High-Quality Music Teaching, Part 3

Great music teachers know a few tricks. They provide their students with challenging content from a variety of cultures. They encourage creativity.

Alfred S. Townsend suggests a third element for increasing the quality of your teaching—knowing that your students are getting what’s being taught.


  • Carefully design assessment strategies and link them to scoring guides:  Make sure you “provide students, parents and school officials with specific reasons for your evaluation of student achievement,” says Townsend.
  • Identify areas for improvement (your students’ and your own):  Whether you coach football or lead an ensemble, you can’t get better unless you know where you stand now. Townsend believes that good assessments can help you “raise achievement levels and engender positive student growth.”
  • Be flexible:  In Townsend’s words, modify your curriculum as needed to “align with national and state standards, match instruction to student abilities, and effectively address the needs of a diverse student body and community expectations.
  • Consistently check for understanding.  Encourage students to discuss what they’re doing with you and with their peers. Says Townsend, “This immediate student feedback will reinforce learning, keep students on task, and help them gain ownership of what they are studying.”
  • Provide clear expectations, the tools needed for success, and accessible assessments:  If your student know what you want them to achieve and you know how to adapt your teaching to make them successful, you have laid the groundwork for good comprehension—a two-way street.

This six-part series is adapted from “Driving Music Education: Who’s at the Wheel?” a Lectern column by Alfred S. Townsend printed in the August 2008 issue of Teaching Music.

MENC member Alfred S. Townsend is the first appointee to the F. Ludwig Diehn Endowed Chair in Instrumental Music Education in the music department of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, where he teaches graduate and undergraduate music education courses. His current research includes developing a research-based philosophy of teaching and learning, and connecting parents with learning what their children are studying in music classrooms.

–Ella Wilcox, January 12, 2011, © National Association for Music Education (www.nafme.org)