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Blog on Human Abilities and Learning

Final Reflections: Good Teaching, Teaching Standards, and the Future

Good and effective teaching is teaching which both is effective in the comprehension rates that students have when learning materials, and additionally making students interested in the prospect of learning. In order to be an excellent teacher, both aspects need to be covered in the classroom in order to be successful in the future. Providing students with motivation to learn and work hard will benefit them in the long run in this ever changing globalist world where new ideas are appearing all the time. At the same time they also need to be understanding what it is they are presented. School without learning is not much of a school. Both aspects need to be present, however. A student who learns but isn’t motivated to learn in the future will have difficulty adapting to the world around them. On the other hand, if they are motivated but don’t learn much in school then they enter the working world already being behind and having to catch up to those who were successful learners. These fundamental views of education that I hold have not drastically changed over the course of the semester, though they have become more informed.

In the course if this class, I feel I have developed a greater self-efficacy in my ability to teach and the requirements needed to do so. These are some specific examples of standards that I feel I have improved in order for me to become a better candidate for teaching and I believe will be helpful to use in my future teaching career:

  1. Teachers know how children grow/Understand that children learn differently:

Fundamental psychological concepts have been addressed during this course that will help me in the future. One of the important ones is understanding the misconceptions on Learning Styles. Mainly, the fact that learning styles do not exist and that instead they should be treated as learning preferences, and as tools to help with learner engagement rather than a strict curricular focus.

  1. Teachers Know how to Teach

In this course and like in previous courses, I have continued to develop lesson plans that I will very likely use in my teaching career. The lesson plans I have added to this semester are the beginning musical instrument lessons, such as Flute, Clarinet, and Trumpet.

  1. Teachers know how to manage a classroom.

One of the important concepts I learned about was the PBIS system, where extrinsic “reward” system helps students to develop positive learning behaviors in the classroom so that they can then develop an intrinsic want to for positive behavior that will be ever-present.


Another important topic covered in this class was basic information about having an online identity when entering the jobs market. Having an online portfolio is helpful to help “headhunters” see the basics of what an applicant knows and is capable of. Some of the things I intend to do as I get closer to applying for positions is developing my linked in profile and possibly creating an online website where I can feature my completed work. I would likely use a service like Squarespace that is easy to understand and looks good so that I can have a professional looking display, rather than having a “home-made” site that can look like it was made by the lowest bidder.


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Technology and Music Education

In many ways, technology and music education are closely intertwined. Sure, you can teach a music class without the use of any devices, but it is now ingrained into today’s music classroom, and in most cases for the better. According to an article posted by the National Association for Music Education, 74% of today’s teachers feel that “technology supports and expands the curriculum” and “motivates students to learn” (Dunn 2014). ¬†The reality is that technology will be used in today’s music classroom, the question then becomes how?¬†In this post, I’m going to explain some of the main pieces of music technology that are present in everyday classrooms and help¬†increase effective teaching. I will also examine other pieces of technology and assess whether or not they would be helpful in a musical setting.

To begin, the most ubiquitous and¬†in many cases most useful is the smartphone. Teacher’s and students alike can use smartphones to download incredibly useful apps for a variety of features. The most common apps for music are Metronome apps, used for keeping time, and tuner apps, meant for tuning of your particular instrument. One of the most popular apps is called “Tonal Energy”, and is available on both Android and iOS. It features both a metronome and a tuner, a long with a “drone” system, where you can set a pitch or several pitches to play for however long you like. This is an excellent tool for students to develop listening skills in a realistic manner. ¬†During a piece of music in a concert, often students will have to adjust tuning on the fly just by listening to other instruments. You could also hook your smartphone up to a speaker system and have the entire band listen and practice proper intonation. This specific app is only $2 on the android store, and it is also possible to download a few free apps which serve the same function without spending anything. You can find this app here:

TE Tuner

Another important tool for brass players is a very new one, called the silent brass mute. Non-technological ones have existed for a while such as this one, which I personally use and costs roughly $40:





The basic function of these mutes is to allow for someone to practice almost silently. You simply insert the mute into the instrument’s bell and play. It addresses a very practical problem for students (and ear-sore parents), and is great for those players who happen to live in apartment buildings or those who like to play at night. One of the drawbacks is that it affects the way the instrument feels and sounds, and can cause some issues in technique if the student practices solely on it. However, a new type of mute has appeared one the scene, and this one has some fancy new features.

Yamaha SB7Xc Silent Brass System for Trumpet

It is called the Yamaha Silent Brass System. It functions similarly to the old school mute, but it allows a student to hook the mute into a set of headphones and the mute tries to emulate what the instrument would sound like in a concert hall, and can also emulate reverb in different environments. Another cool feature is that you could hook up the mute into an amp instead, and create cool musical effects. One famous example is the Maniacal Four Trombone Quartet, where they make a trombone player sound like an electric guitar soloist.


The main issue with this device is it’s cost: the trumpet version of the mute costs a whopping $160, and other instruments can cost way more, such as the euphonium model which is $330. I would not necessarily recommend this device as a purchase in a classroom, however I might recommend it to certain students who are very interested in practicing more and have difficulty finding good practice spaces, or are interested in finding new techniques to use in their own individual playing.

Another important development in musical technology is the advent of musical notation software. Involving students in music composition can be a great way to get students engaged in class. According to an article from the International Journal for Music Education, students who’s classes integrated music composition were “more engaged in music education” and “performed better with regard to reading comprehension than their counterparts” (Hogenes 2015). Integrating composition into a classroom is also an incredibly student centered affair, since students are engaging¬†more in creativity and self discovery then even is in a standard music class. Composers, students, and teachers no longer have to struggle to write music and individual parts by hand, which can be tedious and take many hours to complete. The two most popular pieces of notation software are currently Finale and Sibelius. Each one has its own quirks and preferences, and the differences are similar to comparing a Mac to a PC: different people prefer different ones. However, a new piece of freeware has entered the scene as well, called Musescore. It has many if not most of the features of traditional notation software, and, of course, it’s free. A new copy of Finale can cost $600 for non-academic use, with upgrades from an older version costing $150. It also has an active online database where people can share music with each other to playback and download. Essentially what that means is if you have a computer in your band or choir room that doesn’t already have Finale or Sibelius on it, go ahead and install Musescore on it. Why not?

Here is an example of someone’s arrangement of “Land of 1,000 Dances” for Marching band or Pep band that they shared online for anyone to access:

Land of 1,000 Dances

You may see these different examples and ask yourself: “is this really necessary?” or “is this actually effective?”. So far, studies show that technology in education has a positive effect on students progress. According to a study from the Review of Educational Research,¬†“the average student in a classroom where technology is used will perform 12 percentile points higher than the average student in the traditional setting that does not use technology to enhance the learning process” (Tamim 2011). Teachers will of course have to balance their budget to find the most effective pieces of technology to integrate into their classroom. Much of the time that money instead goes toward repairs for current instruments or buying new music. However, if a teacher is able to maintain their instruments well and has already assembled a large library of music, bringing in pieces of music technology can be a great way to improve the music classroom.



Dunn, J. (2014, August 20). How Technology Is Being Used In Music Classrooms. Retrieved December 7, 2016, from

Hogenes, M., Oers, B. V., Diekstra, R. F., & Sklad, M. (2015, June 04). The effects of music composition as a classroom activity on engagement in music education and academic and music achievement: A quasi-experimental study [Abstract]. International Journal of Music Education, 32-48. doi:10.1177/0255761415584296

Tamim, R., Bernard, R., Borokhovski, E., Abrami, P., & Schmid, R. (2011). What Forty Years of Research Says About the Impact of Technology on Learning: A Second-Order Meta-Analysis and Validation Study. Review of Educational Research, 81(1), 4-28. Retrieved from


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General Views on Technology and Education

The increasing amount of technology in the world today has changed it forever. Things that where done physically and manually for millennia have now been switched to the digital format. The important question to ask, however, is whether we are better off or not because of it.

The modern day view of technology is that is not good or bad. It is the way it is applied that determines that. This can be extrapolated to grand topics such as information being shared universally through the internet or through the increasing power of military weapons. It can also be applied to modern day education, which itself has been drastically changed by it. The question of whether not it is better or worse than without education is answered the same way: it depends. In this blog post I will discuss a few of the good changes, and a few of the bad ones as well.

The first good change to education was mentioned earlier: the presence of the internet. Most places in the world now have access to what is essentially the collective knowledge of the whole human race. This means that anyone can learn virtually anything, just a quick google search and a Wikipedia link can often give you the information you need. This has improved the ability for students to learn things on their own than ever before. Struggling how to complete a certain project? Look up a tutorial than can give some useful tips. Having trouble remembering things for an upcoming quiz? Many websites offer free review materials for study.

This aspect also has its negative side, that is the increasing amount of false information present online. Wikipedia itself acknowledges the fact that a mistake in an article can take “weeks, months, or even years to be detected and removed”. Online information can also we steeped in bias, only selecting certain facts about an issue to present and ignoring the other points. Fake news has also seen an increase in the past couple of years. According to a Buzzfeed investigation, the most shared story of the 2016 election was the Pope endorsing Donald Trump, a story that was concocted out of thin air. Social media sites like Facebook have had to change their algorithms to try and avoid sharing the false stories, but it still remains an issue.

The way information is stored has also had an effect on modern education. In previous times, students would have to have all of their work stored in a physical, written format and organized to take up a large volume of space. And if for some reason the the original copy was damaged, well tough luck. A spill on a piece of paper can mean a do over. Now, students have access to wide variety of Cloud based services to backup their documents for free. One of the most popular today is Google Drive. It features its own free Word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet apps so assignments can be done online and saved online. This also allows a student to work on almost any computer, all they need to do is log into their account.

All of these services have a drawback, and that is the fact that not all students have the same access to technology, specifically the internet, than other students do. Some lower income households may not have access to the internet, meaning that a student who has to do a project that others would do online could severely impede their ability to succeed in class. Teachers must be careful to ensure that everyone in their class has access to the tools they need for an assignment. Sometimes this can be as simple as allowing students lab time in school so they don’t have to worry about it at home.

Another major concern is that some teachers may feel the need to incorporate technology for no reason except to include it. The idea of Backwards Design Framework can be useful here as well to determine whether a piece of technology should be used. The piece of technology should be used toward a specific goal, a “think with the end in mind” approach. Otherwise technology can add unneeded hassle to a lesson or distract students from the core ideas of what it is they are supposed to be learning about.

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Techniques for Teaching and the Backward Design Framework in Music Education

One of the biggest assets in being a music teacher, specifically a High School Band director, is that the class is very often an elective. The students involved in the class rehearsals decided they wanted to be there for a variety of reasons, and not just because they were forced to take it. Some students join for the the social aspect of making music with friends, others for the intrinsic value of wanting to develop their musical skills. The task then becomes not to get your students to want to be in class, but instead to have them motivated to practice regularly and remain focused in class.

Often, music classes are involved in various music competitions either in their state or across the country. For example, we in Wisconsin have WSMA, or the Wisconsin School Music Association. Some of their competitions include the Solo & Ensemble competition, where students prepare music for a festival located at a UW school and work to get ratings. Another is the WSMA State Marching band competition held at UW Whitewater, where different High School marching ensembles compete for scores and a rank, hoping to become the best in the state. These competitions often provide the most direct incentive for a student to practice. In Solo and Ensemble for example, the students often pick their music in the early to mid Fall semester and then perform it in the following Spring, encouraging long term practice and a finely tuned attention to detail.

One of the other important aspects of teaching music is figuring out how to rehearse and teach musical skills. Band directors at schools are often the ones who use the idea of Backward Design Framework more than any other teacher, although often times more informally. Backward Design Framework asks teachers to identify the goal of a lesson before writing out the full lesson plan. Since classes are often organized as rehearsals, the goal of each class is to fix problems that arise in playing. Individual sections are identified, and then the tools for fixing that problem need to be applied. Sometimes it is as simple as going slowly through a section, other times it can be by listening to a professional ensemble to develop listening skills and an attention to smaller detail that they can apply to their own playing. This also means that the teaching is incredibly student centered, as it focuses solely on the students abilities and how to improve them, rather than picking a specific topic to cover.

At some times, however, the standard lesson or even lecture is used, and the Backward Design Framework can be helpful, especially in those first lessons where students are just picking up their instruments for the first time. As an example, here is a backward designed lesson for the first Clarinet class.



Unit Title: Class Clarinet                                                                     Established Goals:Students in this class are fulfilling the second standard of National Coalition for Core Arts Standards, which is the performance of music. In order to participate in a concert band, students must be able to play their specific instrument, in this case the clarinet.
Understandings: Students will understand that…

  • Sound on the clarinet is produced by blowing air into the instrument and vibrating the reed, which is then amplified through the clarinet.
  • Proper assembly of the clarinet is needed to produce a good sound and promote proper playing technique.
  • Different notes can be created by pressing various combinations of keys or by covering tone holes, and also by adjusting the embouchure/air.
Essential Questions:

  • What does the clarinet sound like?
  • How do you a sound on the clarinet?
  • How is a clarinet assembled?
  • How does one make different notes?
Students will know:

  • What a clarinet sounds like.
  • Different parts of the clarinet.
  • Fingerings for the diatonic notes C below the staff up to second line G.
Students will be able to:

  • Play their first 5 notes.
  • Assemble the clarinet.
  • Play simple songs.


Performance Tasks:

  • Properly assemble their clarinets.
  • Make a sound, both on the mouthpiece and the full instrument.
  • Play the first 5 notes using different fingerings.
  • Play short songs from the Essential Elements 2000 instruction booklet.
Other Evidence:

  • Worksheets where students are required to fill out a fingering chart for the first five notes and also label the various parts of the clarinet.
  • Auditory quiz or game where students are tasked to figure out which sounds are made by clarinets.
  • Brief oral/written explanation of how to make a sound.
Key Criteria:

  • Students will be able to produce sound on their instruments.
  • Students will be able to know the proper fingerings for their first 5 notes.
  • Students will be able to identify the different parts of the instrument and assemble them together.


Summary of Learning Activities:

  • Students will begin by listening to examples of clarinet playing, both by myself and from professional recordings so as to understand why their ideal sound should be.
  • Students will be shown the different parts of the clarinet and very clear features that differentiate them, and through watching and hands on learning, will assemble their clarinet.
  • Students will practice making a tone on their mouthpieces after seeing visual examples and hearing auditory explanations of how to do it, such as the ‚Äúfinger mouthpiece‚ÄĚ technique and the connection of various oral cavity shapes and vowels (Ah, Eee, Oh).
  • By watching and mimicking, students will learn the proper hand positions to hold the clarinet and play the first five notes (proper finger/instrument angles, correct posture).
  • Students will then play some songs and exercises from the Essential Elements 2000 instruction booklet.


As you can see, the goal of this lesson is to get to the students to make their first sounds and learn the first few notes of the Clarinet, along with being able to know how to practice. So then the understandings match the goals, describing what the students will know about their instrument in order to do, like how a sound is made and how to assemble their instrument at home. Once that is done, the more specific tasks required to meet that goal are laid out. However, I believe that this is one of the problems in using this specific template as is. It does not allow for a large amount of detail about how the lesson works, and mostly requires a basic layout of it instead. For my own lesson plans in the future, I would likely use a trimmed down version of this format so that just the important ideas are covered so the lesson plan can be in detail.

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Behaviorist and Cognitive Views of Learning

There are a healthy number of views on the way learning occurs in the mind. In this blog post, I will be focusing on two major ones that can easily be applied to the classroom. These views are Behaviorism and Cognitivism.

Behaviorists believe that people have specific behaviors that can either be reinforced to increase the behavior, or punished to to lessen or stop the behavior. To apply this to learning, the idea is that you can alter the what happens before or after a behavior in order to change how a person acts. The major experiment related to this is Pavlov’s dog experiment. In it, Pavlov saw that dogs would salivate when food was presented. He then began ringing a bell before food was brought to the dogs and eventually, the dogs would salivate at the sound of the bell without any food being present. This relationship between stimulus and behavior was known as classical conditioning. This view arose from the idea that psychology should be scientifically based on empirical evidence.

On the other hand, the cognitive view theorizes that the mind is the result of mental processes, and focuses on the ways information “flows” through the mind, such has how it is received or organized. Therefore information should be presented in a way that is logical and meaningful to the learner. This theory emphasizes applying meaning to certain topics, such as applying a easy to remember mnemonic device in order to improve recall of a more complex subject.

One of the major differences between these two is the basis of their theories. Behaviorism based on empirical, easy to identify variables whereas cognitive theories are much more philosophical. Because of this the application of cognitive psychology can be more varied, whereas behaviorism is much more straight forward. In addition, cognitive psychology emphasizes the teaching of strategies in order to assist learning, such as the mnemonic device idea stated above. Behaviorism focuses more on strict transmission and then drilling and practice of information, or in other words just presenting or telling the information.

Because of these differences these psychological concepts should be applied to learning in different ways; they do not always overlap. Behaviorism is especially useful in maintaining classroom order and student etiquette. For example, students may enter into a reward system where they are given a school currency when good behavior is displayed, such as being ready when the bell rings. They may also be punished for poor behavior by taking away these rewards, such as when a student begins to misbehave during a lesson.

Cognitive views of learning are helpful for preparing how a lesson is going to be organized. If the teacher uses the ways students process and remember information, then he or she can organize that information into a way to that is meaningful to students. It can also be helpful in coming up with ways to retain information by applying meaning to otherwise meaningless (at least to the learner) information.

I know that as a teacher I will be using both of these models in shaping my classroom. I will often be tasked with teaching a student an instrument from the ground up, and will have to organize the basics of the instrument into an easy to consume format, so I will apply cognitive views to my instrumental lessons. On the other hand, I may have difficulty keeping my class in order during a lesson period, so I may begin applying behaviorist views to both reward good behavior and punish negative behavior to promote a healthy classroom environment.

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Response to Group 3’s Video on PAX Behaviors

The “Good Behavior Game” video was interesting to view and helped outline a simple strategy that can be used in the classroom. While the basics of the strategy are not complex, it seems very helpful and looks like it can be easily applied in the classroom. I remember something similar happening at my school district toward when I graduated called “Norskie Nods” (the Norskie being our mascot) which were sheets of paper that were awarded for good behavior, and could be used later to enter into a drawing for prizes. I did not get a large amount of experience with this in my schooling, but I imagine it was a useful incentive in order to promote a positive learning environment, especially at the younger grade levels. When they were introduced I was in late high school, so me and my peers thought it was kind of trivial, so I doubt this method has much success in the upper grade levels. Perhaps it is more effective at the higher grade levels if the students had been exposed to it since elementary school.

As a band director, it may be harder to use this in a high school setting due to the large class size and attitudes of the students, but I can see this as being helpful in a middle school band program with students who are just beginning to learn their instruments and are also learning how to behave in a large band class.

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Dealing with Differences in the Teaching Environment

In my future as a music educator, I’m going to have to teach a wide variety of different backgrounds. I will also likely have to deal with an array of ages as well, as most if not all music programs allow students of different grades to play together. The differences between students may not be apparent on day one however, and it is likely they will appear over the course of time. It is also quite possible that these differences will not be known with out some attempt at discovery. After all, students aren’t always open with their teachers or peers.

The first step before teaching would simply be to talk to other teachers in the school before the semester begins. In this way it is possible to begin to prepare one’s self for what they might have to work with, rather than having to rapidly learn it on day one. This would also be helpful because the other teachers may already have strategies for working with students of different backgrounds in order to maintain an effective classroom environment.

Another possible strategy would then be to observe all of the details of the students etiquette with each other. Who sits next to who? Who do they talk to? Who do they listen to? This is is one possible way to begin to understand the different factors at play between students and the classroom environment.

Once there is a basic understanding of the different students in the classroom, the most logical course of action relates back to the first step: to talk to the other teachers of the school. I would personally also talk to the previous teacher about what he/she discovered about his/her students. This person would also have the exclusive knowledge of what the music students specifically are like, as there is usually only one or two music teachers at a high school.

One important distinction between students that I will have to manage with as a music educator is that of the range of ability the students possess. If I end up teaching a high school band program, I will likely have to teach students who have twice as much experience as others, and there may even be some students who are brand new to playing a musical instrument. Luckily, this difference between students is easy to distinguish, as I should have a list of students and their current grade before the semester starts. If possible, my first method would be to have short private or group lessons during the school day to help the newer students be able to play the current music. I was lucky enough to go to a school that allowed students to leave a class for half a period once or twice a month to go to sectional lesson (a lesson for just trumpets, for example). This would be my first strategy to helping the variety of students be able to succeed together.

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Brain and Knowledge Development

There are different views about how a person constructs knowledge, and therefore learns. Learning is defined as¬†“the process of acquiring through experience new and relatively enduring behaviors”. Two major models present themselves in defining how learning happens: the Piagetian view and the Vygotskian view.

The first view are the ideas presented by Jean Piaget in the second half of the 20th century. He asserts that people learn by organizing different concepts into “schemes”, which are “mental systems or categories of perception and experience”. We use these schemes when trying to make sense of the world around us, putting what we see into our current framework. This is called “assimilation”. Schemes are also used when see information that goes against our current schemes; when we try to fix our schemes to adjust, this is called “accommodation”. When we are seeing information that continues to fit into our boxes, we have what is called “equilibrium”, and when we aren’t we have “disequilibrium”, which causes mental discomfort making us seek equilibrium by adjusting our schemes.

Piaget also defined several stages in terms of cognitive development. These stages are:

  1. Sensorimotor (0-2 Years Old): Learns through actions of the environment.
  2. Preoperational (Talking to 7 Years Old): Begins language and learning to use symbols to represent environment. Thinking is based in present and moves one way.
  3. Concrete Operational (First Grade to Roughly 11 Years Old): Develops an understanding of concrete problems. Can organize things into different categories. Now able to think in multiple directions.
  4. Formal Operational: Develops ability for hypothetical and deductive reasoning. Able to consider multiple viewpoints, perform abstract problem-solving logically, and conduct hypothetical and deductive reasoning.

The model Piaget presents is much like its contents: it allows things to be put into neat and highly organized boxes with clear answers. In this it also has its first flaw. Often times children are learning concepts that are not a part of their current stage, or are sometimes off of where they should be for their age. Piaget is now also viewed to have underestimated children by presenting them with problems that are too complex in the way they are asked. This would cause wrong answers in subjects that the child likely could have answered correctly if the question were simpler. It also fails to adjust for different cultures, who may have different frames for viewing his questions.

The second major view comes from Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky. His major idea is as follows:

“Every function in the child‚Äôs cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological). This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher functions originate as actual relationships between individuals.”

In essence, Vygotsky states that learning in children comes from interacting with other humans, and that a first interaction is then internalized, becoming part of the child’s thinking. He also asserts that language is extremely important to the learning process, and proposed that speech drives congitive develepment.¬†His second major concept is that of the “Zone of Proximal Development”. This is the area of concepts a child could understand/solve if given proper guidance.

Vygotsky’s ideas, like Piaget’s, are not without flaws. For example, it is viewed that he may have placed too much emphasis on the relationship between learning with others and the culture the child is in. It does not adjust for the fact that a child may know more because of genetic predisposition. It also does not go into much detail about the specifics of his ideas, mainly because Vygotsky died at a young age and did not have the time to elaborate.

It is important to note that while both of these views present a model of forward moving intelligence, it is possible for learning to be slowed down despite the fact that all of the necessary building blocks are there. For example, the presence of a strong caregiver can change the rate of learning in a child. A child who lacks that bond with a primary caregiver can have difficulties, even to a point where the brain changes. Keep this in mind when examining the models presented by Piaget and Vygotsky.

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Reflections on Research and Homework in Education

It is easily agreed upon that today’s teachers need to be more effective than ever before, utilizing the best techniques in order to teach today’s students. We have centuries of psychological research to look at to conjure up the most effective methods, and we have also used this method to get rid of ineffective ones as well. Gone are the days of the ruler as a symbol of classroom order. However, jumping to change the curriculum at the result of the latest study could prove to be a poor choice.

In today’s modern media environment we see the results of various research studies touted often. There are many viral claims that we can easily spot to be false (‚Äúlose 20 lbs with this simple trick! Harness the power of x science‚Ķ etc.), but sometimes what seems like a good news report about a new study can be misleading. A recently aired episode of the popular news/comedy show ‚ÄúLast Week Tonight‚ÄĚ illustrates this issue.

That is not to say that research should be discarded. These issues are largely the result of the need for eye-catching stories to put out that will keep viewers/readers interested, and therefore should not affect education policy since policy makers are likely to go more in depth in their research than just watching the news. If a teacher did a well constructed and scientifically ground study that produced clear results and the results could be replicated, there is no reason why the data shouldn’t be used to improve classrooms. But these reports that we see in the media that teachers do not support may sway public opinion and affect the parents of students, which can be damaging in its own way. ¬†

This brings us to the topic of homework in our schools. The recent viral image of Texas teacher Brandy Young‚Äôs letter to parents tells them that there will be no school for the coming year. She states that ‚Äúresearch has been unable to prove that homework improves students performance‚ÄĚ. Parents would likely be excited at this measure, but it is important to note she also tells parents to do activities that are shown to increase student performance, such as eating together and reading. This is an important caveat, since she doesn‚Äôt argue that a lack of homework will increase performance. This places student performance more in the hands of the parents, which means it will depend upon them if a student is prepared or not. While the role of homework (or lack of, in this case) is still up for debate, the amount of homework given has been studied. According to CBS news contributor Lisa Damour, there is diminishing returns. After 1.5 hours for middle schoolers the returns of homework drop off, and for high schoolers it drops off between 1.5 and 2.5 hours.

Ultimately, this is an important question to answer. There isn’t a clearly defined answer yet because it is a complex topic. But if there is a better way for students to utilize their time after school, then schools should push to use it.



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About Me

My name is Ryan Fitz, I am a senior music education major from DeForest, Wisconsin. My emphasis is instrumental and I plan to become a band director, hopefully in a high school. I started being involved in music in middle school like many others do, where I started playing the trumpet. Luckily I came from a family of musicians, my mother a pianist and my dad played brass, so I was able to have a head start at learning my instrument.


When I moved on to high school I got involved with and organization that affected my life immensely: the Sound of Sun Prairie. It was a summer marching band program that I heard about through my step-family. It involved long summer rehearsals every day from 9 to 9. This group helped my audition for and (very narrowly) get into an ensemble that would drastically change my life forever: the Phantom Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps from Rockford, Illinois. It was much like the first group, except everything was cranked to 11. The difficulty, the traveling everything.

(a show that inspired me to join)

(and what I got to do).

These groups taught me a lot about hard work and other important life lessons. Both groups had phenomenal teachers. The Sound of Sun Prairie’s wind section was taught a UW Whitewater graduate named Tony Kading, and the Phantom Regiment’s brass section was taught by Iowa State’s Assistant Band Director Christian Carichner. Both of these people were great at explaining concepts of playing musical instruments and at the same time kept me and the other members motivated to keep improving.

I hope to use the lessons I have learned in these groups to help me to become a better teacher. Just some of the lessons I’ve learned:

1. Never allow yourself to get mad or frustrated. When you allow that to happen, it is very easy to spread that feeling to your students and those around you, and when that happens, it is very hard to perform and rehearse.

2. Talk to people and be aware of problems before they happen. Having a good idea of what the students are thinking during and about rehearsal is important for knowing how to keep the group motivated.

3. (More musically related), slow, disciplined practice and reflection is better than just running through stuff. Analyzing all of the details of what you are doing is what makes good performers (and teachers) great.



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