Outline for observation plan for Ben's lecture

(1) Instructor's learning goal for the evaluated class session or assignment:
Ben will be giving a full lecture in the Music Humanities (HUMA W1123) section for which he is an Apprentice Instructor this semester. This course is part of the Core Curriculum. Most of the ~25 students are upperclassmen, but they are not music majors and most have relatively little prior music and no prior music-theoretical training. Ben's goal is for students to gain a basic understand of sonata form. This includes knowing the feathers of the major components of sonata form (exposition, development, and recapitulation) as well as the most common subsections of the exposition (first theme, transition, second theme, closing section) and to be able to identify these different components aurally. They will also be able to identify where melodies and themes are repeated, discuss musical differences between different sections and themes, and formally trace the progression of a piece in sonata form.

(2) Instructor's vision of how students will step towards that goal:
Prior to the observation day Ben will ask students to complete a short, one-page writing assignment in which they'll be asked open questions about the piece and about any patterns the students might be able to identify. Ben will begin class by asking students to listen to a piece that is in sonata form. Following listening, Ben will lead an open discussion, asking students what they heard, and what sorts of things they came up with in their short writings (in part, the pre-class writing is to ensure that the students have listened carefully and thoughtfully). He will write the students' ideas which eventually pertain to the lecture portion of the class on the board. Ben will also push the students to try to invent some kind of visualization of the form of the piece, replaying sections and themes as needed (they will have had a similar assignment before). Then, Ben will introduce sonata form and give a short lecture on its structure and history. In this brief lecture, he hopes to engage students in the learning process and encourage class participation. He will know the class fairly well at this point and will have taught them previously, so he will feel comfortable cold-calling on students and making sure that most students participate. Once the class has talked about the sonata form in depth, Ben will introduce the Variations Audio Timeliner software, which will graphically depict the themes and repetitions of the piece. Students will not be expected to use the software, but the display in the UI provides a useful visual expression of the form. Students will compare the kinds of visualizations they came up with the traditional "arch diagram" produced by the program. The goal is for students to first begin to understand sonata form aurally and then to use the Timeliner software to further illustrate how the sonata form is organized. In the following session, students will attend a lecture recital by a string quartet and assigned another brief writing assignment (ca. 1 page), due the following session, responding to another piece in sonata form. Ben will compare these response to those generated before the observed lecture looking for more discussion of form, comparisons of themes, and use of new vocabulary.

(3) Observer's understanding of what exactly he or she is tracking:
While video could be useful, it might be more disruptive than helpful in this case because the classroom is very small and having a videographer there could be distracting. However,as a lot of what we're tracking is the words Ben and students are using, it might make sense to have an audio recording of the class so that we can refer back to moments and so that Caroline won't spend the whole time just transcribing conversations. Instead, we'll be able to refer back to the audio and see how students were able to use the new vocabulary and whether Ben was able to explain concepts clearly and without too much jargon. During the class, Caroline will be observing how well students are able to talk about sonata form after it has been introduced, i.e., the extent to which they were able to incorporate their new vocabulary and understanding of sonata structure when talking about the piece, how well the technology helps facilitate students' understanding of the form, and how well Ben is able to describe sonata form without too much technical jargon. Towards that end, we talked about keeping track of the questions students asked, the new vocabulary they used, and the jargon that Ben used and the degree to which he was able to speak in non-musician terms and to make the lesson understandable to non-musicians.

Specific words to avoid without definition are drawn from the following word bank (words in italics will be defined in class):
  • Exposition
  • First Theme
  • Transition
  • Second Theme
  • Development
  • Recapitulation
  • Modulation
  • Tonic
  • Dominant
  • Medial Caesura (MC)
  • Essential Exposition/Sonata Closure (EEC/ESC)


(4) Observer's understanding of how the tracked session or assignment will be measured:
In addition to the before- and after- writing assignments, we will also have Caroline's observation notes and the audio recording. In addition, Caroline will conduct a short focus group with students after class in which she'll ask students open-ended questions about their impression of the lesson, how well Ben explained sonata form, and how well the Timeliner helped them to understand sonata form. Ben will grade the assignments, looking for progress in students' use of new vocabulary as evidence of their understand of sonata form and its components. Caroline will track the conversation -- who said what and when -- and pay particular attention to Ben's ability to convey ideas clearly. In our final report we will also include students' performance on the section of their classical-era exam. The test is written and graded by the instructor, but the questions about sonata form will be written in consultation with Ben.

Sonata Form Vocabulary and Ideas:
  • "Exposition"
  • Exposition presents musical themes revisited in development and repeated in recapitulation
  • "First Theme" or "First Theme Group"
  • First theme in the tonic, usually more triadic, forte
  • "Transition"
  • "Second Theme" or "Theme Group"
  • Second theme usually softer, more melodic than firs theme
  • "Development"
  • "Recapitulation"
  • Repeated expositions

Focus group questions include:
  • Did you find that the "Variations Timeliner" software facilitated you grasping of concepts in sonata form?
  • Does the way the form is presented seem a natural way to conceptualize these ideas?
  • Would you have used the software differently?


Spring Observation Timeline

Before first meeting: Lecture scheduled with Prof. Boynton

1/24: Meet with Ben to discuss ideas for observation plan.

1/30: Workshop observation plan with other Teagle Fellows

2/24: Final draft of observation plan due.

2/26: First response paper assigned.

3/3: Observation Day
1:00 Arrive at Hamilton 714 before lecture begins
1:10 Class begins; Ben introduces Caroline to the class
1:15 Listening to sonata movement (Beethoven, op. 18, no. 6)
1:20 Class discussion of themes, sections, etc.
2:00 Lecture on Sonata Form, introduction of Variation Timeliner, history, vocabulary, etc.
2:20 Focus group

3/5 (Next class meeting, no observation): Students attend lecture recital, Second short paper assigned (ca. 1 page). Surveys due.

3/10: Second short writing assignment due.

3/6-3/11: Caroline compiles focus group results on Teagle website, Ben compares writing assignments form before and after lesson.