Self-Paced Practice Reports

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Homework Assignment: Self-Paced Practice Reports
In general, I don't believe in assigning a large block of melodies to learn before each class session. Students tend to be at wildly different levels (especially in the first year), and a uniform assignment will frustrate the weak ones and bore the skilled ones. And, assigning a large amount of rehearsal at home can drive students to devise counterproductive methods to hack away at the material (such as memorizing the syllables like lyrics).

The "Self-Paced Practice Report" is an idea that came out of my time as a CUNY Writing-Across-the-Curriculum Fellow. Basically, the WAC movement believes that writing can be used in all disciplines, not just the humanities.

The Practice Report is a personal journal on one's practice activities. Several times a semester I'll ask the students to do a certain amount of practicing (usually a half-hour or hour) and write me a paragraph about it. Here are the specific instructions I give them. On the due date they submit their paragraphs, and I usually scribble back some comments that evaluate what they did and make suggestions for future sessions.

Despite the complete lack of corrigibility, I get the sense that the vast majority of students take the assignment seriously and give reasonably accurate accounts of real practice sessions. In particular, I like the way that this format encourages advanced students (who normally would not practice their ear-training at all) to challenge themselves, with the sense that whatever they may do will still "count" as ear training homework.

The very worst students tend to scribble out a single sentence that describes some unimaginative activity. One can respond by encouraging them to be a little more ambitious. A more typical report gives a detailed account of specific passages, etc.

sample1 (53K)

Here's a report from a student who teamed up with a classmate.

sample2 (32K)

What's really interesting is how analytical some students get about their own abilities, about music in general, or how the class is going. This is an excellent avenue to really get to know your students and influence them directly with your feedback. Often a particular point will require me to type up a whole paragraph in response. It can become time-consuming, to be sure, but I'm always happy to have created an opportunity for real education to take place.

Here's one more sample:

sample3 (70K)