The pedagogical reasoning and action of popular music theory professors in higher popular music education programs
Huggins, Mark Roger
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A growing number of higher education leaders and pedagogues in the United States have sought to include popular music into their curricula. One of the core tenets for any music program is the study of music theory. Although there have been investigations into the inclusion of popular music in undergraduate music courses, little attention has been given to how popular music theory has been taught in higher popular music education (HPME) institutions. According to Shulman (1987), scholars and educators agree that there is a knowledge base for teaching specific to each academic subject, which by extrapolation includes popular music theory. Shulman (1987) additionally argued that all educators utilized a process of pedagogical reasoning and action, in which educators progressed through a cyclic process of comprehension, transformation, instruction, evaluation, reflection, and arrive at new comprehensions. The purpose of this study was to explore the pedagogy of popular music theory in higher education institutions by examining the pedagogical reasoning and action of professors who taught popular music theory courses in HPME institutions. The following research questions guided this study: 1. What resources do popular music theory pedagogues explore, and what are their criteria for inclusion, when selecting curricular materials? 2. How do popular music theory pedagogues prepare (analyze, interpret, transform, and organize) curricular materials? 3. How do popular music theory pedagogues adapt and tailor instruction, as well as evaluate student understanding? 4. How do popular music theory pedagogues reflect on the instructional process, and what new comprehensions of subject matter, students, and self arise from their reflection? To address these research questions, I conducted a multiple-case study researching the methods, reasonings, and knowledge of three university professors who taught popular music theory at select higher education institutions. The participants in this study were selected using purposeful, criterion-based sampling. Data collection was primarily completed utilizing interviews, observations, and document collection. The interviews were transcribed from their recordings, and the observation data were transcribed from field notes. A coding system was adapted from Shulman’s (1987) framework, which included the knowledge base for learning and the areas of pedagogical reasoning and action, and a report for each case was generated proceeding the cross-case analysis. Triangulation of the data occurred through repetitious review of all recordings, transcriptions, observational data, journal notes, provided course materials, and member checks that occurred at multiple points throughout the development of the case and cross-case reports. Contextualization data were included to provide thick, rich descriptions of each case to bolster credibility in this study and help the reader understand the context for each professors’ pedagogical decisions. It was discovered that each professor in this study had a sizable amount of subject matter knowledge in popular music theory, but that most of their useful knowledge for teaching popular music was learned primarily autodidactically. The aural tradition of music transmission, which is influenced by personal interests, sociocultural influences, and experiences in popular music groups, was found to be a prominent part of these professors’ knowledge base. The context in which each professor taught was found to influence their pedagogical decisions and affected their choices of materials, listening examples, and internet-based resources. Students’ sociocultural background and personal goals, along with the vision and mission of the institutions in which the professors taught, were found to be the strongest influencers in the pedagogues of this study. All three professors also valued limiting class size to around 16 students, and preferred formative assessments over summative assessments when evaluating student comprehension. To aid the readers understanding of the implications of the findings of this research, existent resources for popular music pedagogy, such as peer-reviewed databases, journals, compilations, popular music organizations, and current research in the field of popular music pedagogy, are also discussed.
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Class Voice Recital featuring the students of Stephen Bomgardner, Beverly Mosby and Martha Sullivan, December 10, 1991 School of Music, Boston University (School of Music, Boston University, 1991-12-10)