Music and data go together beautifully in my classroom

Data has a place in any classroom, even if you’re teaching music. I have been using Microsoft’s Power BI to visualize data that represents how my students hear pitch intonations, and to show them how accurately they tune their string instruments.

Although it is normally marketed as a business analytics tool, Power BI is available to educators using an Office 365 for Education license. Just like its Office 365 siblings, Power BI provides a canvas and the tools I need for me to be creative, except now I’m working with data.

Power BI lets you do more than just make visual charts from data tables. Its data visuals are dynamic, enabling me to get a better grasp of what I’m looking at with just a few clicks. The reports I create can easily be shared with my colleagues and students, and I get the management tools I need to control who can see what I create. The assessment data I get helps guide my instruction, while the assessment data and feedback both inform my students’ personal learning.

There are many assessment tools I can use with my students to get data – Kahoot, Go Formative, Socrative, pretty much anything that will give me a spreadsheet at the end of the assessment. I prefer to use Office Forms more often than the other available tools because I get more creative flexibility with my assessment design, and Office Forms are easy to share and use with my students. My data lives in Excel spreadsheets located in my school OneDrive for Business folder. This enables an easy connection between Power BI and my data.

For help on getting started, you can watch an Office Mix I created. Once you master the basics, the fun and creativity begins.

Here’s how I’ve been using it:

Using an Office Form, a Bluetooth barcode scanner paired to my Windows phone, and Power BI, I’ve kept track of all my instrument checkouts this year. My students and I can compare the frequency of instrument checkouts over time based on grade level, class, and the ever-most important Band vs. Strings comparison. Practice makes perfect, and now I have some data to justify it to my students.

Properly assessing my string students’ intonation skills on an individual level sounds cumbersome. However, by using an Office Form and Power BI this year I have been able to show my students their listening tendencies based on the string and instruments they are listening to, their percentage of correctly identifying the intonation of their peers’ strings, and their ability to tune their own instrument’s strings. Correct intonation in a string class is incredibly important.


Assessing the individual performance of my music students is a time-consuming process, especially with a class of 50+ students. For their assessment, I want my students to focus on performing with the correct Rhythm, Pitch, Articulations/Bowings, Tone, and Posture when they play. To help reinforce these important concepts, I assess every student – and their classmates provide feedback when they perform. We use an Office Form in which to enter scores and constructive feedback for each student. In the end, though, what do I do with the 2,331 student feedback responses I have?

By importing my data into Power BI, I can organize scores and feedback specific to my instrument sections and individual students, easily share it with them, and use this data for personal reflection and growth-mindset related activities.

This year my school’s elective department is supporting our students’ ELA skills with reading comprehension assessments. Using the Office 365 tools like Forms, Excel, OneDrive for Business, and Power BI, we can track our students’ reading comprehension achievement and filter the data by class period, SBAC reading levels, Common Core ELA anchor standards, and more. Using Power BI, we’re able to filter through the assessment data to find the specific needs our students have, so we can create appropriate interventions that support their reading comprehension skills.

Power BI has been a game changer in my classroom. My assessments are carefully designed now so I can get the right information I need about my students’ learning and abilities through Power BI. I can compile information and give back to my students in easily understandable, personalized visuals that spark their metacognition. I’m able to create reports and visuals from data that can easily be shared with my colleagues in OneNote, Microsoft Teams, the Power BI app, or via the web. By using Power BI to help me analyze learning in my class, I can make the right decisions on where to proceed next with increasing every student’s achievements.

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