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    learning-outcomes based instruction

    Community colleges are being influenced (because of outside political pressures)  to use "learning-outcome based instruction." This has become the main criteria for hiring teachers.  It involves the use of metrics to demonstrate that students learned what they are supposed to learn.  What does this mean in music history and theory?  What does this mean in a first year community college Introduction to Music class?


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    • 11 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
    • I think it means the decline of Western Civilization!

    • It's a requirement for just about every community college teaching job in this state.  It's not possible to refuse to comply. 

    • The teachers still have the right to define what  they mean by "learning" and "outcomes" and how to "measure" it. 

    • Hi Linda, fortuately for me I attended Los Angeles Pierce College in California in the good ol' days before the infamous Proposition 13 in the 1970s decimated public educaiton both secondary and [certainly] community college curriculum.  Before that sea change in educational access and funding the curriculum at community colleges (at least in Los Angeles and California) was robust, more extensive and sophisticated in terms of course work levels availiable, for example extensive departments in foreign languages and music, a full range of courses in the humanities and science as well as technical subject matter like electronics or machine shop course work.  I notice that no longer exists - at least in my current location, Seattle Washington.  

      I think something is lost when teachers, who are professionals and highly educated in their respective disciplines are required to teach an agenda or method instead of choosing (at least to some extent) what they have to convey about education from their own perspective and experience.  I also feel sorry for students who have to endure that kind of approach - we're teaching students to take tests and prepare for tests rather than creative/critical thinking, which might seem less tangible to the numbers administrators, but does not produce a well rounded conscious human being.  We need music, we need philosophy, we need literature, we need foreign language.     

    • Yes it is Seattle - So you know exacty the political climate teachers are up against.

      I am thinking about learning outcomes like:

      Students will learn that Western art music isn't the repertoire the marketing managers select for orchestra and classical radio station programming.

      Students will learn that there is a broad range of music censored by commercial music distribution.

      Students will learn that there is music that doesn't have meter.

      Students will be able to hear music and identify what part of the world it is from.

      Students will gain an introduction to the music of a culture other than their own.


    • That's wonderful Linda.  I concur.  King FM 98.1 is pretty conservative for sure!  I refer to it as "the gagging on musical history" station.  I do enjoy the wonderful Seattle Symphony, but not much contemporary music programming.  By censorship I assume you mean the Clear Channel model? - Pre programmed material selected according to popularity, audience testing and commercial value?    Music without meter?  I thought this was the age of the 4 chord loop?  Makes me want to write an essay - The Death of Pop Music!  I like your emphasis on non Western music!  I'm a big fan of Japanese Gagaku Court music.  When I travel to Japan I love going to Kabuki performances!     

    • Good question, Linda.

      Community colleges serve a wide variety of students. Some of the students are those who can't afford or cannot travel to other colleges, as well as those who are not quite ready to enter 4-year college, including some who are still mastering English.

      Many students in community colleges are very talented and skilled in music. Others are talented, but have not yet have had formal training--for instance, they might not read music yet. Adding to the challenges: in many university systems, students who graduate from a community college automatically get placed into higher levels of music theory if they transfer to a 4-year college within the same university system. Thus certain community college professors might feel pressure to prepare students for placement into 4-year schools, even if the immediate needs of their own students are somewhat different.

      What are some of the experiences of those who have taught at these community colleges?

      Poundie Burstein


    • I taught music at the community college level for several years, but in another state (NJ).  There were only a few students with classical training.  One of my sections was on the Air Force base.  40% of the students in the classes there were African American, most from the Bronx.  A few of those students performed gospel music.  There was a small group of people from the basic holding a service with gospel music on Sundays.  There was one student experimenting with computer music.  There were a couple of people who played guitar.  There was one young woman from Texas who took the course because her parents had forbidden her to hear any music except the music from her church. The military students had been stationed around the world and heard various kinds of ethnic music in bars.  Other than whatever commercial types of music they heard in the mass media, most of the students had very little musical background. None of them were going to major in music.  They were majoring in vocational types of subjects and were taking the course for enjoyment. 

      The main goal I had was to expand their horizons and introduce them to the existence of a world of music other than the rock or country that was all they knew.  Because NJ was very diverse, I wanted them to explore a culture other than their own and understand the other ethnic groups around them.

      I am aware that the learning-outcomes people here in the NW view assessment in terms of standardized tests and absorption of information.  My goal is to get the students interested in music.  An associated learning outcome is for them to know how to find out about subjects they are interested in. 

      I decided that I will not fall into the trap of exams as a way of demonstrating learning outcomes.  Instead I am going to propose learning outcomes in a broader way, starting with some of the topics that I listed above.  When I first posted the topic I didn't know how I would deal with such a political question, but now I realize that I have the right to define what the learning outcomes are.

    • I think you're exactly right to use the kind of criteria that you list. Mine would probably skew more towards the ability to communicate about music and be creative with it, but that's mostly personal preference. To facilitate the use of grades to "prove" that students have learned this material, you might think about criterion-referenced grading (if you don't already), elaborated here:



      A big topic of conversation at FlipCamp Music Theory last summer was using more abstract criteria like "shows creativity in discussions of sonata form."

    • The papers by Schffer and Moseley seem to address the problem of assessment in theory courses as opposed to first year music appreciation at the community college level.

    • Hi Linda,

      Welcome to the world of increased "accountability" in higher education. I had the fortunate experience of taking a seminar on "Accountability" with the head of the NSSE this past summer where we explored this issue in depth (i.e. what is "learning" and what are "outcomes"). 

      The conclusion that most of us came to at the end of that seminar was that (in essense) "learning" and "outcomes" are essentially unmeasurable. We can attach (meaningless) data to these to appease those who wish to create some kind of grading system on whether or not we as educators are succeeding or failing in our jobs.

      The whole course made me fairly apathetic to the desire of measuring "learning" and "outcomes." My answer to your question: "What does this mean in a first year community college Introduction to Music class?"

      ...It means whatever you want it to mean (as you have noticed above). You set the parameters of whatever bogus measurement they want.

      My advice would be to cater whatever the parameters are to the body of student that you are engaging with...for instance, a music appreciation class for those who might have attended Interlochen as high schoolers might be to expand their horizons to include jazz and popular styles--vice versa for those who have little to no exposure to classical culture.

      Devin Chaloux

      Indiana University