Tuesday, May 24, 2016

What? So What? Now What?

Have you noticed at airports now they have little electronic evaluations in places like the bathroom—“How was your experience?” (I kid you not.) And then all the phone calls that are “monitored for quality assurance.” The “How am I driving?” with a phone number on the back of trucks. I suppose it’s a way to let people know how well they’re doing their job and trying to give the public some power to improve the service.
Meanwhile, in the schools, thousands of hours and perhaps millions of dollars are spent trying to figure out the “latest and greatest in assessment.” Which is mostly about assessing and labeling and judging the kids with some fantasy of test scores that reveal the depth of educational effectiveness. Dream on.
But assessment starts with assessment of the teacher and one of the most qualified groups to assess the teacher—or rather, the teacher's teaching—are the children themselves. The most meaningful assessment is in the day-to-day class, as the children give constant feedback through their level of engagement, enthusiasm, excitement and success. The teacher's job is to notice all this and then wonder why something worked well and why something worked less well, always with the thought of  “How could I have taught this better?”
So it’s the end of the year and I gave my 8th graders an evaluation form to fill out. That’s a vulnerable thing to do! But if you’ve done your homework and built a sense of trust with the kids, it’s some of the most valuable feedback you’ll get. But how you set it up is crucial. Ask a question like “How did you like my class?” or “What would you like to do better than what we did?” and… well, good luck with that!
Whether at the end of a school year with kids or the end of a course with teachers, I like to ask questions that turn the student back to their own learning, not give a simplistic thumbs up or down, but reflect more deeply on what actually happened for them in the class. As such, it’s both useful to the students writing and the teacher reading.
This year, I organized the evaluation form around three questions:
WHAT? What did we do and specifically, what did you do?
SO WHAT? What did it mean to you? How did you feel about what you did?
NOW WHAT? Now that you’ve accomplished what you have, what will you do with it all? What do you think are your next steps?
Below is the actual form. If you’re not a teacher, I imagine you might skim it or skip it. If you are a teacher, consider how you would make something similar—or different—for your own classroom. Tomorrow, I’ll give some of the student responses. (Note that the pieces listed in the concert were from two different groups and then the last, Blue Rondo, played by all.)

                                                          NAME ________________________________________


WHAT? Put name of instrument and/or part you played in the concert.

a) Blues for Pat/ Blues in the Closet

b) I Dream of Jeannie/ Louise

c) Bohemia Rag/ The Rainbow Connection

d) Pick Up the Pieces/ Superstition

e) Blue Rondo a la Turk

1. How did you feel about each of the pieces you played? What was challenging or satisfying for you about the particular part you played in each pieces? What qualities of each piece were interesting, intriguing or moving to you? (Answer for each piece).






2. What musical skills in general do you think developed the most this year? (technique/ feeling/ understanding/ improvising/ listening/ ensemble togetherness/ etc.)

3. What was the biggest risk you took in music class this year?

4. Was there any risk you wish you had taken?

5. What did it mean to you in general for you to play jazz?

6. What was the most interesting thing you learning in music listening class?

7. Whether you’ve been in the music class one year, three years, eleven years or anything in-between, what do you think was memorable and valuable about your whole experience?


1.     What musical experience this year do you think might carry over into other parts of your life?

2.     What’s the next step for you in music? What do you see yourself doing in the next few years?

3.     Do you imagine continuing to play/ listen to jazz?

4.     Anything else you’d like to share?

A NOTE FROM MR. GOODKIN: I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with you throughout all the years! It is amazing that I taught some of you in your first 3-year old classes and again in your last 8th grade classes and I’ve loved seeing how you’ve grown as musicians, students and young people. And especially wonderful to have gone with some of you to San Diego and all of you to Georgia and Alabama. You are not only the kind of musicians I love to play with, but the kind of people I love to hang out with— even if we’re separated by 50 years!

Thanks for all you have done, all you gave and (to quote a jazz song), All the Things You Are. I look forward to following your progress and hope to see you someday in the audience of a jazz club! Or Symphony or Gamelan concert or an Orff workshop.


  1. Doug, thank you so much for sharing how you have students reflect on what they have learned and how they feel about it. I especially love the Now What? part that asks them to envision themselves as music-makers in the future! www.lifelongmusicmaking.org

  2. Nice. Great ideas for reflection.


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