MUS862: Seminar in Music Curriculum & Methods

Michigan State University

College of Music

Music Education Area

Course Syllabus

Summer 2017

Days and Times: MWF, 8:00-9:50am



Instructor: Mitchell Robinson, Ph.D.

Associate Professor and Chair of Music Education

School phone: 355.7555 

Office: MPB 208






I very much want this course to function as a seminar—that is, collegial, democratic, and full of thoughtful discussion and lively debate.  While I will serve as the instructor, and, at times, discussion leader, I prefer that the group dynamic be one of mutual responsibility for learning.  The syllabus, therefore, will provide a basic framework for the course, but we will strive to be open and flexible during the course of the semester as we learn together.  




Flinders, D.J. and Thornton, S.J. (2004). The Curriculum Studies Reader, 2nd Edition. (New York:  Routledge).


Walker, D.F., and Soltis, J.F. (1997). Curriculum and Aims, 3rd Edition. (New York: Teachers College Press).





Selected readings from Colwell, R. and Richardson, C. (2002).  The New Handbook of Research on Music Teaching and Learning (New York: Oxford). 




Assignments (see handouts for each assignment for details)

Treasure Hunt: Persons, Ideas and Books

Book Review & Poster Session

Methodology Review

Lightning Talks on Final Research Paper Topics: July 31, Aug. 2, Aug. 4


(from CMS) What are Lightning Talks?


Lightning Talks differ substantially from a delivered paper. They are presentations in which imagery supports the message. They are not simply PowerPoint or Keynote slides with bullet points to deliver content, but are a creative endeavor through which thinking is supported and made manifest. Lightning Talks are brief, 5-minute presentations that focus on a single topic, example, idea, project, or technique. Lightning Talks do not attempt to cover all aspects of their subject matter, but present one facet of the idea clearly and succinctly. 


For an example of an award-winning Lightning Talk, given in 3 minutes, 30 seconds, please watch the following YouTube video:


For further information on giving Lightning Talks, please access:


For our purposes, think of your Lightning Talk as something that you might present at a school board meeting, for a parent group or music booster presentation, or offer as a pre-concert talk for parents. Don't be too concerned with explaining all of the details regarding your policy issue or topic--get to the "big picture" right away, and keep the discussion focused tightly on your main point. Think about your intended audience and craft your message so that it is easily understandable and jargon-free.


Some guidelines:

  • your talk must be no longer than 5 minutes, and use no more than 8 slides
  • focus on a single topic or issue
  • think "Ted Talk" meets "speed dating”

Tips for an entertaining, joyous, and informative lightning talk:

  • Get to the point quickly; invest no more than one minute on setup and background.
  • Select a relevant topic for the audience.
  • Share one great idea.
  • Tell a story; storytelling is universal and we all have a story to tell.
  • Show passion for an idea; spread your joy.
  • Share information but resist the temptation to explain in detail.
  • Use more pictures and fewer words; if you use text, make sure it is at least 50 pts.
  • Plan on not using the first and the last slides, time flies when you’re having fun.
  • Don’t forget that the audience is on your side.
  • Remember that delivery is as important as content.
  • Practice, practice, practice.
  • Practice with a timer (there’s an app for that).

End strong and “power wrap” your lightning talk… restate your one great idea.



Course Assessment

Attendance/Class Participation: Students are expected to attend all classes. More than two absences may result in the course grade being lowered .5, and .5 for each additional absence beyond that. 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. In addition, students are expected to have prepared for the class seminar by reading the assigned material and preparing personal responses and commentaries. There will be frequent class activities based on the readings that require participation, and students are expected to be prepared. Grades will be affected by unexcused absence from class and the amount and quality of class participation and discussion.


Student work must be turned in on time.  Grades on individual assignments and projects may be reduced by .5 for every day that they are late.




Class participation, discussion 10%

Treasure Hunt 10%

Book Review 20%

Methodology Review 25%

Final project 35%


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


Note:  Students not handing in assignments on time will receive an “Incomplete” until the assignments are submitted.  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.  Final and pre-final versions of all assignments may be submitted on paper, or as attachments via email (preferred format: Microsoft Word for Macintosh, sent to:



Suggested Course Calendar (subject to change)


Note: Much of the course’s design will be fluid, so let’s consider the following calendar to be a tentative document subject to mutual negotiation. What appears below is a sort of advanced planner with suggested topics and readings; we may decide to follow other avenues as they emerge. I am always open to negotiation. In other words, be ready to “roll with the changes”! 


• Readings are to be completed for the date on which they appear.  For example, the reading by Franklin Bobbit, “Scientific Method in Curriculum Making” is to be read for the June 29 class session.


Reader = Curriculum Studies Reader

Aims = Curriculum and Aims



Date Topics Readings & Assignments




Readings & Assignments


June 28


Course Overview and Introduction

§  Essential Questions and Tensions, General Orientation to Curriculum Studies

Make Treasure Hunt assignments

June 30


Curricular Foundations in General Education: Historical Orientations to Curriculum, Pt.1

Read: from Aims,

  • Chs. 1-2

 From Reader,

  • Franklin Bobbit, “Scientific Method in Curriculum Making”, Ch. 1
  • John Dewey, “My Pedagogic Creed”, Ch. 2

July 3


Historical Orientations to Curriculum, Pt.2

Read: from Aims,

  • Ch. 3

 From Reader,

  • George Counts, “Dare the School Build a New Social Order?”, Ch. 4
  • Philip Jackson, “The Daily Grind”, Ch. 10

Treasure Hunt reports


July 5


Conceptualizing the Curriculum

Read: from Aims,

  • Ch. 4

 From Reader,

  • Herbert Kliebard, “The Rise of Scientific Curriculum Making and its Aftermath”, Ch. 5

July 7

(Re)Conceptualizing the Curriculum

From Reader,

  • William Pinar, “The Reconceptualization of Curriculum Studies”, Ch. 14

From Downloads (Reading Dyad #1)

  • Hanley & Montgomery, “Challenges to Music Education: Curriculum Reconceptualized”
  • Barrett, “Planning for Understanding: A Reconceptualized View of the Music Curriculum”

Book Review choice due

July 10

Curriculum Writing & Making

Read: from Aims,

  • Ch. 5

 From Reader,

  • James Popham “Objectives”, Ch. 8
  • Elliott Eisner, “Educational Objectives—Help or Hindrance?”, Ch. 9

From Downloads,

  • Conway, “Curriculum Writing in Music”
  • Wells, “Designing Curricula Based on the Standards”

Book Review choice due

July 12


Critiquing Curricular Practices

Read: from Aims,

  • Ch. 6

 From Reader,

  • Paulo Freire, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, Ch. 12

From Downloads,

  • Green, “The Music Curriculum as Lived Experience: Children’s ‘Natural’ Music-Learning Processes”

July 14

Critiquing Curricular Practices

From Reader,

  • Elliot Eisner, “What Does it Mean to Say a School is Doing Well?”, Ch. 26
  • Nell Noddings, “The Aims of Education”, Ch. 30

From Downloads (Reading Dyad #2)

  • Dunbar-Hall, “Colliding Perspectives? Music Curriculum as Cultural Studies”
  • Rideout, “Whose Music? Music Education and Cultural Issues?
  • Eisner, "Who Decides What Schools Teach?"

July 17


Curriculum Reform

Read: from Aims,

  • Ch. 7

 From Reader,

  • John Goodlad, “School Curriculum Reform in the United States”, Ch. 7

July 19


Curriculum Designs in Music and Research in Curriculum

Read: Chapter 8 “Contemporary Curriculum Practices and Their Theoretical Bases” in the New Handbook, ed. Colwell and Richardson


From Downloads,

  • Gordon, “Taking a Look at Music Learning Theory”
  • National Core Music Standards (new)


Methodology Presentations in class

July 21


Curriculum and Methodological Approaches in Music Education

From Downloads,

  • Elliott, “Music Education and Curriculum”

Methodology Presentations in class

July 24




July 26


Book Review Poster Sessions

July 28

Assessment Issues in Music Education


July 31


Lightning Talks

August 2


Lightning Talks

August 4

Final Class

Lightning Talks, if needed






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