Sometimes your students learn in spite of you

Well, that was fun yesterday, wasn’t it? Lecture notes are coming so keep your eyes peeled for them. In the meantime, here’s some Challenge Based Learning that wasn’t Challenge Based Learning. What do I mean? Well, remember I said that I did my first CBL in context of having already taught traditional skills-based lessons first (so there was no question of the outcomes of the course having been met).


One of the skills-based tasks students had was on the topic of Music Theatre after we had looked at the concept of Duration, specifically Rhythm and the use of syncopation in Gerswin’s Crazy for You. The task for students was to compose a simple unpitched percussion piece in GarageBand with syncopation to show that they understood what syncopation was. As an extension they could add pitched parts if they so wished.

One student was so proud of their work they uploaded it to YouTube, so that gives me the opportunity to share it with you. The interesting thing about this piece is that it was probably the least effective for exhibiting any kind of syncopation (well, some of the bass drum beats are off the beat, but not what you’d call syncopated really), but it is nonetheless a really good piece that shows plenty of other skills. What the student did was outgrow the question, set herself a bunch of other questions, and solve them (in her reflections she shares over 20 draft files showing the piece’s development). Does she fail the task, or does she prove that she has exceeded the teacher’s expectations, set her own challenges and met them beautifully? How about both?

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