Published: July 13, 2015 By


"Engaging Students: An Unconference on Music Pedagogy" comes online and in-person to the College of Music July 23-28. Photo provided.

For most students, an 8 a.m. class isn’t always the best time to listen to and absorb a lecture. The ideal situation to comprehend something may come later in the day, perhaps even when the student is alone in his or her dorm room.

“I try to reserve as much classroom time as possible for active learning — taking advantage of the fact that we’re all in that room together,” says music theory instructor Kris Shaffer.

That’s the whole idea behind the flipped pedagogy concept. Information is exchanged and memorization happens outside the classroom, while collaboration and discussion happen within.

Likewise, the best way for educators to internalize and grasp a concept isn’t necessarily in a conference room with dozens of peers, listening to a speaker deliver a prepared presentation complete with PowerPoint and notecards.

And that’s the whole idea behind the upcoming “unconference,” which is being held both online and in person at the College of Music later this month.

“Engaging Students: An Unconference on Music Pedagogy” gives music theory teachers new ways to bring active learning to their classrooms. But instead of observing and taking notes on a panel, teachers are participating in active learning themselves.

“They’re involved in every stage of the process. At the beginning, we brainstorm what topics we’re going to cover throughout the course of the unconference,” Shaffer explains. “Then we talk about those topics, ask each other questions, and share experiences and scenarios.”

In its third year, the “unconference” (previously called “Flip Camp Music Theory”), will go online for the first time. “Before, we found that a big audience was watching on livestream. So we took it all online this year too, in order to make it easier for more people to attend,” says Shaffer.

The online format will also allow a more in-depth look at the various proposed topics, including problem-based learning, teaching online and assessment. “I anticipate people will take more time on one topic, break away and then compile their own information to post on the website in blog form.” Shaffer says that should lend itself to the sharing of resources for teaching methods like flipped pedagogy, which aren’t as widely available yet as study plans for more traditional methods.

The “unconference” is open to music theorists and other educators interested in classroom pedagogy. The online session is July 23-24, while the in-person session at the College of Music is July 27-28. For more information, visit the “unconference” website, or follow @FlipCampMT on Twitter.