Composing a Class (1/4: Introduction)

I ended up teaching four classes last fall. Since I have a full-time non-teaching job, this was a lot for me to handle. Two classes were in-person, one was online and synchronous (we met on video call once a week), and one was online but asynchronous (students had deadlines but no lectures to attend). 

The varied formats gave me an opportunity to think about my teaching and how to structure classes. How do they flow, how do I present information, how do I incorporate feedback and assessment? 

Like many people teaching college, I don’t have much training in teaching. I think I’ve taken one Music Education seminar and one Pedagogy of Music Theory class. I’m not alone–professors are hired because they know the subject matter. Sometimes, their teaching ability is the very last consideration.

This series will offer some thoughts about teaching based on my experiences over the years. I’m writing primarily for new teachers–grad students, new adjuncts. I hope you’ll find this useful.

Since my training is in composition, I’ll frame it in those terms: How do you compose a class?

Part 2 covers the structure and schedule of a class. We might think of this as ways of introducing and developing motives (skills) and themes (concepts). I will cover the practices of Scaffolding and Feedback Loops that should always be informing your class structure.

Part 3 covers content delivery and activities. This directly parallels compositional choices like media–is it all acoustic (lecture), or multimedia? Is it going to be stylistically consistent (lecture+tests), or eclectic (lecture+group activities+solo projects+quizzes+discussions+other)? 

Part 4 covers participation and feedback. It is important to distinguish between a passive “audience” and active participants. Students need feedback, but so do teachers. Learn how to give feedback, and how to get students to participate.

There is a lot of research and writing on how to teach, and this is merely my take. See you in class next week!

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