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Dec. 11, 2018

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Metacognition and Music Theory Pedagogy

One of my research interests addresses the need for effective and sustainable metacognitive strategies in content-rich undergraduate music theory courses. The importance of metacognition to the process of learning has been well documented across many disciplines, but it has been overlooked in the domain of music theory. My article, Promoting Metacognitive Reflection in Music Theory Instruction, directs attention to this issue in light of a metacognitive activity that I implemented into a second-year undergraduate music theory course that I teach at Laurier.

In my article, I present a theoretical framework within which to understand metacognitive reflection for educational purposes, I discuss my design of metacognitive reflection assignments that build upon and embed readily into the curriculum, and I investigate their pedagogical value through a content analysis of student reflections, which was approved by Laurier’s Research Ethics Board. The results show that guided reflective assignments can develop self-efficacy, foster self-regulation and motivation to learn, and facilitate deep learning experiences. Through my analysis of these assignments, I witnessed students construct meaning from course content by combining new information with previous knowledge in ways that were individually relevant and useful. I was surprised by the valuable pedagogical feedback that surfaced from their reflective viewpoints, which is a perspective that is not usually taken into consideration in music theory instruction. The resulting metacognitive practice demonstrated that, even at a relatively introductory level, students can draw on the authority they have over their own learning to uncover perceptive connections between course content and their professional development when guided to do so. 

From time to time, the discipline of music theory is challenged to revise disciplinary content at the undergraduate level in order to address such issues as subject relevance and student motivation to learn. It should be kept in mind, however, that these issues do not depend on content alone, nor does focussing exclusively on content address the learning processes required to attain such objectives. Corroborating metacognition research in other fields, my study supports the incorporation of metacognitive strategies into music theory instruction in order to guide students to discover relevant meaning for themselves from course content that they encounter, to foster motivating and meaningful learning experiences for them, and to facilitate knowledge transfer to other areas of their studies. The article encourages instructors of music theory at all levels to consider the development of metacognitive ability alongside other music theory skills when designing new pedagogical initiatives.

I acknowledge the reflective work of my students at Laurier and am grateful for their participation in this project. The resulting publication is one in a series of articles and international conference presentations on metacognitive reflection and guided reflective essay assignments for music theory instruction. I acknowledge the Office of Research Services and also Teaching and Learning for financial assistance to disseminate this work.

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