Concise Introduction to Tonal Harmony: Show It! Formative Adaptive Quizzing Powered by InQuizitive

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Concise Introduction to Tonal Harmony: Show It! Formative Adaptive Quizzing Powered by InQuizitive. Integrated website. Published 2016. Formats start at $85.


Our students expect and relish technology in the classroom; thus, the time is ripe for rethinking how we measure fluency and literacy in undergraduate music theory. Norton has created an integrated website for its music theory textbook, Concise Introduction to Tonal Harmony (L. Poundie Burstein/Joseph N. Straus), that helps students assess their mastery of the material using Show It!. The questions for these online quizzes have a mixture of learning levels (e.g., application, knowledge, comprehension, analysis), and the students must complete a specific number of questions and achieve a target point score. To increase the number of points earned for each question, the level of confidence, which ranges from “I have no idea!” to “I know I know it!,” can be set before each response. After the student answers the required number of questions, the instructor receives the grade, the average time spent, and the average grade (students can improve their score by responding to more questions before the instructor’s due date).

The questions are all interactive: students either drag-and-drop elements from one place to another, or find and click a choice (e.g., a pitch or a statement). Each response elicits immediate feedback. If a student answers a fixed number of consecutive questions incorrectly, a screen with a timer instructs them to take a break and review particular pages in the eBook before continuing.

The pages are well designed. The top of each screen gives the chapter number; underneath the chapter number is the page or pages in the eBook and the learning objective for the question. If it is a multiple-choice question, the possible answers are set off in pale yellow. If the answer requires filling in the blank, the potential answers are in pale yellow against a blue background; each blank is enclosed in a dotted blue square that changes to a green background when the correct answer is dragged into it.

On the right side of window is the confidence bar, the activity score, the grade after the minimum number of questions is answered, and a “Question Help/Challenge” button. The grade can be raised to 100% by answering more questions correctly. The activity score, which can be accessed at any time, shows the learning objective (e.g., identifying chord/note function, Roman-numeral analysis, voice leading, part writing) and the student’s accuracy in each objective.

Most analysis questions have a playback bar that is also available after the students complete specific voice leading or part writing examples. Unfortunately, the playback bar for some of the voice leading or part writing examples obscures the musical example. The students need to be told to drag the playback frame to the right side of the screen.

Chapter 36 (Sonata form) was a frustrating experience. Snapshots of scores are given with neither measure numbers nor a playback button. Yet, users are required to “identify the only HC in this section” from a list of four measures. Oops.

While aural skills are not included in the text, the intellect and the ear are brought together in many questions (e.g., identifying a specific chord progression or distinguishing among the binary forms). This particular activity may frustrate some students, and they will probably use the “Question Help/Challenge” button to protest the inclusion of aural response questions in a theory class.

Overall, Show It! successfully reimagines how we measure musical literacy; it offers the students varying ways to engage with the material and receive immediate reinforcement.


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Last modified on Friday, 08/03/2019

Mary I. Arlin

Mary I. Arlin, a theorist and violist, is Professor Emerita at Ithaca College and received her Ph.D. from Indiana University. She serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy, has published articles on the history of music theory, and is a co-editor of Polyculturalism in the Music of Chou Wen-chung (Routledge, 2018).

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