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Letter: Robert Moody
A natural way to learn
Thursday, May 3, 2012
In my previous letter (April 29, “Why arts are important”) I suggested that the arts, by their very nature, draw on every level of Bloom’s taxonomy in student learning. Recall that Bloom’s taxonomy orders thinking/learning from lowest to highest as: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating/judgment and creating. Here I would like to demonstrate how this happens using music (I am a professional musician and music teacher in the county schools).
A child in my first grade music class learns that a quarter note will be equal to one beat of sound. When they see the symbol, they must identify it by name and value: quarter note that makes one beat of sound (remembering). The student learns what a quarter rest is and learns that it is one beat of silence (remembering). (There are numerous connections and cross curricular links made within this example that we do not have time to touch: fractions, modal relationships, etc.) These notes may be performed by singing “tah” and clapping with a steady pulse. The rests are silent and the hands are spread apart to represent the beat (understanding). Students are challenged with combinations of notes and rests that they perform from the board (applying). They are then asked if they were successful in singing/clapping the symbols correctly (analyzing). Patterns are compared and students note if some are more difficult than others and if they prefer one over the other, giving their reasoning (evaluating). Students are allowed to create their own patterns and have the class perform them (creating). The composer will then decide if the performer performed their composition as they intended (analysis, evaluation).
This is the natural process of learning music. New information is added, the process repeated, experiences merged and their musicianship grows. As a musician, I am happy to use music to teach. As a trained, professional educator, more than seeing children learning music, I see children learning how to learn. Through the natural application of the arts, this human being is learning how to think in a complete way. They are experiencing their potential to become a productive citizen which is what public education was originally about. Is this what we intend public education to be about today?
This process of moving through all the stages of learning can transfer to other parts of their life and may help them to grow into healthy people. The arts bring the other subjects into what recent educational trends calls “Quadrant D” — real life, sometimes unpredictable applications of learning. So what is Quadrant D really? I say it should be one of the most important goals of education and is likely a key missing ingredient whenever a decline of quality is observed.
The arts are an innate, instinctive way of viewing the world and expressing our views of the world. By their nature, they invite us to think, feel and become — they are a natural way to learn. It is how research says we should be taught next.