MUS277: Principles of Music Education

Spring 2021

Purpose of the Course

MUS 277: Principles of Music Education serves as a preparation to music education methods classes. Topics will include philosophy of music education, student learning in music, characteristics of appropriate learning environments, curriculum and its underpinnings, effective instructional formats, measuring and evaluating student learning.

Course Outline

Unit 1: Developing a Professional Philosophy

            Project: Your Musical Journey in Three Songs


Unit 2: Learning Environments and Organizing Instruction

            Project: Prepare a pedagogical analysis for teaching a piece of music or a musical activity to a selected class or ensemble


Unit 3: Student Learning in Music

            Project: Write summaries of three research articles on child development and music


Unit 4: The Content of Instruction

            Project: Present on selected curricular approaches (group project)


Unit 5: Managing Instruction

            Project: Describe a classroom management scenario that you observed in your field placement


Unit 6: Assessing Student Learning

            Project: Develop two methods for assessing student learning in music 

Internship/Field Work

In addition to participating in the class on campus, all students will engage in concurrent internship-field work in a school setting. More information about this requirement will follow during the first couple of weeks of class.


You will visit the classroom of your cooperating teacher (CT) six times this semester.  During at least two of those visits, you will teach a brief lesson.  You will be assigned to a small group for the observations/teaching.  At the first visit, work with your cooperating teacher to determine the dates you will do your teaching.  The dates of your visits will coordinate with each course unit.  You will complete a brief written assignment at each visit.  (Note-when the assignment is to ask the teacher about a topic, you are expected to summarize their responses and turn them in).  The assignment is due (turned in to Dr. Robinson via email) immediately after the teaching observation.


You may use the following questions to inform your response: 


3 Reflective Questions

  1. What went well?
  2. What did not go well?
  3. What would you do differently if you were the teacher, and could teach the lesson/class again?


Unit 1—Developing a Professional Philosophy

1. Describe the music program’s mission statement/philosophy as explained in a course syllabus or other curriculum materials.

2. Ask the teacher to describe his/her teaching philosophy.

3. From your observations, identify several teaching goals you believe the teacher espouses.  Write them down and discuss with your CT.


Unit 2—Learning Environments and Organizing Instruction

1. Describe the classroom setup.  Which items are placed to facilitate student learning?  Which items seem to get in the way?

2. Look at your CT’s lesson plan.  Make a copy of one page of the teacher’s planning book.

3. Ask how your CT plans for instruction.


Unit 3—Student Learning in Music

1. Identify three issues of child development observed in the classroom.

2. Ask the teacher to describe what is done to accommodate special education students.

3. From observations, identify three ways in which the teacher molded instruction to meet specific student needs.


Unit 4—The Content of Instruction

1. Describe which curricular approach your CT uses.  Find and make a copy of the method book cover.

2. Ask your CT why he/she selected the method in use.

3. If your CT does not use a specific method, ask how he/she determines the content of instruction. 


Unit 5—Managing Instruction

1. Describe a classroom management issue you observed.  How did the teacher address it?

2. Ask your CT about his/her philosophy on classroom management.

3. Find out the school policy for classroom management.  Make a copy of it.


Unit 6—Assessing Student Learning

1. Ask your CT to describe how student progress is measured and/or evaluated (two different things!).

2. Make a copy of any assessment papers your CT uses.  Learn how they are used by the student and teacher.


Attendance and Participation

Class members are expected to attend all classes, as learning in the class is enhanced by the attendance of all.  More than two absences will result in the course grade being lowered .5 and .5 for each two additional absences beyond that. There is no such thing as an excused or unexcused absence, so save your absences for when you really need them, like when you are sick.  I appreciate knowing why you miss a class, but notification is not required.  If you have an unusual situation that results in extended absence, please contact me so that I am aware of the situation and can make arrangements to meet your instructional needs. 


There will be frequent class activities based on the readings that require participation, and students are expected to be prepared.  This means doing the require reading every day before class so that discussion can be as meaningful as possible.  Every student is expected to actively participate in class discussions and activities, by offering comments on class discussions and extending and enhancing the comments of others. Failure to do so will be considered in the grading process.


Student work must be turned in on time.  Grades on individual assignments and projects will be reduced by .5 for every day that they are late. You may revise written work once before the end of the term, attaching copies of previous versions, so long as the original assignment was handed in on time.


Class participation and discussion 40%

Unit projects 60%   (each project worth 10%)


Percentage to Grade point

≥ 90 4.0

85 – 90 3.5

80 – 85 3.0

75 – 80 2.5

70 – 75 2.0

65 – 70 1.5

60 – 65 1.0

<60 0


Failure to complete any portion of the above requirements may result in failure of the course.


Academic Honesty

Article 2.3.3 of the Academic Freedom Report states that “The student shares with the faculty the responsibility for maintaining the integrity of scholarship, grades, and professional standards.” In addition, the School of Music adheres to the policies on academic honesty as specified in General Student Regulations 1.0, Protection of Scholarship and Grades; the all-University Policy on Integrity of Scholarship and Grades; and Ordinance 17.00, Examinations.  (See Spartan Life: Student Handbook and Resource Guide and/or the MSU Web site: Therefore, unless authorized by your instructor, you are expected to complete all course assignments, including homework, lab work, quizzes, tests and exams, without assistance from any source. You are not authorized to use the Web site to complete any course work in MUS277. Students who violate MSU rules may receive a penalty grade, including but not limited to a failing grade on the assignment or in the course.


For more information, go to:


Accommodations for Disabilities

Students with disabilities will need to contact the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (353-9642 or and work with me to arrange any needed accommodations, per the Center's recommendation. It is the student’s responsibility to register with the RCPD and to inform faculty of any special accommodations needed by the student as determined by Disability Specialists at the RCPD; Faculty do not determine accommodations.


College of Education and Advanced Standing Notes

The College of Education’s Professional Criteria for Progression to Student Teaching require that all education students be reliable in terms of attendance and punctuality. Students with unexcused absences and frequent tardiness may be withdrawn from the teacher certification program.


Those who have not been accepted into the Music Education and wish to be a Music Education major will go through the Advanced Standing process as a part of this class.  This will include the gathering of academic data, completion of an application, and an interview with a member of the Music Education faculty.  Information about applying to the College of Education will also be communicated as a part of this class.


Sexual Harassment Policy

As your teacher, I wish to create a positive, comfortable learning environment. Each student has different boundaries emotionally and physically. The teaching of music has traditionally embraced a wide range of methods and techniques that may include physical contact between teacher and learner with the arms, shoulders, abdomen, head, neck and lower back. There is no music teaching technique that requires and physical contact with the student’s breast/chest, pubic area or buttocks. I will not initiate physical contact with a student without express permission from the student, and any such contact would be for pedagogical purposes only. We can also discuss any pedagogical interventions with which you are personally uncomfortable, and seek alternative strategies to accomplish these goals. Further, anatomical and physiological discussions may occur during the course of instruction, given the nature of music teaching and learning. These discussions should never include anything that is inappropriately sensual, sexual or suggestive in nature.


Should you believe that any violations of this policy occur in or out of class, you are encouraged to contact the following resources:

  1. Office of Student Affairs, Student Judiciary: 432-2471
  2. Dean of the College of Music: 355-4583
  3. Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives: 432-3898

Basic Needs Security

Any student who has difficulty affording groceries or accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or who lacks a safe and stable place to live, and believes this may affect their performance in the course, is urged to contact the Associate Dean for support. Furthermore, please notify me if you are comfortable in doing so. This will enable me to best provide any possible support or resources.


Tentative Course Calendar and Topics

Schedule of Topics and Assignments: 




W Jan 20 What is philosophy?  Why is it important?  


Discuss Unit Project




F Jan 22 


What is music and what should be music education? 






Jorgensen, “Philosophy and the Music Teacher: Challenging the Way We Think”


Elliott, “Behind the Budget Crisis, a Crisis of Philosophy”


Rogers, “Why Teach Music? A Historical Overview of Aesthetics”


Mark, “The Evolution of Music Education Philosophy from Utilitarian to Aesthetic” 




M Jan 25  Art and Feeling: Music as Doing


            Readings: “Facing the Risks of the ‘Mozart Effect’”


                        “The Other Mozart Effect:  An Open Letter to Music Educators”


            Assignment:  Read and think about the advocacy case study; we will have a class debate.




W Jan 27  Non-musical Values of Music Education


            Readings:  “A Stronger Rationale for Music Education”




F Jan 29  Philosophy and Advocacy:  The relationship between the two




M Feb 1  Class debate on Unit 1 Advocacy Case Study; Unit 1 Project due












1.  To learn how to design a music room that facilitates student learning.


2.  To learn how to use a variety of questioning techniques to stimulate student learning and musicianship.


3.  To develop approaches for motivating student learning through the use of feedback.


4.  To consider the pros and cons of competition and cooperation in music learning.


5.  To demonstrate the ability to plan for some level of music instruction and explain the rationale for the instructional sequence.




Unit 2 Project:  Preparing for Student Learning


Choose an ensemble or classroom setting at any level of instruction from preschool through high school with which you have familiarity. You may want to choose the setting in which you are working for your internship, but this is not required. Select a piece of music (or a musical activity) to teach to the class/ensemble and draft an outline of a pedagogical analysis for the teaching/learning interaction you have selected; consider the following guiding questions:




Draft a webbed organizational structure for a piece of music that addresses the most salient musical issues embodied in the work. Consider the following guiding questions:




1.     What is the piece about?


a.     Information about piece, composer, arranger, period (historical frame).


2.     What are the musical “building blocks” of the composition?


a.     Information about form, harmony, voice leading, contour/line (theoretical frame).


3.     How does the music sound and feel?


a.     Information about text meaning (if applicable), mood created, phrasing (style frame).


4.     What skills or knowledge do we need to make it sound “good”?


a.     Information about pitch and intonation, breath control, idiomatic needs of particular instruments, diction (technical frame).


Other teaching or pedagogical considerations. . .


5.     What is musically unique or interesting about the work?


a.     Information about the tonal areas, overall tonality, and form.


6.     What musical concept or concepts could you teach using this composition? 


a.     Information about repetition, contrast, variation, timbre (tone color), articulation, transitions, dynamics, etc.


7.     What or where are the potential “trouble spots” in this piece, and what strategies can you think of for addressing these problems?


a.     Information about technical difficulties, awkward fingering patterns, range problems, bad notes for specific instruments in exposed places, solo passages, intonation problems, phrasing or expressive choices, transitions in tempo, texture, or style, etc.


8.     What National Standard(s) could you teach to using this composition?




After developing your web, use the table on the following page to generate a set of teaching strategies for each “bubble” on your webbed plan. Try to create teaching strategies that are primarily musical (i.e., not talking) in nature—singing, modeling on an instrument, clapping rhythm patterns, using tonal and/or rhythmic solfege, “hissing” melodic rhythms, “air band”, etc. 




Make full use of available resources, such as faculty, the library, and the Music Education Resource Room. 




Due Date: W Feb 10




Schedule of Topics and Assignments




W Feb 3  Unit Overview and Unit Project 2 discussion.




F Feb 5  Creating a climate that is conducive to learning


            Readings: “Three Characteristics of Effective Teachers” /content/enforced/1056093-FS20-MUS-277-001-97R3YE-EL-30-598/ThreeCharacteristicsofEffectiveTeachers1.pdf


                        “A Summary of Research-based Principles of Effective Teaching”  


                       “Developing Critical Thinkers in Music” 




M Feb 8 Lesson preparation and planning; Questioning techniques and critical thinking; Entry, closure, and motivation.


            Reading: “Would Better Questions Enhance Music Learning?” 


Read and think about the learning environment case study for discussion in small groups and presentation 




W Feb 10 Cooperation and competition


            Readings:  “Competition:  Is Music Education the Loser?” 


            “Cooperative Learning Revisited:  A Way to Address the Standards”


Case study discussion; Unit 2 Project due 












1.  Apply an understanding of children’s musical development, brain development, and special education to the refining of teaching ideas.


2.  Develop ways to apply the results of research on children to improve music teaching.


3.  Begin to become familiar with research in music education




Unit 3 Project:  Understanding Learners and the Learning Process


Choose one of the studies from the list that will be distributed at the beginning of the unit.  Find that study at the MSU library.  Using the reference list from that study, find three other related studies.  After reading a study, PLEASE put the journal back on the shelf exactly where you found it, so that other class members will be able to use it.




Read the studies and take notes on the following aspects of the article.

            a.  What was the question or questions that the researcher wanted to answer.


            b.  Who were the students studied?  (age or grade, number of students, where from?)


            c.  What did the researcher do to answer the question?


            d.  What results did the researcher find?




Write up each of the four studies, answering each of the questions above.  In addition, in the write-up for each study, suggest one teaching idea for applying the results to improve your own teaching. 




Please be sure to include a full bibliographic citation, including author(s) name(s), article title, and journal name/issue/volume/page numbers, for each cited article.




We will develop grading criteria as a class. 




Due Date: W Feb 24




Schedule of Topics and Assignments




F Feb 12  Unit Overview and development of rating system for final project.  What we know about how children develop and why we care.


            Readings:  “Introduction to Music Development” from Music PlayChildren’s musical development


                        “Implications of Music and Brain Research” 


                        “Music and the Baby’s Brain:  Early Experiences” 


                        “Does Music Make you Smarter?” 




M Feb 15 Children’s musical development


            Readings: “Beyond Mainstreaming:  Dealing with Diversity” 


                        “Reflecting Cultural Diversity in the Music Classroom” 




W Feb 17  Children with special needs


            Readings: “Rethinking Religion in Music Education”


            “Sexual Orientation and Music Education”  




F Feb 19  Cultural issues in teaching


Read and think about the student learning case study for discussion in small groups on Oct 7.




M Feb 22  Case study




W Feb 24  TBD; Unit 3 Project due












1.  Understand and be able to apply the National Standards of Music Education and the Michigan Benchmarks to organize instruction.


2.  Write appropriate goals and objectives for music instruction.


3.  Working with other class members, make a class presentation on one of the major curriculum foundations in music education.




Unit 4 Project: Curriculum Foundations


With a team of two to four other class members, investigate one of the major curricular approaches in music education.  Your team will be assigned to create a presentation on one of the following methodological approaches: Kodaly, Orff Schulwerk, Dalcroze/Eurhythmics, Edwin E. Gordon/Music Learning Theory, Suzuki/Suzuki Talent Education.




On , you will make your presentation to the class.  Each presentation should include the following:


A one-page class handout that highlights the themes presented to the class 


A 2 minute biographical sketch of the main figure(s) representing the approach


A brief (3 minutes) discussion of the primary tenets of the approach, being sure to include information on the philosophy behind the approach and the major pedagogical assumptions that underlie this approach to teaching (sequencing, techniques, syllable systems used, repertoire, etc.)


A 5 minute “mock lesson” in the spirit of the method; you may choose to teach a rote song or a game, for example


Each group will have no more than 15 minutes in which to present.  Pretend that you are making your presentation—in an abbreviated version—to your future school administration or music department colleagues.




Due Date: W Mar 24




Schedule of Topics and Assignments




F Feb 26  Overview of the unit. National Standards and Michigan Benchmarks:  Where did they come from and where do we go from here?


            Readings: National Standards for Arts Education


                              Michigan Benchmarks


                              Designing Curricula Based on the Standards




M Mar 1  Developing goals and objectives


            Assignment:  Write one goal and one objective suitable for any level of music instruction.  Form your curricular teams for the Unit Project.




W Mar 3 OPEN




F Mar 5  Designing music curricula




M Mar 8 Leftovers on Singing…


                Music Aptitude, Achievement, Audiation & Testing, Part I



W Mar 10 More on Music Aptitude, Achievement, Audiation & Testing, Part II



F Mar 12 More on Music Aptitude, Achievement, Audiation & Testing, Part III



M Mar 15 Curriculum Common Places

Reading: Elliott, “Curriculum as Professional Action”


W Mar 17 OPEN


F Mar 19 Current Issues in Education Policy

Diane Ravitch, The Lost Purpose of Education Reform; Unit 4 Project due


M Mar 22 Student Presentations of Project 4


W Mar 24 Debriefing on Curriculum Projects; Overview of Music Learning Theory












1.  To establish procedures for preventing discipline problems, managing student behaviors, intervening in discipline problems, and remediating inappropriate student behaviors.


2.  To develop and apply to case studies an understanding of discipline approaches that are developmentally appropriate for students at specific age levels.




Unit 5 Project:  Responding to Classroom Management Scenarios


Describe a classroom management scenario that you observed during your field placement this semester. Focus on one student who exhibited attention-seeking behaviors, and share the teacher’s response to this situation. Develop a classroom management plan to address this student’s behaviors, including at least 2 references to class readings.




Due Date: M Mar 29




Schedule of Topics and Assignments




 F Mar 26  Unit 5 Overview: Myths About Discipline 


            Readings:  “Judicious Discipline in the Music Classroom”


    Students as people


            Readings:  “Four C’s of Successful Classroom Management”


                        “Classroom Management: Problems and Solutions” 




M Mar 29 Proactive Classroom Management: What to do when problems arise


            Readings:  “Classroom Management for Ensembles” 


            Unit 5 Project due 












1.  To understand the purposes of and differences between measurement and evaluation in music education.


2.  To know the characteristics of and to write multiple choice and short answer test items for music.


3.  To learn about and develop rating scales for measuring student performance in music.


4.  To develop a means for implementing a portfolio system in music.


5.  To understand and apply various approaches to grading in music.




Unit 6 Project:  Developing Measures of Student Learning


Choose and complete ONE of the following:


1.  Write a music test for any aspect of music learning with at least 8 questions. Use short answer and multiple-choice questions. If your test requires listening, hand in a tape or CD of the music for the test. Accompany the test with information about whom the test is designed for (grade level and setting).


2.  Write a rating scale with at least two dimensions to measure any aspect of music performance (singing or playing an instrument) or production (e.g.. composition or improvisation). 




Grades will be based upon the appropriate application of principles of educational measurement.




Due Date: W Apr 21




Schedule of Topics and Assignments




W Mar 31  Discussion of Measurement and Evaluation


            Readings:  “Music Assessment Concepts” 




F Apr 2 Rubrics & Rating Scales


Readings: “Michigan State Adjudicated Festivals” 




M Apr 5  More on Rating Scales




W Apr 7  More on Rubrics




F Apr 9 Student Writing; Portfolios and Alternative Assessment Strategies


            Readings: “Alternative Assessment Techniques for Teachers”


“Capturing Student Progress via Portfolios” 




M Apr 12  Measurement of Music Aptitudes


            Readings: “All About Audiation” 


W Apr 14  General Assessment Concepts; Grading


F Apr 16  General Assessment Concepts; Grading


M Apr 19  General Assessment Concepts; Grading


W Apr 21  Final Class: Everything I Know About Assessment, I Learned in Kindergarten... 


Unit 6 Project due




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GLSEN 2017 National School Climate Surve
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Advanced Standing & College of Ed notes
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Unit 1 Advocacy Case Study
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National Standards.pdf
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Project 3 Resources
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Unit 3 case study
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Unit 2 Case Study, p. 1
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Unit 2 Project, Toccata for Band
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Unit Project Rubrics and Rating Scales

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Recent and Continuing Initiatives and Practices in Special Education
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Equity in Music Education: Being “Schooled” on Disability
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Intro to CMP
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