Learning by Reflection
James Joyce once said that “A man’s errors are his portals of discovery.” Music education majors at Case have recognized this idea through their constant encounters with reflection writings.
Michael Pavlik, a music education major at Case, described to me the kind of writing that he does for his classes. The majority of the writing consists of reflections on his class work. For example, Pavlik is taking a music methods course where he acts as a student teacher or observes a teacher once a week. He is required to write a three to five paged reflection for each of these student teaching “episodes.” Pavlik described some of the key elements in his reflection: “We write about what we saw in class and what kinds of teaching methods we would want for ourselves.” All of their reflections are posted online at blogspot.com because it is easier for the professors to view and grade the students’ posts. Pavlik’s blog offers reflections on reading materials as well: “After reading these articles, I have to concur with Dr. Campbell, ‘listening is sometimes an underrated activity in school classes and ensembles.’” Reflections offer a way for music education majors to realize what they have learned from others.
Another way that music education majors can reflect on their learning is through a writing portfolio. Students’ e-portfolios can be found on taskstream.com. This is where they can keep track of their lesson plans, sound bites from their own playing, and video tapes from their teaching episodes. Students are able to look back on their work from their e-portfolios in order to critique themselves. Pavlik especially appreciated reviewing his videos where he was conducting for children at a rehearsal because he could find areas that went well for him as well as areas that needed improvement. E-portfolios have provided a great tool for music educators to reflect on their progress.
Case’s music education website discusses what they want from a music educator that comes from Case. A graphic on their B.S. in Music Education page describes the characteristics of a Case educator:
Proactive. Scholar. Practitioner. What is the importance of these three qualities? Pavlik said that this triangle can be interpreted as music educators “searching for new knowledge and learning how to use it in practice.” I believe that these three qualities are connected through self reflection. In order to be reflective, one has to be proactive. A scholar requires reflection in order to figure out what has been learned as well as what needs to be learned. Finally, practitioners of an art have to be reflective because they cannot be complacent—reflection helps them grow. So what is the point of writing tons of reflections? “It encourages you to sit down and be critical about your teaching,” Pavlik remarked. Writing reflections on readings and one’s teaching skills allows music education majors at Case to grow and become the music educators of the future.