Thanks!

Just wanted to say a quick thank you to the folks who left encouraging comments and emails about my crap-o-rific test on Monday. I feel better. Besides, it's hard to dwell on it when I've got a 9mo to take care of. (His favorite thing lately is playing "peek-a-boo" behind the crib; he thinks if he's behind the bars of the crib, I can't see him.)

Also, there are two more parts to the exam, so perhaps I have a chance to make it up. Friday I answer questions from my major professor and my harpsichord teacher. (Of course, my harpsichord teacher hasn't told me what his question is, and I had to leave a phone message at his house to get him to tell me whether or not he was planning to give me a question in the first place...those of you who know him will understand how very typical this is, and that I'm not even that annoyed with him...) The last part of prelims is an oral exam, where my entire committee fires questions at me for 2 hours. Strangely, I'm not worried about that. I'm pretty good on my feet.

Andre mentioned in the comments from my last post that the questions like I had on Monday's exam are designed to make you feel like you're an idiot and unprepared, and he's totally right. My teacher hates this approach and calls those "penis" questions. (See why I'm not worried about whatever she's going to ask me on Friday?) I think prelims should be an opportunity for a student to demonstrate and articulate comprehension of broad musical topics (using specific examples, of course.) I also think that the test should be geared to the specific student because it is simply ridiculous to expect someone to know everything all at one time. I was expecting questions from the courses I had, including a seminar on the music of the First World War, a seminar that was taught by the very professor who made up my test. Instead I was given 10 essay questions that gave me very little opportunity to demonstrate what I know. Several were taken from courses I didn't take, and there were none pertaining to that seminar. They weren't entirely specific, but specific enough to be problematic, and nearly every one of them side-stepped the biggest topics in music history.

(If you're not trained in music, the rest of this post may bore you a little, but I"m going ahead with it because the Danimal is taking an early nap and ranting sounds more appealing than washing the breakfast dishes! So here goes...)

One of the questions that I stumbled through was this: "Discuss the history of the piano up to 1780, including repertoire and social setting." Now, you would think I, as a pianist, could answer this based on my own experience, but as it happens, most of the important piano repertoire was written after 1780. I'm pretty sure what they were looking for was a description of empfindsamkeit in the works of C.P.E. Bach and the rise of the middle class, but I was hard-pressed to come up with specific examples. Of course this topic isn't trivial to the Classic period, but by far the biggest topics from this era are the development of the opera, the symphony, the string quartet, the piano sonata. That's what I prepared for, and it was all for naught. Boogers!

Were I to make up such a test for myself, I would ask questions like:

-Discuss the development of sonata form. Pick a genre and/or style period and be sure to use specific examples.

-Pick a century and discuss the development of opera in that time period, using specific examples.

-Discuss the breakdown of tonality in the late 19th and early 20th century.

-Discuss the role of popular music in World War One. You may focus on a particular geographical area.

See? Those questions leave things pretty open-ended, allowing a person to demonstrate knowledge, ability to describe large topics succinctly, and it would still be pretty obvious whether or not she knows her stuff.

In fact, the question I answered the best was; "Discuss the music of the medieval Mass. You may choose to discuss monophony, polyphony, or both."

This post has turned out to be much longer than I intended...and Daniel's awake and grabbing at the mouse, so I'll stop now. At the very least, I know this will all be over soon.

Comments

pamigelsrud said…
Penis questions, eh? What does she mean by that? I must be dense...
Suze said…
oh, questions that ask for specific details that you would never, in a practical setting, have to come up with without being able to consult a reference first. i know someone who was asked to list all the opus numbers of the beethoven piano sonatas, for example. term identifications fall under the realm of penis questions, too. this is all as opposed to broad conceptual understanding of general topics, or practical application of knowledge, such as planning curriculum, etc.
pamigelsrud said…
I guess I was wondering what that has to do with a penis... it should be obvious, right?
Suze said…
it's only that martha thinks those questions are typically asked by male faculty members, not female.
pamigelsrud said…
A-ha! Ok. I can buy that! : ) But I'm not sure if P.Potter is exempt...
Jenn Hacker said…
I have noticed that the majority of male faculty members, whatever the subject, have a tendency to focus on memorization by rote, whereas most female faculty members concentrate on the bigger picture. It's kind of like driving - men have tunnel vision, whereas women are able to drive and notice the details around them at the same time.
Suze said…
yeah, PP was on my committee at first, but then backed out because i only had 619 with her, so i got Cook instead. i prefer her anyways.
Becca said…
I have never heard the term penis question, either, so I appreciate the clarification. IIRC, most of the exams I had in college from male professors dealt with facts, while my exams from female professors were more subjective in argument/position. I never thought of it as gender specific, since I had males for history and science, and females for literature. My theatre professor was of a different breed altogether, so I can't compare the exams I had from him. Typically, any tests were his courses were short, 10 question quizzes with easy answers just for the sake of assigning a number; he felt we had to learn in theatre was more from doing, not from studying.

Suze, when you get your doctorate, and if you decide to teach, please promise me you'll include the photo you posted of the gravediggers and require your students to give you a satisfactory explanation of what the heck they're doing in that hole!
Jenn Hacker said…
How did the doctoral doohickey go this morning?

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