09/24/08 Video, Reflection & Analysis: “Exoticism of Taboo” (Mini-Lecture Assignment for Teaching Music History)
Hello, CMIE NewsBlog readers! This semester I am taking Anne Hallmark’s “Teaching Music History course” and will be acting as one of its Documentation Specialistsâ€”that is, posting my class experiences to the CMIE NewsBlog so that others in the MIE community can get a bird’s eye view of the course, and articulating my work in a public forum with the hope of receiving constructive feedback, etc. Expect to read some more blog posts from me over this semester. I will also make a MIE portfolio for the course as an example of what a MIE portfolio would look like for a cross-listed course. I look forward to your comments and feedback!
In our first class, Dr. Hallmark announced that we’d each have to give a short lecture on the piece of our choice. I think she made this assignment as a ‘diagnostic’, of sorts, so that we could each figure out what we already bring to the table and set some goals for the semester. Our assignment had three parts, and this post is a partial extrapolation of the second part. (I wrote a more fleshed-out analysis that you can download here). Here’s the assignment:
- Give a short lecture to the class on a topic/piece of choice (and videotape that lecture).Â
- Watch the videotape and write a reflection/analysis paper based on your reactions to the video.Â
- Meet with the instructor for further discussion of your reactions and to set goals for the semester.
The presentation requirements, as I understood them, were open-ended: Choose a piece to introduce to your classmates. Use a â€˜straight lectureâ€™ format. Use of Powerpoint presentations, hand-outs, audio or video recordings, etc. would be allowed; the only real requirement would be that each presentation must fall strictly within ten minutes. Following each presentation, the floor would be opened for questions or comments from the audience (our classmates). Comments from the audience could pertain either to the lecture style and presentation attributes, or to the content itself.
Pre-Viewing Reflection on Lecture Success
As it is for many, pre-presentation anxiety is one of my faults. I think my biggest worry is getting up to present and either forgetting what I want to say, or trying to say it but not being articulate enough and thus getting a lot of blank stares. Ancillary worries are: rambling (in which main points and others get tangled, and so the audience doesnâ€™t know what the presentationâ€™s â€˜take-awaysâ€™ are) and running out of time and having to leave off main or important points. Thus, I scripted my lecture… but at the risk of reading my presentation instead of actually presenting it. I know the audience caught on to this pretty quickly, but I might not know until viewing the tape what reactions they each made, and how that affected the overall quality of my presentation.
The Video of My Lecture
Post-Viewing: Analysis of Videotape & Goals for the Semester
The same thoughts I had post-presentation (pre-viewing) applied when I watched the tape. Although the tape does not show the audience while I was presenting, my guess is that if it did, there would be body language from the audience that shows them being â€˜turned offâ€™ by my reading from the script vs. me presenting in an organic way.
The videotape also reveals how my body language plays into the way I suspect my audience interprets the tone and formality of my lecture. For much of the video, I am leaning on my hands, slanted diagonally towards the lectern/computer, and the eye contact I make is in short spurtsâ€”not for long periods, neither with audience members nor with the projected slides. This coupled with my script reading was surely a turn-off and disengaged my audience.
My main goal for this semester is to feel comfortable giving lectures, short and long, without the crutch of a script or extensive notes. I have long felt comfortable internalizing subject matter and leading discussions on it and buttressing these conversations with audio-visual material. But giving straight lectures is a different animal, and itâ€™s a skill I must master if I continue public speaking in any context.
James Wilkinson, author of the â€œVarieties of Teachingâ€ essay in The Art and Craft of Teaching (Margaret Gullette, Editor), refers to the varying skills a successful teacher needs:
A good lecturer may experience problems leading a successful discussion; the discussion leader skilled in asking questions may feel ill at ease when conducting a monologue from the lecture podium. But it should be a teacherâ€™s goal to master the full scale of teaching styles, and to know the strengths and drawbacks of each (Gullette, 1984).
This straight-lecture format was definitely good practice for me, because as much as the topic and content is put front and center, so are my methods of organizing and presenting that material. I suppose another crutch I have is to put the student at the center of the conversation; after all, there is a huge push for education these days to be learner-centric rather than topic-centric, and my own philosophy and background in education is from that standpoint (learner-centric) as well. So, this was all a good exercise.
As an aside, I think that this course (like other education-focused courses at New England Conservatory) is an important parallel to the schoolâ€™s performance-based curriculum; particularly because it encourages budding teachers to freely and openly explore and develop eachâ€™s own personal teaching style. So often teachers-to-be (also known as pre-professional teachers) are thrown into classrooms with little preparation or minimal chance to practice teaching.
While at NEC, I spent many hours practicing pieces in small motifs, and then slowly linking those motifs together to create longer phrases. Those phrases then had to be linked to each other, and so any transition that occurred between phrases would have to be carefully planned and executed, in accordance with accompanying parts, harmonic structure, rhythm, and form. In other words, it would all have to make sense. I have since come to understand the art of presenting and teaching to be no different. As is stated by Wilkinson, part of the trickiness of lecturing is in the way that one must analyze the subject matter and present it in a logical, flowing, way:
How to argue a point and not simply present data; how to link arguments in a logical chain; how to sum up with a sure sense of what is essential and what is merely extrinsic to your case are skills that require coaching and practice. Students need to be helped to present their ideas with grace and to strive for the control, confidence, and economy of means that help make what Alfred North Whitehead once termed a â€œsense of style.â€ (Ibid.)
I have already spent many nights working on this from the standpoint of the written word, and have slowly begun spinning this experience out, into other forms of teaching that I am comfortable with: double bass & music reading lessons; ensemble coaching; and informal lecturing on Exotica music and the Hawaiian culture. However, what I need more practice with is working in more formal venues, with a larger and/or mixed audience, and in extended time periods. Thus, I am excited to conduct the 50-minute classes that are part of the assignments for this course, and hope to further develop the â€œsense of styleâ€ that Wilkinson, Whitehead, and others often refer to as being a crucial characteristic of effective teaching (Ibid).
Read my Reflection & Analysis Paper (PDF)
Wilkinson, J. (1984). Varieties of Teaching. In M. Gullette (Ed.), The Art and Craft of Teaching (p. 4). Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP.