Author Archives: Andrea Henderson Music Education Blog

Assignment 16: How might we design and facilitate contexts for sociocultural engagement and learning?

Responding to: Wiggins “Learning music through sociocultural, constructive process” (From Teaching Musical Understanding)

“The goal of participation in a social constructivist learning experience is competence and independence of the learner” (pg. 55). This statement at the end of the chapter is one of the things that stood out to me most, because it connects to what we have been talking about in class and in other readings. The end goal for music programs is to give students the skills that they need in order to continue engaging with music in the future. Through structuring a program that gives them real-life experience with learning about music and understanding what it is that they are doing through presenting ideas through problem-solving experiences, they are able to learn how to become independent musicians (pg. 55-6).

Learning is a social thing, where “the primary role of the learner is to engage actively, thoughtfully, and reflectively, and the primary role of the teacher is to scaffold learners’ endeavors” (pg. 41). Teachers are there to provide social and musical scaffolding (pg. 41), and should think of the learning community as an “apprenticeship where an expert and a novice work side-by-side, with the apprentice performing those portions of the task in which he or she is competent, and the expert filling in and providing support for scaffolding where necessary” (pg. 43). We recently talked about this in class, when discussing our own preferences for teaching, apprenticeship of observation, and how all of our instruction up to this point has affected the way that we teach. Scaffolding has always seen a little daunting to me, trying to figure out how to do it effectively, and this way of thinking about teaching as an apprenticeship has helped clarify some of those confusions.

When I look at my internship, it is run somewhat like this, where students are given some of the basic skills that they need to get started and observing the teacher, especially those that are on the producer track.  When he is getting their weekly EP or podcast out, he often calls students in to watch what he’s doing, he “thinks out loud” and asks them questions of what they think he’s doing.  When they have watched him for a while, he gives them the opportunity to try it out themselves while he is there to help them if they need him.  There are some students now that don’t need him to be in the room, they just need him to approve their mixes before they are exported.  With other students, he monitors their progress as they are working on a project and steps in when he needs to, but for the most part the students have the resources they need to complete projects and he is just there as an extra resource while they are figuring out their own ways through their problems.

The more knowledgeable other in the room doesn’t always have to be the teacher.  In a learning community, students can use each other as resources, because each student comes in with a lot of prior knowledge of music, they might just not have all of the tools that they need to describe and label concepts (pg. 45).  The teacher can be there to help them with the terminology to label things, as long as they understand what it is that they are labeling.  In children’s music, we would start a lesson with experiencing a musical concept over and over again until everyone understood it, then the teacher would say “we call that this” and apply the label.  It is more important that students have a conceptual understanding of what they are learning rather than just having a long vocabulary/terminology list and not understanding what they are defining.  They can use other methods to express their musical ideas to each other, such as singing, demonstrating with their body, or showing them on a graph (pg. 46-7).

They can take their cues on how to be musically expressive from the teacher, who needs to “to provide a model of what it is to be a musician” (pg. 49).  The teacher can do this by showing their students their own process and think out loud during it in a way that helps the students to experience it with them, like we have done in class.  Students can do this with each other, and can be helped by the teacher to make sure that they are being good models for each other, and making sure that they are being engaged ” in the learning experiences and construct[ing] [their] own understanding” (pg. 49). rather than being told what to do all of the time.  It is helpful for the students to be told and understand what the goals are of the class, for them to be able to be responsible for meeting them and be able to ask questions to help them meet them.  

“In peer teaching, learners utilize the same techniques as professional teachers do, such as modeling, correcting errors, offering praise, assessing need for help, anticipating needs, and providing scaffolding” (pg. 50).  We have talked about this, and practiced with each other, how students are always having to translate teacher-talk into learner-talk for their peers, and they do it naturally.  The students that understand what the teacher said the first time are able to help those that didn’t understand, and the more they interact, the more they are building their learning community.  The more they are able to rely on each other, the more independent they can become, and eventually figure things out for themselves.  

In class we have talked about how “…in a social constructivist learning community, teachers and endeavor to ask open-ended questions that promote higher level thinking on the part of the learners” (pg. 43).  We practiced a lot with thinking out loud and asking different kinds of questions with each other to get used to asking questions that don’t have a simple yes-or-no or one word answer.  Asking these kinds of questions helps students think more critically about what they’re doing and learning, and it helps the teacher know where students are in their understanding of the concepts and gets a chance to hear their perspectives.


Assignment 15: What might students learn through their musical engagement? How can we support and advance their learning?

Reflecting on the expectations of this class:

I think that I do better sharing and engaging with small groups than with the large group. I am trying to become more involved with whole group discussions and projects and make more of an effort to contribute in discussions. I think that my reading responses are good with synthesizing the information and making connections to the class and our internship, but I don’t always put in my own voice. I agree with a lot of the points that are made in the readings, which is why I synthesize a lot, but I am trying to have more of my own voice come through. I don’t always explicitly make connections to other readings (naming the article or author) but I will work on doing that when I am taking something specific from a previous reading.

Responding to: Wiggins “Learning Music Through Embodied, Constructive Process”

This chapter starts with identifying that we conceptualize music in a cultural way, and that a Western perspective of music is interactive, using the “processes of listening, performing, and creating” and that music is a process and a product (pg. 27).  This brings back the idea of the World Music Pedagogy, with different stages of engaged listening that get more and more involved that lead to performance and eventually creating music in some capacity, and having a musical and cultural context to apply what they just learned.  Music teachers have to have a “deep understanding of both the broad concepts and finer components and qualities of music” (pg. 28) and how to teach them in musical contexts, because “knowing the name does not automatically carry with it understanding of the concept” (pg. 29).  This is one of the biggest points that was made when we were working on our exploration of technology in class.  

There is a metaphor theory that humans understand concepts with our bodies, interacting with environment, and people (Lakoff & Johnson, 2003), and that it is the way that we understand things, not the actual things or the label for things that is metaphorical (pg. 29).  We understand music in this way because music is not an art that is tangible, it is something experienced.  Music is described as being a multidimensional structured whole, understanding the concepts in relation to previous experiences, that the ““elements of music” could be considered dimensions of that whole” (pg. 29-30).  This is similar to Wiggins chapter in TGM, where we rely on our previous experiences to enable us to connect with our current experiences so that we understand it.  With the previous reading, we are learning how we can understand concepts in musical contexts to make our experiences with music more meaningful.  

We need to teach in musical contexts, we can’t rely on students to be able to figure it out because they might misunderstand what is being presented to them.  When we think of music as being an element or dimension, we are not just thinking of the exercises taught or how important it is that students have a large vocabulary bank, we have to think about how students are making sense of the processes of listening, performing, and creating, because music is both a process and a product (pg. 27 and 32) because “authentic processes are  the ways “real” musicians engage with “real” music” and “engaging in the processes of art means manipulating the dimensions of a particular art form in order to express” (pg. 33).  Students need hands-on, real experience with music in order for them to start constructing their own understanding of music.  

Teachers need to find ways for students to start engaging with music, even if it is something like we discussed earlier this semester like manipulating or covering an existing song just to get started with understanding and using musical concepts.  This engagement needs to be in a musical context, not talking about it (telling isn’t teaching) and requires direct engagement with the whole, then parts, then the whole again (pg. 37).  This is something that I did not really see in a previous class, where we would make warm ups for an ensemble taken from what we were wanting to teach, so that things could be plugged into the music later on.  Teachers need to provide the context for learning, because students might “access an inappropriate context and, as a result, either misunderstand or reject what the teacher is trying to help them learn” (pg. 38).  

“Music Learning should enable Learners to move toward a degree of Independence and autonomy in music” (pg. 39).  This is something that I see in both our class and my internship.  Students are given a project, and with help from the teacher, are given the freedom to explore and learn on their own.  With our technology exploration, we were given troubleshooting guides, but were responsible for learning concepts and the process for creating music on our own.  In my internship, students are given small projects to identify and manipulate musical elements and different processes and softwares, and for the most part are given the freedom to explore and create on their own as soon as possible.

Assignment 14: How might we use what we know about how people learn to inform how we teach and what students do in music programs for all?

Responding to: Wiggins “Teaching Music With a Social Constructivist Vision of Learning”

The biggest takeaway from this chapter is that “learning is something individuals do, which means teaching must be doing something that enables individuals to learn” (pg. 52).  A teacher must be a facilitator and allow a learning community to develop, where students are actively involved in the learning process, where they are comfortable taking risks and helping each other, where the teacher is a part of the community and facilitates rather than take control over everything (pg. 66) and gives students the opportunity to have their own ideas in how to structure the class (pg. 57).  What is done in class should be able to be understood by everyone, making sure they have something to relate the experiences in class to, in order to make the experience meaningful.  Each student comes into the class with a different background, and teachers need to be “cognizant of and attentive to human learning processes and design learning situations and environments to be conducive to and supportive of the ways people actually learn” (pg. 52).  Naturally, people learn in a kind of “backwards engineering” way where they try and jump in, and from seeing the big picture they find their own way of breaking it into smaller bits to bring them to understanding (pg. 61).

Create a 2 paragraph vivid description of a music class that is highly engaging and inclusive that takes place in the year 2025.

In trying to make this music class about the students, they are engaging in a project that explores the difference between genre and style.  In this context, they will learn that genre is the broad type of music that mostly includes the kinds of instruments and other characteristics that connect different songs.  Style is the specific kinds of characteristics that a particular artist might bring to the genre (definitions taken from Understanding the Difference Between Style and Genre).  It starts with questions like “what kind of music do you like to listen to?” to get started with exploring genres.  The responses are listed on the board (responses may vary and include a song, an artist, or genre) and are later organized by the students using whatever categories they choose.  From there the students decide what they want to examine as a class, voting to get everyone interested in participating.  They will be given a song to analyze, discussing in small groups what they think characterizes it, and how they might classify it.  From there, small groups will explore different songs (pre-approved) within the genre and compare what makes them similar and different.  The teacher goes around the groups to see where the class is as a whole to coming together, gauging how comfortable everyone is with sharing their answers.  They share their discussions with the whole class and together everyone is able to describe the difference between genre and style.

In small groups, they choose a genre that they want to explore like they did earlier, to be able to compose a song within the genre and develop their own style.  They have access to instruments, MIDI keyboards, computers with recording software, and recording equipment.  The teacher goes around and asks them questions to help them compose when they are stuck, or asking them to share what they have and be able to describe what they are creating and why they have chosen to go down a particular path.  When everyone is done, they share what they have done with the whole class.  They explain what they found out about their genre, what characterizes it, display that information, and then perform their songs.  After each group’s song is shared, the audience tries to explain what they think their style is, what makes them unique, and the performers have the opportunity to talk about their composition process.  After everyone has performed, the group comes together again and reflects on the project, what they thought about it, how they might be able to take what they did into their own lives, and how they might want to do that kind of project again or if they would like to try something else in class.

Assignment 13: How might we help students develop aural and analytical skills to respond to music in creative, contemporary, and meaningful ways? The importance of Questioning!

Responding to: Allsup & Baxter (2004) “Talking About Music: Better Questions? Better Discussions!”

“Listening to music is a daily event for most young people” (pg. 29).

Looking at middle school and high school classrooms, there are a lot of students that walk in with earphones, usually using them to listen to music between classes (or even during class).  Teachers cannot hear what they are listening to, and what kind of music each student likes.  When asking anyone what it is that they are listening to or what they like to listen to on a daily basis, usually the answer will be in the forms of genres or artists, not really anything specific about what it is.  Often, the kind of music that we listen to goes along with whatever we are feeling in a moment, or matches an occasion, and we don’t think about having to get specific with describing what music we like, because “music is a ‘felt experience’…that doesn’t require verbal thinking” (pg. 29).  This is not really helpful in a music classroom, where it is in the National Standards that students need to be able to listen to and describe music, and this can be done through discussions (pg. 29-30).

Students’ responses to their music often don’t go further than I like it because…(i.e. it calms me, makes me dance, focus, etc.) and they can’t describe what it is that makes it calming, groovy, or whatever it is that makes it attractive or unattractive to them.  By asking guiding questions that put music into a dialogue, teachers can give their students the tools and vocabulary to get them understanding more about what it is that they are listening to (on their own or in class).  The three kinds of questions that teachers can ask are (taken from pg. 30):

  1. open = broad question to get things started to know where students currently are in what they know and what they can recognize in what they are hearing
  2. guided = questions to get more specific answers/responses from students and help them discover new information
  3. closed = questions that produce a single answer, often used to fill in missing pieces in discussions

In a music classroom, teachers should be giving their students the tools that they need to talk about music in a way that goes deeper than what something is, but why it is what it is (pg. 29).  The initial question lets you know where the students are and where they need to get to, the you are guiding to get them discovering/uncovering new information to further their analysis, and then you ask them questions to help them continue their discussions if they get stuck on something.  If they are talking about their first impression, you can get them thinking analytically and move them through the “three  domains the teacher needs to address: analytical, judicial, and creative” (pg. 31) and they can then justify their perspectives.  

When they are in the analysis part of the discussion, the teacher is there to guide them to analyzing the musical elements and how they interact, through a combination of the different kinds of questions.  Here, they are learning vocabulary in a natural way, in a musical context, increasing the chance that they remember and are able to later apply it (pg. 31).  After they are done with the analytical/objective phase, they are able to move to the judicial/subjective phase where they are able to bring in and share their own perspectives.  They then can move to the creative part where they are able to apply what they have learned and let them express it in a way that is “felt” or “nonverbal” (pg. 29 and 32) and a way that they more naturally experience music.

Getting students to engage in discussions about music allow them to have a closer relationship with their own music.  The discussions about the music in class might be applied later to their own music, so they can understand the musical elements of what it is that they listen to on a daily basis and be able to answer confidently questions like “why do you like this music? what makes it good?”  By being able to answer these questions, they are able to think about the processes that went into making the music, and maybe even venture out into creating their own music.

Having a dialogue of music, understanding through discussions and getting into different ways of thinking, is a way to scaffold student learning that a lot of teachers might find challenging, because “it is much easier to give directions than to interview and investigate” (pg. 33).  Thinking of this questioning approach is like being an interviewer (pg. 30) where you are trying to get to know your students and they are trying to get to learn the music.  I have seen my mentor teacher ask his students all kinds of questions, from basic terminology to what is the most important part of writing a song.  When students are coming to him for help with how to write a song, he gets them thinking about why they want to write, what kind of music they like and why they like it, but getting into detail about what makes a certain song pop out at them, to what it takes to write lyrics that make sense together.  

When working with exploring the DJ equipment, we have to be asking ourselves all sorts of questions if we are going to make our songs work together in a way that makes sense, and we need to know how to manipulate everything to make what we want to happen, happen.  If we are having trouble with knowing what parts to highlight, we can look at the structure of the songs and find big moments that repeat, and put cues there, and compare them across songs to find the times that they make sense to cross over or transition.  We have to know elements of the songs like tempo and key to know how we might manipulate them to make them match up, and use our own judgments when putting in cues or sections that we like more than others to go back to.

Some questions I might ask students that are creating music:

  1. What is your focus? (closed)
    1. Students will understand what it means to create the melody and the main accompaniment, making sure that there is something to follow in their song
  2. Why is that part being featured? (guided)
    1. Students will understand the order of importance of the different parts in their compositions, and how to balance them accordingly

Some questions I might ask students that are working with DJ equipment:

  1. What links these two songs that are being put together? (guided)
    1. Students can analyze the musical elements, such as tempo and key, or themes and genres
  2. How are you planning to transition between them? (guided)
    1. Students have to think critically how they are going to link the songs and go back to the structure of the songs to find moments where they can make those transitions and make sense

Some questions I might ask students that are working on a cover:

  1. What are you doing to bring out the style of the song? (open)
    1. Students have to think about staying true to the original or decide if they are going to change thing for their own preferences and styles, and know what musical elements they have to work with to make those things happen
  2. Where does the main beat fall? How are you going to replicate it? (closed, guided)
    1. Students will revisit basic musical elements like tempo and time signatures to analyze the song and then apply it to what they are doing, thinking about if they are going to program a beat or produce it live

Assignment 12: How might we help students develop aural and analytical skills to respond to music in creative, contemporary, and meaningful ways?

Responding to: Campbell (2016) “World Music Pedagogy: Where Music Meets Culture in Classroom Practice

World music pedagogy (WMP) is described as “an emergent phenomenon that is situated somewhere between the scholarly discipline of ethnomusicology (and its concomitant realm of world music performance) and the practice of musically educating students in the world’s musical cultures (Campbell, 2004)” (pg. 94), and one of the main goals of WMP is “to provide students with an understanding of music as a culturally differentiated human expression, which requires specially trained educators and teaching musicians” (pg. 94).  As people have more access to different cultures and it is easy to find examples of “world music” and ways to engage with them, music teachers are trying more and more to incorporate different music cultures in their classrooms.  using WMP makes them go beyond the simple activities in creating something or listening to something, it encourages them to go into the culture itself and find out what the function of the music is and also how they can bring that into their classroom (pg. 95).

By understanding the culture around the music, teachers are familiar with how the music they have chosen is taught, and how it is performed.  Knowing this helps when talking to and teaching students, and gives the teacher the opportunity to keep the processes “preserved or at least partially retained in classrooms and rehearsal halls” (pg. 95).  Teachers should go in with the goal of “understanding of each musical piece through deep and continued listening, participatory, performance, and creative experiences (and the study of its cultural context and meaning)…” (pg. 95) and using the teaching styles and following performance practices as much as they can with their students.  It is suggested that teachers take the opportunity to bring in culture bearers and artist-teachers to their classes and work with them and their students (pg. 95). 

WMP is a five-phase process,  where students are listening at increasingly deeper levels to understand what makes up the music (pg. 96) and when put together, they “can help students understand music as sound, behavior, and value” (pg. 97):

  1. Attentive listening: specific attentions points and structures and elements
  2. Engaged listening: active participation while listening
  3. Enactive listening: performance, re-creating music
  4. Creating world music: compose, improvisation, song writing, extending
  5. Integrating world music: connecting music to life and curriculum

The five phases don’t necessarily have to happen in the exact order right away, and can be adapted to fit whatever kind of music and/or project a teacher chooses, they just have to make sure that they have a process in mind that works.  Following the phases, a teacher might start with playing a recording and asking questions for parts of the performance that helps them pay more attention to one thing that they will need later for participation (pg. 97), then move to inviting them to engage in some way with the recording so they are actively thinking about it, to getting them performing the recording (pg. 98).  However they are learning it, they can then go into creating something from it, such as “composition, improvisation, songwriting, and even…extending a piece beyond the part of it that is represented on a recording” (pg. 99) and making sure all of their creative decisions are informed by listening.  After all of this, they can integrate it, learning and understanding how it is meaningful to the culture it belongs to and the people that create it (pg. 100).  As part of integrating, a teacher might introduce some of the study of the culture at the beginning, before or during the initial listening, because they can understand what it is the teacher is doing by having them engage it the process that it is naturally taught.  

Teachers might not be willing to try incorporating WMP into their classrooms and go near what they don’t know because they are afraid to make a mistake and that they will not be authentic: “They fear criticism that they might show disrespect for a musical culture through their errors in the musical selections they choose to teach and learn, in the inaccurate performances of these selections, and in mistellings of the meanings of the music” (pg. 102).  Teachers are not going to be experts, which is why they should look for culture bearers and artist-teachers to collaborate with, and understand that there is not one song or style that is going to be entirely representative, so it is okay to “select a piece that sounds musically interesting and/or that has a story to tell” (pg. 104) and teach with that, and teach it in the way that it would naturally be taught in the context of that culture (or as close to it as possible).  The most important thing is that teachers are genuinely committed to diversity, both musically and culturally interpreted, to devote their attention to learning music beyond their own experience and training” (pg. 105) and be flexible and have a genuine interest in finding a way (pg. 106).

I think that this is very beneficial in a hybrid setting, where students are able to engage with music in different ways and explore different ways of learning.  Through WMP, they are being guided as they engage in deeper and deeper listening, and even through imitating and performing at first, they eventually get to the point where they are creating something themselves and demonstrating their understanding of the music, how it is performed, and valued.  Through this learning to appreciate music from start to finish (how it is learned to how it is performed) they can learn to respect the music of their peers and their own.  They can explore more ways to learn than just standard notation, building other skills that wouldn’t be normally emphasized.  Through being guided through different levels of learning, they can become more independent musicians and eventually be able to to a project on their own on a smaller scale.  Having a music class that is concerned with world music might allow them to bring in their own music and be a culture bearer to their peers.

The example of the boomwhacker performance reminded me of when we did our cover project, where we were thinking of how we could recreate “Uptown Funk” while also putting in something that we were comfortable with and would include everyone in.  We used boomwhackers because they were there, and here these people had to collaborate so that they could have a seamless performance.  Making a music video or audio-visual performance gets them to a point where they could use any means at their disposal to represent the music or culture, demonstrating that they are familiar with the culture and its practices, and can use digital technology or media or no technology, just what they think would be appropriate.  The digital scores were interesting, because they were representations of the music that students might be more familiar with following, just being able to follow the contour of the melody, or seeing parts that are playing together without having to know all of the notes and rhythms, would help them to understand the way an ensemble is set up and balanced, or just how to follow what is happening and be able to replicate that with other kinds of music.  Like making a map for a song, or following a description of a song as it is playing, they are learning how to describe what is going on as the music is going.

Looking at the examples of engaging with music, I began to think back to the activity we did where we had to come up with a shoveling action and have the class make sounds for what we were doing.  If you take this in reverse, you can play a song and the first few times have them listen for sounds and act it out in a way they think would describe it, and when they decide on a motion, keep it and have them explain a little on why they chose it, then they could make a visual song or ensemble as they keep listening so they know what is in the song and can listen or their part.  You can take this then to putting it to some other performance of the song, singing or performing on instruments, wherever it leads, then they might start with the creating process, using whatever they feel comfortable with.  After the unit is done, they might be free to explore different cultures and see which one might be most interesting for them, or fits the class or group best, and try doing these things on an individual and group basis.  

Having things like the Ableton Push, Launchpad, and DJ controller makes creating and performances accessible because it allows students to keep trying new things and keep track of their progress.  Whatever music they are engaging in, they will need to be listening, finding where they are comfortable with engaging with the music, and communicating what it is that they want to do.  It might be interesting to see a group of students that create something in Ableton (original or cover) collaborate with a group that uses a DJ controller and see where a launchpad or Push unit might have things in common in how they can make music on the spot and why they would make certain musical decisions in creating and then in performance, why they would be the same or different in different contexts.




Assignment 11: How might we help students develop aural and analytical skills to respond to music in creative, contemporary, and meaningful ways?

Responding to: Tobias, E. S. (2015). From musical detectives to DJs: Expanding aural skills and analysis through engaging popular music and culture

In the beginning of the article, it was identified that music teachers normally teach skills that apply directly to Western classical music, and do it in the way that they were taught. This can limit what students learn and the way that they are able to interact with music, because it is not a way that they would normally experience Music (pg. 1). Most students are going to want to engage with and be immersed in “popular music and culture,” and teachers should take the opportunity to take what their students will be passionate about and engage them in a way “make what they are learning, explicit” (pg. 1). This will mean getting out of the practices of Western classical music such as Roman numeral analysis and solfege because it is not something that they normally do (pg. 2).

Students don’t have to use terms such as “aural skills, music theory, or analysis (pg. 2) to engage with them. All they know is that they are learning a skill in a way that is engaging, such as discussing things that might make songs related through debates, talking things through with a group, determining similarities in an informal manner, etc. and not having to learn using music that they can’t relate to and having skills that don’t have any connection to their everyday lives. Popular music can help teachers give their students the skills they need, in addition to being able to perform, rather than focusing solely on just being able to perform (pg. 1).

Having analysis of questions like what makes this live performance different than the recorded version can open up students to what goes in to recording and production, and what musical decisions might be made differently (pg. 2). Most of the music that they listen to will be recorded, and they can see that artists don’t always sound the same, and can question why that is, and be aware of that in the chance that they become a performer of some kind, like doing a cover and they need to know what drove the original artist to make a decision in the studio and maybe a different one on stage, and what they want to do with it.

When they perform a cover, they have to make their own musical decisions, in a way I see this very similar to someone performing a classical song, they are learning someone else’s work and having to analyze it in a way that they can perform it so that it is true to the original but also have their own voice shown.  If you give the students the chance to make something completely their own out of something that already exists, they have the freedom to explore everything about it and in the way they are developing a better understanding of whatever it is they are dissecting “in a way that is contextualized in music engagement (Bush, 2007)” (pg. 3) and they are still developing the analysis and aural skills that they are supposed to be learning.  Often, students aren’t able to explore music that they want to or be involved in different styles and genres(pg. 3), they are often just told what to do, and this can hinder them because they might not be interested in developing the skills if they don’t think they will be able to apply them to what they actually want to explore.

As long as students are asking questions that get them to where they need to be, they should be able to explore whatever kind of music and culture they want.  From being at my internship and other musical communities, I know that there are some musicians that prefer to learn by ear, their aural skills are already developed through their own interest in engaging with music, so why wouldn’t we give them to expand their skills in the classroom?  There are also those students that don’t like to perform for others, they are talented, but they don’t like to show off.  Just like we would cater to those students by giving them the chance to “recreate music with technology than performing it live” (pg. 3), we should give those students that have a different way of learning a chance to work on their skills.  The music classroom should be a safe space where music educators can “learn much about their students and how they are developing as musicians” (pg. 3) and provide them “opportunities to scaffold their learning and make connections to additional aspects of the curriculum” (pg. 3).

Teachers should always be thinking about what it is that they want their students to take out of being in their program, and for me it is the ability to engage with music well after they leave my class.  I want to give them the opportunity to find what it is that interests them about music and show them how they can apply what they learn in class to their own lives.  Even something like learning how to make their own playlists that make sense to them, that they can modify and not have to rely on the blind suggestions from a computer program.  There are so many things that can connect songs, “tempo, genre, key, style, and feel” (pg. 4).  By learning how to ask questions of how songs will be related and what else they can connect to, and what it might be that makes sense about the grouping and discover why, and the context that they would use the playlist (pg. 4), they are learning all that they are needing to for music class, in a way that they can actually connect to.

All of these different opportunities that music educators can provide, give students “opportunities to address standards of creating, responding, performing, and connecting real-life musical contexts and often in an overlapping manner” (pg. 4).  I think that teachers should take advantage of that, even if it means that they have to do their research so that they don’t fall back on the “one way” to do it, because music and the cultures that shape the music that is being created are constantly changing and each generation will bring something new.

I like the idea of allowing students to be “Musical Cartographers” and doing things like making playlists while being conscious of the decisions that they are making.  I often make playlists just based on personal preference, not really what brings songs together, but I am aware of things like tempo and style when making a playlist for running or relaxing.  Students might know that there are some songs that go together, but they may not know why exactly.  Everyone has their own musical background, and I think that making a playlist will help them identify and share that music, and also learn about others, and see where they can make connections.

It would be interesting to do something like one of the beginning activities we did in some of our first classes, where we had to pick a song and put ourselves in groups using whatever criteria we wanted.  This allowed us to explore tempo, style and genre, artists, years, etc. and made us interact with each other to find out what made us choose the song and relied on each other’s musical knowledge to solve this problem.  I think that engaging with popular music and culture, it is important to start with the students bringing in what it is that they think is popular, and finding out what they know.  Knowing what they like and what they are comfortable with allows music teachers to explore the different strategies in a way that is for the students.

I might want to start with having students choosing their own songs or albums to analyze and see what they can identify about them, by themselves and in relation to each other.  Then from there they can find a song that is similar, and see what makes it similar, especially if they just searched a song that was similar, and have them figure out what it is that they can hear specifically that links them.  From there they can do something like making a playlist of a bunch of songs that have something in common, or perform their own, or find a way to link them like a DJ might, or if they wanted, do a cover of their own style and see what decisions they might make differently than the original artist.  I would choose things that my students are comfortable doing, on an individual and whole group basis, so that they are getting the most out of my class.

Assignment 10: How can we design and facilitate inclusive environments for musical engagement and learning?

Responding to: Darrow (2016) “Applying the Principles of Universal Design for Learning in General Music”

Universal Design for Learning is a framework for education that provides multiple means of presenting, engaging with, and responding to instruction while taking account of students’ broad range of learning styles and preferences.” (pg. 308)

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is making sure that every student in a classroom has access to the material that is being taught.  Teachers should design their programs and instruction with the goal of being able to access the widest range of abilities and make sure that each student is able to succeed (pg. 308).  One way to think of it is differentiated instruction, making everything available in different formats to engage different kinds of learners, including ones with disabilities.  This should already be present, and teachers shouldn’t have to think too much about how to make sure that “accommodations for students of varying abilities are imperceptible to the casual observer” (pg. 308). 

Teachers should design their instruction and activities to make sure that they are meeting a broad range of needs, and not honing in on just one particular disability or need, this will only draw attention to specific students, and no one wants to feel singled out.  Classrooms should be all-inclusive, where the delivery of material and the way students engage with it are accessible and don’t interrupt the flow of the class, and they are still held to high standards.  When teachers think of applying UDL to their curriculum, they are improving “access, participation, and student achievement” because “a curriculum that is fixed or static has proved to be inadequate for many students” (pg. 317).  The following quote from the chapter is about the application of UDL:

“Three guiding principles of UDL call for (a) multiple means of representation, or a variety of ways that information can be presented; (b) multiple means of action and expression, or multiple ways that students can demonstrate their understanding of the information; and (c ) multiple means of engagement, or utilizing various ways to motivate, capture, and sustain students’ interests and attention (Center on Applied Special Technology [CAST], 2011).” (pg. 310)

The point of UDL is to get teachers thinking about increasing their students’ chance at success.  By offering students multiple means of representation, assessment, and engagement, they have the chance to learn more about themselves and what it means for them to be a student.  The teacher and students learn more about themselves and how the group overall learns best, and “teaching students to explore the various options for learning, to be self-advocates in regard to their learning preferences, and to be accepting of classmates who may respond to instruction in different ways” (pg. 313).  This may mean that teachers have to ‘go out of their way’ and try things that they wouldn’t normally want to do, but they have to keep in mind that sometimes that is exactly what they ask of their students when they ask them to do something in class that may not be accessible to them. 

Teachers shouldn’t think that they are having to go out of their way for their students, “music educators must consider that all students do not share the same interests and motivations and consequently determine how they can best stimulate and encourage student learning” (pg. 314).  Look in almost any music classroom and you can see where teachers have options for student learning and engagement without having to make those conscious decisions, they already have many “visual, auditory and kinesthetic musical experiences” because “music, as subject matter, is highly conducive to multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement (Adamek & Darrow, 2010)” (pg. 315).

By having a teacher constantly modeling different ways of engagement, assessment, and deliver, no one will think twice about why they are doing it that way, and will not question why some students might be doing things differently than them.  This means that teachers will have to know what will go well with their students when they are planning their lessons, taking the time to just start a new plan and approach instead of modifying what they are used to doing, will eliminate “the need for after-the-fact adaptations and modifications” (pg. 316).  Teachers need to assess the abilities of their students and identify and remove things that may hinder them (pg. 313) and plan for including things that will help them.  Using technology is a way to do this, and in order “to incorporate the principles of UDL and to maximize means of representation and response, music educators need to be aware of the various technologies available to them” (pg. 316).  Teachers need to take the time to do the research, of their students, and for their students, and keep in mind that “technology expands the possibilities for instruction and provides alternative paths for music learning” (pg. 316).

When talking with my mentor teacher, he shared an experience that he had with a student that came to his classroom with a disability.  He welcomed her in the class, and she was included with the whole class, and she had an aid with her.  In his classroom, they are mostly broken up into small groups, and there was a group of students that drew her into their group and “took her under their wings.”  She did projects with them, and by the end of the year she was able to create and share something that she came up with on her own, because of the flexibility with the program and the collaboration with a group.  The teacher was not completely out of the picture, and the chapter said that “…the teacher has the greatest control and responsibility for how a curriculum is implemented in the classroom” (pg. 318), which is true, and in his classroom, it is a creative safe space.  Students there are free to explore what they want, and are given the tools that they need to succeed.  In this space, especially having small groups, students can help each other and everything is already designed to have students do different things, so they can choose whatever is comfortable for them.

Thinking back to the cover project that we started, we had a lot of options on how to engage with it within our groups.  We were given certain guidelines for the presentation of it, but it was up to us what we wanted to produce.  We were able to experiment with what it is that we wanted to do as a group, then what role we would take in that group.  In a lot of ways I think that it is already designed in a way that is inclusive, because we were able to determine a lot of what happened, but this is at a college level and when thinking of how it might translate to grade school level, I think that it can’t be as free as we have it.  A project like this one or the technology exploration project we are doing should have a bit more structure to it.  Keeping in mind the principles of UDL, I still think that there needs to be a certain level of freedom granted to the students.

The CMAS students at Arcadia have the option of reading the directions and explanations online, and there is often a video to go along with them if they would prefer that, and they have the teacher and their peers to help them understand the content.  They are all held to the same standards, and I think that is important, and they are able to do things in a way that they are comfortable with.  With our kinds of projects I think that they need to have something like this, because in the beginning of the chapter, it was stated that in order to apply UDL, there needs to be “flexible goals, instructional methods, materials, and assessments” (pg. 308).  Each student might have to have a different goal, and that is fine, as long as they are learning something, and however they get there might be different from someone else, but having an environment where it is recognized that everyone has a different path will make that normal.

I think that the biggest thing in designing and facilitating a project like a cover song is having everything be flexible.  Having progress reports instead of set deadlines for having different stages of completion, and having the groups be in charge of how everything is completed are putting the responsibility on the students and they could probably do the best with policing themselves and making sure that everyone is doing what they need to do.  Having multiple ways they could go about the cover allows students to do what they feel comfortable doing, and the teacher can be there to help them figure out what they need to do and focus on.  Teachers should be there to help them figure out where it is that they want to go, and help them get over any bumps they may come across, but in order to best help the students in creating something, they should not be directly involved in every step, and almost act like the students have a “call for assistance” button with them.

One thing to keep in mind with UDL is that nothing is completely universal, and that there will be some that might be left out, or the approach will not work, for a small number of individuals (pg. 309), but teachers have the responsibility to make sure that whatever it is they choose to do, it will be applicable to the largest number of individuals possible.  To implement each principle of UDL, teachers will need to check that there are a lot of options for themselves and the students, and think along the lines of the “checklist” on pg. 311-2 and the guidelines on pg. 313.  Looking at all of these things is a bit daunting, and having the possibility that it might not be accessible by every single student makes me a bit nervous on how confident I would be in any plan that I create.  It also seems to be a bit much when also taking into account that you have to be sensitive to your students’ culture and the culture of the classroom and how music you choose will fit/not fit with them, and their comfort levels with engaging with it, but it is important also to remember that part of having UDL means that everything is flexible and you can modify things should you need to.