How project-based learning works in music education

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As a learner, the experience you gain while earning your degree should pave the way for your journey as a professional. Skills and expertise are not only attained through traditional lessons, they are earned through your participation and application of the curriculum throughout your education. Project-based learning is one way to do so, as it gives you the opportunity to engage in activities that are designed to reflect real-world experiences.

Students reviewing projects together

Let’s take a closer look at project-based learning, its benefits in regard to music education students and how Kent State is taking advantage of this specialized learning practice.

What is project-based learning?

According to the Buck Institute for Education (BIE), project-based learning is essential for preparing students to take strides from an academic, personal and professional perspective. This type of learning allows young learners to face small challenges early on so they are prepared for similar situations in the future.

Project-based learning is a fairly straightforward idea. The BIE defines it as when students take part in a project that extends over a long period of time, engages them in real-world problems and prepares them with the essential tools need to answer complex questions.

The result can develop a variety of useful skills beyond knowledge acquired. Students gain an ability to think critically, use creativity and learn to communicate in new ways.

How can this learning style benefit music education students?

Some of the general benefits of project-based learning include deeper learning, collaboration, career exposure, gaining a sense of purpose and learning how to utilize technology and other helpful resources. Based on research reported by the BIE, project-based learning can be a more effective method of teaching when compared to the traditional approach of using textbooks and lectures.

From a musical perspective, project-based learning provides an optimal opportunity to engage with subject manner and become an expert in your specialization. Additionally, it will prepare you for your career as a music educator, whether you plan on instructing general, choral or instrumental music.

In an article for the National Association for Music Education, writer Michael Hayden explained the benefits of personalizing your music classroom through project-based learning. Some of these benefits included encouraging learners to take ownership of their work, teaching them to use useful technology and exploring music through a creative lens.

A group of students in discussion about a project-based lesson.

One of the significant takeaways of project-based learning in the music classroom is how it allows learners to better connect with their interests, pursue their passions and showcase their talents. Through music analyzation, listening and practicing over a long period of time, students can work on improving their skills while also discovering hidden talents. The length of projects in this method of learning gives students the opportunity to dive deep into the curriculum and absorb relevant information that will stick with them along their professional journey.

Tiffany Barry, a music teacher in San Jose, California, shared her project-based learning experience with BIE.

“By implementing these PBL projects in my classes, I noticed that students were more thoughtful and reflective in their music-making because they sensed the value of their performance in both the music and the experience of others,” she wrote. “They seemed more engaged with their ensemble peers, thereby improving musical delivery and group empathy as well. While these PBL projects did not completely replace the traditional teacher-centered approach in the classroom, it most certainly enhanced the overall music-learning experience.”

“There were benefits from the teacher perspective too,” Barry said. “I felt a weight being lifted as students invested more of themselves in what they wanted to research, learn and perform. I also experienced a shared sense of responsibility alongside the students as we developed repertoire together, fully satisfied at the partnership being fostered by all.”

Project-based learning at Kent State

When you enroll in the Kent State Master of Music in music education program, you’ll take classes like Foundations of Music Education, Inquiry in Music Teaching and Learning, America’s Music and Music from World Cultures. These foundational classes are designed to prepare you for the project-based learning you’ll experience in your capstone course.

This final project gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your cumulative knowledge gained throughout the program through a specific area of interest in music teaching and learning. You’ll work under a capstone advisor, and your final project will be reviewed by a committee to determine your eligibility for graduation. The capstone offers an opportunity to prove you’re ready to take your profession to the next level after graduation.

If you’re interested in learning more about this program and how project-based learning can benefit your career as a music educator, visit the program page or call 1-888-989-7072 to speak with an enrollment advisor today.

Recommended Readings:
What is the Kent State MMME Capstone Project?
Becoming a band director

KSU MMME brochure
KSU MMME program details
KSU – Design innovation for the 21st century
BIE – Why PBL?
BIE – What is PBL?
BIE – PBL in a music program
BIE – The benefits of PBL
What is project based learning? – Personalized learning through project-based music
PBL in Music: Driving Questions Invoke Deeper Musical Learning


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