It’s Monday morning, and a ragged line of sleep-deprived students is parading into the band room, where they dutifully place their practice sheets on your desk before pulling out their instruments. Yet, eight measures into the day’s opening number, it sounds like they are reading the sheet music for the first time, as the air is polluted with missed notes and broken rhythm. It’s a common experience for music teachers across the globe, who wind up grinding their teeth in frustration and wondering what their students were doing when they were supposedly “practicing.” How can teachers track student progress without doubling their work?
What happens in the practice room, stays in the practice room…?
Tracking student progress has become an obsession within the world of education, as teachers, administrators, and parents all seek reassurance that students are on the right path to pass their classes, perform well on standardized tests, and graduate on time. The rise of educational technology has made it easier to gauge student learning since more homework assignments and quizzes feed right into the school’s learning management system. The collected data can provide early warnings about students who are falling behind, and highlight the areas where they need remedial help. However, these systems have their natural limits, since every student is unique with different strengths and weaknesses.
As a music teacher, tracking student progress poses a more difficult challenge, since you aren’t able to tell if your student has mastered Beethoven’s Ode to Joy with a multiple-choice quiz. Even when the student hands you a practice sheet that claims they spent 180 minutes last week working on the piece, it’s still not enough. You need to hear them play it.
But what happens when they hit that tricky stretch of the song where the wheels start coming off? When they insert phantom notes or miss a crucial key change? It’s at this point where the teacher longs for a DVR to rewind through those hours of practice to figure out where the musician went astray.
Practice Makes Progress… Now you can see both!
Here at Collabra, we know how crucial practice is. We also know that future performances can’t be predicted by the quantity of practice, but by its quality. Our system has been designed to help teachers and students not only track their progress but help them personalize the learning experience through targeted instruction. Here’s how:
- Instructors can use Collabra to record their lessons and make them available so that students can refer to them as needed throughout the week. While we know that some students can pick up a composition immediately, many need to hear it multiple times before they can successfully play it. Other students benefit from seeing the piece performed. Having on-demand access to the instructor’s version has proven to be vital for students when they get stuck.
- Students using Collabra can record all of their practice sessions—using their phone or their computer—which generates an interactive practice log. This allows the instructor to see how much time the musician has invested and, more importantly, hear how they sound.
- Students can also reflect on each practice session and add time-coded comments within the discussion area. For example, they can alert the instructor when they’re struggling with the coda. Rather than wading through the entire 15-minute practice session, the instructor can jump right to the point where the student needs help and offer guidance. This feature is a great way to promote metacognition (particularly in helping students monitor their progress, adjust their goals, evaluate their own performance, and reflect on where they need to focus) while helping prevent minor misunderstandings from sinking an entire week. 
- Instructors can also create assignments and have their students record and submit their work for evaluation and grading. Whether you are a music teacher with individual pupils or a band director with a class full of students, having a way to assess and grade student performance without using valuable lesson time helps you stay on track for future recitals and concerts. It also provides you with a way to tailor your upcoming lessons based on where each student is on their journey.
- All of the student’s work within Collabra builds a multimedia portfolio that can be used to showcase their talents and skills. Instructors are also given the opportunity to pull up an old practice session to remind a discouraged student just how far they’ve come.
By providing you with the tools to track student progress and monitor their musical development, Collabra’s goal is to help you make the most of the precious time you have with your students—whether it’s in class, in the studio, or online.
 Kaplan, M., Sliver, N., LaVaque-Manty, D., & Meizlish, D. (2013). Using reflection and metacognition to improve student learning: Across the disciplines, across the academy. Sterling, VA: Stylus.