Many college-level music theory courses are structured by a pre-determined set of learning objectives. Assignments, lesson plans, and assessments are arranged around outcomes set by the instructor or curriculum, and students have little or no say in how they are chosen and acquired. This outcome-driven pedagogy can result in what Paulo Freire has called “massification,” the by-product of an industrialized education focused on the consistent, mechanical reproduction of knowledge and its repository, the student. Designing courses for emergence flips this relationship by allowing students to control the direction and depth of their learning experience, to develop and pursue unique questions, and to participate in the creation of new ideas, interpretations, and sources of disciplinary authority. In short, students are learning drivers in an emergent learning environment, not products.
The proposed session could focus on two closely-related questions: (1) What types of outcomes might be expected to emerge from a more student-centered, open pedagogical approach, and what might the value of these outcomes be in relation to the personal and professional musical goals of the student(s)? (2) How might assignments that create a space for students to realize emergent outcomes be composed? Depending on participant’s interests, we could either discuss emergent outcomes in general and then try to imagine assignments that would provide the fertile ground from which learning may emerge, or we could focus on building open-ended assignments first and discuss what students might be expected to learn from these assignments.
For further reading:
- Shaffer: Student-Centered Curriculum
- Stewart: Designing for Emergence: The Role of the Instructor in Student-Centered Learning
- Shaffer: Assessing Problem-Based Learning