Beyond Coverage: Teaching for Understanding in the Music History Classroom

Timothy Mark Crain


Music historians face the problem of an enlarging amount of material which must be “covered” in the music history survey courses that emphasizes the transmission of knowledge from instructor to student, typically focusing on surface detail in order to get through the material. Facts are easy to come by in the information age, and I argue that music students need music history teachers to provide them with the tools to assess the validity of facts, to weigh their significance, and to deploy them in everyday activities which all types of musicians undertake.

The first half of this paper reviews pedagogical methodologies from other disciplines that I have found helpful in addressing these priorities in music history survey courses: “uncoverage;” “backward design” (as described in the work of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTiegh); Lee Schulmnan’s concept of “Signature Pedagogies;” and new approaches to assessment. The second half of the essay describes how I apply those ideas in teaching with a developmental model for music history and a composition assignment using the concept of isorhythm.



History; Pedagogy; Course Design; Coverage and Uncoverage

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ISSN 2155-109X