analysing evidence to include into their ePortfolio, sharing   evidence and receiving feedback from peers and teachers.


6 – Rationale
Review of Literature

Universities have incorporated independent learning into courses to allow students to take responsibility on their own learning path and define their own learning goals (Lau, 2017). As stated by Kesten (1987) independent learning is described by ‘Autonomous learning, independent study, self-directed learning, student initiated learning, project orientation, discovery and inquiry, teaching for thinking, learning to learn, self instruction and life long learning’ (p. 9). However, Chau and Cheng (2010) identify that literature based on independent learning produce two overlapping terms – learner autonomy and self-regulated learning. Learner autonomy is referred to as involvement and choice in learning, self-direction, acting independently, measuring progress, setting goals, reflection and accepting responsibility (Andrade and Bunker, 2009). Whereas self regulated learners set goals in their learning, monitor and evaluate progression toward these goals and regulate their behaviour and motivation to reach these goals (Aparecida da Silva Marini & Boruchovitch, 2014).

Students working within an ePortfolio environment apply both of these learning styles, as identified by Chau and Cheng (2010) students undergo three phases; planning: setting goals and activate prior knowledge, monitoring: reviewing progress toward their identified learning goal and reflection: modifying their goals or evidence to attain their goals. Further to this Abrami et al (2009) identify three cyclical phases of self-regulation which include meta-cognitive and motivational components which include i) goal setting and strategic planning, ii) creation of work and iii) self reflection of work, processes and awareness of new goal opportunities.

Achievement goal theory suggests that academic motivation can be understood as students’ attempts to achieve goals and the behaviours of a student are the function of desires to achieve particular goals (Seifert, 2004). Further to this, Wolters (2004) described four principle goal orientations where students demonstrate a mastery-approach by learning as much as possible, overcoming challenges and increase their level competence where as mastery-avoidance describes students who work to avoid a lack of mastery or failure to learn as much as possible. Performance-mastery demonstrates the students’ ability to others or who want to prove their knowledge publicly where the opposite, performance-avoidance expresses the students desire to avoid looking incompetent or lacking ability compared to their peers.

Seeking feedback from peers and teachers helps students recognize areas of knowledge that define their learning and track their progress to identified learning goal. Morales & Soler-Dominuez (2015) points out that students are able to self-regulate their learning by seeking feedback from teachers and peers which keeps students engaged and motivated. Further to this, peer feedback significantly improves the ePortfolio design experience for students where research suggests that giving students the opportunity to view high quality work can provide them with an understanding of what is required within their own work and what constitutes good evidence when selecting material for their own ePortfolio (Ring, 2015).

The amount of information available to students via the internet continues to grow at an exponential rate however students will seek information that is inaccurate or inconsistent with theories delivered through course content (Green, 2001). Students must be guided to develop their critical literacies to be able to think and question information that is relevant to their context (Hall & Piazza, 2008). Students seek information to connect prior learning and make sense of new theories and as Nappi (2017) points out, higher level questioning requires students to further examine content through application, analysis and evaluation.

As identified by Chau and Cheng (2010), self-monitoring provides many insights for students to progress toward their intended learning goal. Nguyen & Ikeda (2015) explain further than this skill enables learners to identify which competencies they have achieved and which competencies are the outcomes of the current learning activities, this further enhances the students awareness of motivation, cognition and context. Reflection occurs after students have made judgement of their performance after monitoring and an awareness develops for the need of self improvement and the use of further strategies to obtain improvement (Chau and Cheng 2010).

In summary, using ePortfolios soley as an assessment tool severely limits the full potential of what an ePortfolio can achieve and become just ‘another thing’ that students have to complete to achieve course outcomes. ePortfolios is more than just a collection of work, the ePortfolio should be a student-centred collection of work and evidence that promotes independent learning and supports deeper learning and self reflection (Chau & Cheng, 2010; Abrami et al, 2009).


7 – Approach
The project will encompass a series of stages and steps for successful implementation over the course of 13 weeks (one study period)

Stage 1 – Implementation

Week 1 & 2 – 2018

1.)  Students will receive a link to their own eportfolio via office 365 using ‘OneNote’
2.)  Students will select an appropriate learning goal and begin to gather evidence to support weekly learning materials


Stage 2 – Monitoring

Week 3 – 6 – 2018


1.)  Each week students will share evidence and feedback will be given by peers and teacher on evidence selection and usefulness


Stage 3 – Reflection

Study period break


1.)  Students will reflect on their learning goal and learning progression and document this reflection into their eportfolio.
2.)  Students will draw a conclusion if the gathered evidence has supported their learning to reach their identified goal
Stage 4 – Modification/Feedback/completion

Week 7 – 12 (2018)





1.)  Students will modify their learning goal or adjust their evidence if they feel the learning objectives are not being met
2.)  Students will continue to share evidence and receive feedback from peers and teacher (as per stage 2)
Stage 5 – Evaluation of project

End of study period (2018)









1.)  Student and Staff satisfaction survey will be distributed via email.
2.)  Interviews will be conducted with staff and a cross selection of students based on overall grades at the completion of the course.
3.)  Results of survey, interview responses and exam data analysed
4.)  Findings and recommendation document presented to CEO, Head of Teaching and Learning, Head of Information Technology



8 – Outcomes & Impact

The outcomes of this project will identify the usefulness of an ePortfolio within a music degree program to support academic learning.

Specific outcomes include:

– Promote independent/self-regulated learning.
– Students will learn to critically analyse evidence found on the internet and validate the accuracy of the information.
– Students will engage with the unit topics in a way that is meaningful to the individual and relevant to his/her context.
– Students will become intrinsically motivated through their own learning goals and take ownership of the purpose, process and types of content they place into their ePortfolio.

The expected outcomes of this project will improve the academic outcomes of the music student in music theory by encouraging students to take responsibility of their own learning by constructing knowledge, refining their understanding and learning socially through sharing and receiving feedback from peers and teachers (Chau & Cheng, 2010).


9 – Evaluation
This project will use two evaluation methods, i) to measure student satisfaction and course experience through the form of a survey and ii) semi-structured qualitative interviews.

Satisfaction feedback provides an invaluable insight on the student experience of change within higher education (Kane, Williams & Cappuccini-Ansfield, 2008) while more specific evaluation instruments are used to gather data on the experience of course quality (Grace, Weaven, Bodey, Ross & Weaven, 2012). Meanwhile, the semi-structured qualitative interviews provide a powerful means of uncovering student and staff perceptions of the ePortfolio by offering a flexible interview style. This method has a list of themes and potential questions however, it allows open dialogue that can draw responses beyond the potential questions and indeed gathers a greater insight than that of a structured quantitative interview, which is likened to a survey with every question being the same. (Broom, 2005)

At the beginning of week 12 a student satisfaction survey will be distributed for students to complete at the end of class during that week, this method will ensure that all (or most) students will complete the survey and gather enough data.

The following criteria will be assessed against a 5 point Likert scale 5 – Strongly agree, 4 – Somewhat agree, 3 – Neither agree or disagree, 2 – Disagree, 1 – Strongly disagree.

1.    You found it easy to navigate and set up the ePortfolio

2.    You were unsure what to include in the ePortfolio

3.    You found it difficult to critically analyse information for your ePortfolio

4.    You found the peer and teacher feedback useful

5.    Your learning outcomes aligned with your learning goal

6.    You received clear instructions on what to include in your ePortfolio

7.    You will continue to use the ePortfolio in other areas of your learning

8.    You feel that there are benefits of the ePortfolio

9.    You felt more motivated within your learning

10.You may use the ePortfolio to show prospective employers

At the completion of the course students will be selected from a cross section of results (High Distinction, Distinction, Credit, Pass and Fail) to participate in a semi-structured interview, staff delivering the unit will also be interviewed with a different set of questions.

Student questions

1.    What did you find difficult about using the ePortfolio?

2.    Did your learning goal change? If so, what influenced the need to change it

3.    What was your process to critically analyse information to include as evidence?

4.    Did you find the feedback useful?

5.    Do you feel that you achieved your goal by week 12?

6.    What were the challenges and benefits of using the ePortfolio as an independent learning tool?

7.    How would you incorporate the ePortfolio into other aspects of your learning?


Staff questions

1.    How did students respond in the first few weeks of using the ePortfolio

2.    Did you give feedback to all or some of the students?

3.    What types of evidence were being included into the ePortfolio

4.    Were the students understanding the topics more through the use of the ePortfolio?

5.    Were students achieving their goals by the end of the unit?

6.    What were the main challenges students faced using the ePortfolio?

7.    Would an ePortfolio be useful in other areas of your teaching (ie, performance?)


Based on the responses of both evaluation methods data will be analysed to draw a conclusion whether the project made an impact on academic outcomes. Further to this, a comparison will be made using benchmark data from previous semesters to determine if results have improved within the academic component of the summative assessment.


 Abrami, P. C., Wade, A., Pillay, V., Aslan, O., Bures, E. M., & Bentley, C. (2009). Encouraging self-regulated learning through electronic portfolios. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology / La Revue Canadienne De l’apprentissage Et De La Technologie, 34(3) doi:10.21432/T2630W

Broom, A. (2005). Using qualitative interviews in CAM research: A guide to study design, data collection and data analysis. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 13(1), 65-73. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2005.01.001

Burland, K., & Pitts, S. (2007). Becoming a music student investigating the skills and attitudes of students beginning a music degree. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 6(3), 289-308. doi:10.1177/1474022207080847

Chau, J., & Cheng, G. (2010). Towards understanding the potential of e-portfolios for independent learning: A qualitative study. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(7). DOI:

Dunbar-Hall, P. (2015). E-portfolios in music and other performing arts education: History through a critique of literature. Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, 36(2), 139-154.

Grace, D., Weaven, S., Bodey, K., Ross, M., & Weaven, K. (2012). Putting student evaluations into perspective: The course experience quality and satisfaction model (CEQS). Studies in Educational Evaluation, 38(2), 35-43. doi:10.1016/j.stueduc.2012.05.001

Green, T. (2001). Teaching students to critically evaluate web pages. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 75(1), 32-34. doi:10.1080/00098650109599231

Hall, L. A., & Piazza, S. V. (2008). Critically reading texts: What students do and how teachers can help. The Reading Teacher, 62(1), 32-41. doi:10.1598/RT.62.1.4

Kane, D., Williams, J., & Cappuccini-Ansfield, G. (2008). Student satisfaction surveys: The value in taking an historical perspective. Quality in Higher Education, 14(2), 135-155. doi:10.1080/13538320802278347

Kesten C (1987) Independent Learning: A Common Essential Learning. Regina, Canada Saskatchewan Education (cited in Broad, J. (2006). Interpretations of independent learning in further education. Journal of further and Higher Education, 30(2), 119-143. doi:10.1080/03098770600617521)

Lau, K. (2017). ‘the most important thing is to learn the way to learn’: Evaluating the effectiveness of independent learning by perceptual changes. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 42(3), 415-430. doi:10.1080/02602938.2015.1118434

Morales, L., & Soler-Dominguez, A. (2015). Using ePortfolios to encourage responsible feedback. Higher Learning Research Communications, 5(3), 14-27. doi:10.18870/hlrc.v5i3.245

Nappi, J. S. (2017). The importance of questioning in developing critical thinking skills. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 84(1), 30.

Nguyen, L. T., & Ikeda, M. (2015). The effects of ePortfolio-based learning model on student self-regulated learning. Active Learning in Higher Education, 16(3), 197-209. doi:10.1177/1469787415589532

Rowley, J. (2015). The role of ePortfolios in preparing students for music careers. Australian Journal of Music Education, (2), 216-223.

Ring, G. L. (2015). Implementing a peer mentoring model in the clemson ePortfolio program. Theory into Practice, 54(4), 326-334. doi:10.1080/00405841.2015.1077616

Seifert, T. (2004). Understanding student motivation. Educational Research, 46(2), 137-149. doi:10.1080/0013188042000222421

Wolters, C. A. (2004). Advancing achievement goal theory: Using goal structures and goal orientations to predict students’ motivation, cognition, and achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96(2), 236-250. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.96.2.236

How did I select an emerging practice to implement?

This blog post presents a reflection, analysis and rationale of why an ePortfolio would be beneficial within music education. An evaluation framework is used to establish indicators and provide evidence to answer the criteria needed to implement an ePortfolio within the context of music theory classes in higher education.

Reflection and rationale

How I arrived to ePortfolios as an emerging practice in music education was by reflecting and critically analysing my initial set of assumptions on student learning. In this post I discuss how a PDS such as ‘turnitin’ might be a useful tool for students to submit assessments and receive feedback in order to achieve higher academic outcomes, however it was clear that my initial assumption ‘music students are not engaging with the course content and resorting to non scholarly sources for further information’ could have been addressed by focusing on why students are not engaging with the content, and is it really important if they aren’t?

The next phase of my selection process was to evaluate my assumptions and redesign my TISL by re-evaluating what is important to me, what is the issue I am faced with within my context and what emerging practice could be used to address this issue. My main concern is focus around students’ engagement with course content outside of the classroom. Often the case I have had students say ‘this website says x,y,z about this theory however, you have explained it like this… I am confused’ which leaves me to question, how are students assessing supporting information to support their learning, how are they selecting material that does not contradict course materials and then what do they do with such information?

Upon receiving feedback on various options to implement and through the described evaluation process, it became clear to me that students need a system in place to receive feedback from either the teacher or peers on information they find and somewhere to store this material where they can reflect on, construct knowledge, modify and support their own learning outcomes.

Evaluationing the ePortfolio

Danielsons (2007) Framework for Teaching Evaluation Instrument has been used to guide the selection process of ePortfolios compared to other emerging practices. The criteria for this emerging practice is “How can I guide students to make appropriate selection of supporting material through feedback processes and have a system in place for them (the students) to store this evidence, reflect and build new knowledge upon knowledge already learnt”. Indicators that address and breakdown the ‘big question’ emerges from the four domains of Danielsons (2007) framework, the indicators that are required to support the criteria and implement the emerging practice (ePortfolios) are as followed:

– 1a: Demonstrating knowledge of content – feedback to students that furthers learning

– 1c: Setting instructional outcomes – connecting outcomes to previous and future learning

– 1d: Demonstrating knowledge of resources – Facilitate student contact with resources outside of the classroom

– 2b: Establishing a culture for learning – Students assist classmates in improving the quality of their work & Students indicate through their questions and comments a desire to understand the content.

– 3b: Using questioning and discussion – Students invite comments from classmates, initiate high-order
questions, all students are engaged in feedback

– 3c: Engaged students in learning – i) all students are engaged and activates require high level explanations of their thinking. ii) Students take initiative to create and modify a learning task, suggest modifications and materials being used. iii) Students reflect and consolidate their understand of topics.

Literature evidence that supports ePortfolios as an emerging practice to implement shows that students are able to collect, organise and present digital evidence over time (Chau & Cheng, 2010), students also develop to become independent learners by engaging with content beyond the classroom (Dunbar-Hall, 2015) while also promoting peer and teacher feedback to self-regulate their learning and define/modify their own learning goals (Morales & Soler-Dominuez, 2015). Further to this, feedback is at the core of classroom activities, students are encouraged to discuss their learning achievements while at the same time responding to peers with constructive feedback to identify areas that require further attention and extra support (Morales & Soler-Dominuez, 2015).


Chau, J., & Cheng, G. (2010). Towards understanding the potential of e-portfolios for independent learning: A qualitative study. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(7).

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

Dunbar-Hall, P. (2015). E-portfolios in music and other performing arts education: History through a critique of literature. Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, 36(2), 139-154.

Morales, L., & Soler-Dominguez, A. (2015). Using ePortfolios to encourage responsible feedback. Higher Learning Research Communications, 5(3), 14-27. doi:10.18870/hlrc.v5i3.245

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.
Continue reading “What is my conception of good teaching practice in my discipline?”

Music – when students burn out…

In my current teaching role at an institution in Melbourne I have seen time and time again students who ‘just get over the line’ without really having an opportunity to soak up information provided by lecturers and then apply to their own craft – an issue that isn’t only within my institution or discipline.

When it comes to music, a lot students are preparing for classes only, a typical student study load in my institution consists of:

  • Principal Study
  • Ensemble
  • Theory
  • Critical Studies
  • Performance Studies
  • Concert Practice
  • Workshop
  • Elective (arranging, production etc)

This is roughly 14 hours of class time per week not to mention extra rehearsals toward week 8, 9 and 10 to prepare for assessments for at least 2 of these classes.

When does the student get time to practice and work on technique (scales, tone etc) or work on aural skills? instead of completing tasks for class in order to pass a subject? And then, when does the student have to work in their part time job in order to pay the bills, when do they get to go and see performances to enhance their musical language and then network with other musicians… when do they sleep?

I’m aware that students have the option to study part time, however, in a full time load such as above, isn’t this all too much? It certainly was not like this when I was a student.

What has changed?

Are we preparing professional musicians for the future, or are we burning them out?

The Master Teacher

Master teachers are not born, they become (Common, 1989). The relevance behind this quote for me, means that like most things that you practice, you become more learned in, you apply, you reflect, you argue, you criticize, conceptualize, refine and then re-apply.

Walking develops when you first crawl, you then put one foot in front of the other, hold onto objects for stability, you stumble, you fall and you get back up, reflecting on what went wrong, practicing the skill you know you have achieve until you can do it, the underpinning nature of this practice is, reflective learning.

As teachers, we become excellent teachers when we use reflective practices to improve in areas of the five dimension model of attributes (fig. 1)

Screen Shot 2017-07-29 at 5.04.08 PM.png

The five dimension model is an important aspect of any Master Teacher, as from my own experience, teachers who I have learned from in secondary school and university certainly applied reflective practice to inform their teaching, delivery of content, knowledge of content and could relate to every student in the class and to engage students who may be deemed as ‘at risk’.

My own teaching is informed by reflective practice, after each class I reflect on the delivery of the content, did the students understand the topics? Was there a better way of explaining x,y and z? Who in the class needed help more than the others? Are there any other methods I can adopt to improve knowledge transfer from myself to students.

The paper of Ruth, Kane et al states, ‘ No two participants approached their teaching in the same way. They had a wide range of subject expertise, interpersonal relationships with students, teaching practices, research areas, and personalities… and spent a great deal of time reflecting on their teaching in different ways.’

When we first become teachers, I believe we are crawling, learning to become educators and reflect on what could be better in our own lessons, as we gain experience from ‘on the ground’ situations (classes) we adopt various methods of teaching to better enhance the student experience. The wheel of attributes, for me, demonstrates an important breakdown of the skills required to be a master teacher so we can become a true master in the ‘complex act of teaching’