Reflecting to Look Forward

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 6.23.45 PMI have always been a project based learner and design classroom experiences for learners in my classroom to do the same. They have voice and choice of as to how they show their understanding of concepts and processes. The divergence in their pieces are exciting to see and hear. The cycle went something like this: learner/musicians experiences a concept through an anchor or mentor piece of music, conceptualize a way to create a piece to show their understanding, rehearse, perform, and begin framing the next project. It has been awesome, but there was something missing. The more I read about learning and thought about the way I learn,  themes started to emerge. A few that resonated with me were the lack of reflection and revision. In my classroom, we were missing self reflection and time to revise existing music. It was my fault. I was so focused on “covering material” or “getting everything in” that I was missing a big piece of the learners experience. The ways we deepen our understanding is by trying, making mistakes, trying again, and revising. With my new realization, I have worked toward developing a way for musicians to reflect upon their performances during their revision process. I am still working through the details.

Performance “Check-Ins”


In my classroom, we focus on the process of creating and performing music. Throughout a learner/musician’s experience, they (or their group) will do a “check-in” performance for the class. This performance in not their final presentation, rather a glimpse into their composition process. This also provides more of a formal run-through of their musical ideas they have been experimenting with and a time for them to hear what their piece sounds like without all of the sounds from other musicians bleeding in. Read more about Musician’s Workshop here. As musicians are sharing their “check-in” performances, I capture video in the Three Ring mobile app to reflect upon later.

Capturing Video with Three Ring

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Three Ring  is a hybrid website and app which allows us to build our digital portfolios throughout the year. Three Ring has been an invaluable resource for me as an educator to capture thinking and process, for students to reflect upon their musical process while developing their digital portfolios, and for parents to have a window into my classroom and their children’s musical experiences. I have shared many artifacts and performances with parents which has provided a window into my classroom that has not been open before. As the musicians perform for peers in class, these performances are captured by my mobile device and tagged with their classroom teachers name, musician’s names, and any learning goals. See the “check-in” video below here.

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When learner/musicians present projects such as completed “incomplete” listening maps, their green screen performances are captured for their music portfolios, for reflection, and are then shared with parents. See one here

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After the entire class has performed for one another, given and received verbal feedback, we take the next class period to reflect upon our progress, create personal goals, and plan the revision process.

Reflecting with Socrative

 The tool we use in class is Socrative. Socrative is a student response system that empowers teachers to engage learners in reflective practices via smartphones, laptops, and tablets. This hybrid app can be used to create quizzes and multiple choice question, however, I choose to use it differently. I only create short answer questions that frame the reflection of their performances. After a musician has watched their “check-in” video on Three Ring, they navigate their (or my) mobile device to and enter my room number.

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 3.31.46 PMThey are then prompted to answer the following question:

  1. What are your learning goals for [insert concept here]?
  2. How are you showing your understanding of [the above concept]?
  3. Did your check-in performance meet your expectations? Please explain.
  4. As a musician, what was your biggest accomplishment during the performance? What makes you think that?
  5. As a musician, what was your biggest struggle during the performance? What makes you think that?
  6. What is (are) your personal goal(s) for the next time your group comes together to revise your piece?

The musicians take a bit of time reflecting and typing in their answers.



As the class finishes their reflections, I download the .xls spreadsheet of all the musician’s answers and goals. I use this to inform my mini-lessons and to support the learner/musicians individual needs based on their answers to the above questions.

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When musicians return to their composition groups for revision, they each come with a personal goal which refocuses them individually while revising within their group. This also allows me to meet with individual musicians or pull focus groups to support them toward their personal goals. We have made reflection a part of the regular musical experience.

It has taken me years to realize that reflection is as important in learning as the experience itself. As John Dewey reminded us nearly a century ago, “We do not learn from experience . . . we learn from reflecting on experience.” Why has it taken me this long to figure it out?