Music & inquiry

After co-leading a category three PYP & MYP inquiry-focused music workshop, I wanted to share some of my thoughts regarding inquiry and DP Music.
This post aligns to ‘inquiry’ as an approach to teaching and ‘thinking’ and ‘transfer’ as approaches to learning. Given the wonderful changes in the IB Middle Years Programme, DP teachers have a renewed responsibility to ensure that inquiry is occurring throughout DP Music classrooms.

When I discuss structured inquiry with DP teachers a conversation regarding the balance of ‘thinking’ verses ‘content’ inevitably ensues. As teachers of DP Music, we have to ensure that our students are thinking like musicians as frequently as possible in our DP Music classes. Fortunately, the final assessment tasks in the DP Music course (solo/group performance, creations, musical links investigation, and the listening paper) allow for musical thinking as long as we teachers are asking open-ended questions.

A learning segment on Mozart could be presented in multiple ways.
This segment prepares students for the listening paper and for the musical links investigation.

Traditional (teacher-centred)
A traditional (teacher-centred) presentation might have the teacher discuss the compositional techniques of Mozart while students take notes. The teacher would then have students listen to a few pieces by Mozart. For homework, students would read a section on Mozart and a section on Beethoven (the next topic) in their textbook. The teacher would check for understanding using a multiple choice quiz that would assess students on their knowledge of Mozart and on his musical oeuvre.

Inquiry (student-centred)

An inquiry-based presentation might have the teacher playing a piece of unfamiliar music (Mozart) to the students as they enter the class. The students would then be tasked with determining the musical ‘era’ of this piece by using discrete pieces of musical data from the recording (e.g. – a light use of brass, the absence of a harpsichord, etc.). The students would share their thinking, data, and findings with their classmates. The teacher would then use the findings of the students to frame a conversation about Mozart and his compositional style. Next, the students would be tasked with locating another piece of music by Mozart that CONTRASTS the piece of music that students heard when they entered the class. Students would share their thinking and their findings with each other. Lastly, students would be tasked with finding a piece of music that has the same musical characteristics of Mozart but is NOT written by Mozart. The teacher checks for understanding through the two pieces of music located by each student and by level of complexity in the responses of the students as they explain why they selected the two pieces.

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