Knowledge should not be predetermined or prioritized
Learning should be individualized with multiple ways of showing understanding
When I first began teaching, all 7th grade general music students were required to do a final composition using keyboards. The assignment asked for students to compose a piece that was 8 measures long, used eighth and quarter notes, was metered in 4/4 time, and used the pitches C-G. Surprisingly, while working on the project, my brightest student raised his hand and asked "Mr. Greco, why are we doing this?" "What does this do for us?" The class, who was not used to such a remark from a "good" student, began laughing in approval of his comment. I immediately became annoyed and retaliated. I told the student that he is not to ask why we do things, but to just do them. He was warned that if he chose not to do the project he was setting himself up to fail the class. I also made it clear that if he didn't like the class he should make a sign and protest outside the door. I made sure to use my authority and control to get him to do what I wanted him to do. REFLECTING ON THIS STORY TODAY... Research on teaching and learning continually reminds us that students learn best, when there is a need to know and when their work is emotion-interest based. John Dewey (1916) states that students need to learn by engaging in meaningful and purposeful activities that feel like real life itself, rather than rehearse abstract content transmitted by teachers and textbooks. Shortly after this incident, I began to design projects that were theme based in order to allow the students the freedom to develop knowledge and skill according to their personal interests. Various avenues of exploration within a theme were generated by students. The students could then choose an avenue to explore and plan a project that would be shared with the class. For example, while studying structures in music, some children choose to search for melodic and rhythmic patterns that appeared in their favorite songs. Other students created a movement performance to demonstrate their understandings of form. With this approach, I began to realize that my classroom was moving closer to "real-life". Students had an interest in what they were doing and built upon prior knowledge in a personal and meaningful way.