Week one

I've chosen to use a public domain license for my site and portfolio. As a music scholar, I had some interest in the copyleft movement roughly ten years ago. In that, many musicians and activists advocated for the abolition of traditional copyright, as it was a tool of marketplace consumption that fettered creativity and put restrictions on human expression. The problem, they argued, was not in people using others' materials, but that the commodification of copyright led to people being able to take financial advantage of one another's works. Now, this is a bit "pie in the sky." We're never going to be able to escape commodification and expressive works entering a marketplace, but the principal that copyright fetters creativity has stayed with me. And while I'm a believer in creative commons, I'd reserve those rights for works that are a bit more personal to me, like my songwriting (all of which I hold under creative commons licenses). For this project, public domain felt most appropriate, as I feel no sense of ownership, and I don't anticipate selling or using these works for material gain anytime soon.

Week two - Behaviorism

Overview of behaviorism

Behaviorism is a learning theory that focuses on how behavior is learned through conditioning. Behaviorists believe that learning occurs via the association of stimuli and responses, and that complex behaviors can be broken down into smaller, more manageable steps.

Behaviorism emerged in the early 20th century when Ivan Pavlov experimented conditioning dogs. By presenting dogs with neutral stimulus resulting in a desired outcome, he could condition the dogs' responses to the stimulus. 

John Watson furthered behaviorism by developing experiments in animal and children's behavior. He demonstrated that neutral stimuli could develop negative responses in children, thus demonstrating learned and conditioned behavior. 

B.F. Skinner worked on operant conditioning, which is a type of learning in which behavior is reinforced or punished, leading to an increase or decrease in that behavior.

Finally, Robert Gagne developed a systematic approach to applying behaviorism to learning contexts.

Connections to teaching and learning

Behaviorism has significantly affected teaching and learning. Behavioral teaching methods, such as positive reinforcement and shaping, are widely used in schools today. Students are often rewarded for desired behaviors with tangible rewards, such as praise or stickers, or with intangible rewards, such as social recognition or privileges. Teachers break down complex tasks into smaller, more manageable steps in order to shape behavior. Teachers then reinforce students for completing each step, which leads to the student being able to complete the entire task.

Criticisms of behaviorism

The primary criticism of behaviorism is in its focus on observable behavior and its neglect of internal mental processes such as cognition. Behaviorism does not account for complex human phenomena such as creativity, problem-solving, and motivation.

Implications of behaviorism on learning design

The single most important implication of behaviorism for learning design is focusing on observable behaviors. This makes it incredibly important to do two things: clearly define learning objectives, and scaffold/shape learning activities into manageable/measurable outcomes. These must be taken into consideration for a designer to build a learning process that is observable for instructors and manageable for students.

This also means that timely instructor feedback and reinforcement is critical. Without these, students will not experience the required conditioning to devlelop desired behaviors.

Opinions on strengths and limitations of behaviorism

I am an instructor in higher education, and the outward measurable aspects of behavorial learning theory are very appealing to me. Students also want to see their behavior shift toward more desirable outcomes, so processing material in scaffolded and manageable steps is advantageous to instructor and student. 

However, at the higher ed level, students are primarily meant to develop critical thinking skills. The focus on external behavior does not encourage students to develop such skills. More "soft" and higher order goals like reflection, processing, and summarizing difficult concepts can't rightly be taught via behaviorism. So while I can appreciate and put into use behaviorism on smaller order behaviors (focusing on classroom management and timely submission of assignments), it will not aid in higher order goals.

Devising an online learning experience driven by behaviorism

Periodically, I teach music theory courses. I can imagine approaching activities in such a course using a behavioral learning theory to be valuable. For instance, in learning key signatures, I could design an activity in which familiar melodies are notated on a musical staff, but in order for the melody to be performed correctly, the student would need to choose the correct key signature. If they didn't, then the melody would be performed with incorrect notes. This would inevitably lead students to learn  the correct key signature so that they'd hear the melody perform correctly. It might also be a bit fun and potentially humorous. 

Week three - Cognitivism

Cognitivism focuses on the study of mental processes--like attention, memory, and problem-solving--in learning. Cognitivists believe learning is an active process in which learners construct their own knowledge and understanding.

Cognitivism reacted to and rejected behaviorism, which focused on the study of observable behavior. Cognitivists argued that behaviorism could not explain all aspects of learning, such as how people learn complex concepts and skills.

Some key researchers in cognitivism include:

Cognitivist principles have been used to develop a variety of teaching methods and strategies, such as iInquiry-based learning and problem-based learning which emphasize student exploration and discovery. The social emphasis of cognitivism has led to developments in cooperative learning which emphasizes social interaction in learning. And finally, differentiated instruction tailors instruction to the individual needs of students, and is again based on students' different learning styles, abilities, and interests.

Cognitivism and learning design

One of the most important implications of cognitivism on learning design is developing design that supports active learning. Learners should be given opportunities to explore, discover, and construct knowledge for themselves. Instructional designers can support this by developing activities based on inquiry-based, problem-based, and cooperative learning.

Learning designers must consider students' social and cultural contexts, and prior knowledge and learning experiences in design. Instructional designers must take stock of students' prior knowledge and experiences, and then design instruction that builds on that. Pre-assessments, interviews, surveys, and defined pre-requisites can aid instructional designers in doing such.

Finally, and perhaps more importantly, instructional designers must consider cognitive load in developing courses and learning activities. In order to accommodate cognitive load, instructional designers must consider scaffolding, pacing, and motivation in moving students forward deliberately, yet effectively.

Strengths/weaknesses of cognitivism

While cognitivism is more appealing to me than behaviorism on a number of levels, I view its application as potentially more difficult, particularly in learning design. To begin, cognitivism is more appealing because it is student-centered, and focuses on discovery-based learning that centers each individual's capacity, ability, aptitude, and willingness to learn. Given my experience as an instructor, this is a very important consideration, particularly in situations of compulsory education. An emphasis on socially-based learning that emphasizes cooperation also provides real-world applications that can emphasize the importance of content to students. However, being able to design activities that can tailor to students' individual loads and aptitudes can be incredibly challenging. When educating in contexts of over a few students, how can we effectivly manage cognitive load without moving too quickly/too slowly for certain students? I love cognitivism in theory, but have concerns about its use in practice.

Evaluation of learning material from a cognitivist perspective

I am a guitarist, so I frequently find myself searching for instructional material to learn techniques or approaches to playing my instrument. I thought immediately of pieces like this: https://www.guitarworld.com/lessons/sweep-picking-how-to-get-started in reading the instructions for this assignment.

This piece teaches guitarists how to use a specific picking technique: sweep-picking. This is a technique that develops a player's speed and musical imagination by emphasizing efficient right-hand technique (sweeping through strings instead of picking them alternately) with complex left-hand patterns. 

This piece does work with cognitive load by scaffolding the steps needed to master this technique. By beginning with small gestures to teach the feel of the technique in the player's picking hand before moving on to increasingly complex patterns, the material works with what a player can handle and master, and does not dictate a pace at working through each figure. The piece also addresses cognitive load by simplifying some parameters of guitar performance (like tone and various amplifier settings) and making reference to other guitarists who use the technique so that a learner can focus solely on technique without worrying about external factors such as guitar sound and applicability of the technique. 

However, there is a high barrier to entry to learn this technique as the instructional method assumes familiarity with some forms of musical notation (guitar tablature), music theory, and wide-ranging musical references. It was published in Guitar World magazine, so it would likely only be approached by someone with a solid base of knowledge of guitar performance, but it could be overwhelming to those whose performative and social conditions wouldn't support learning 

Week four - Constructivism

Constructivism emphasizes a learner's role in constructing their own knowledge and understanding. According to constructivism, learners are not passive vessels to be filled with information, but rather, they are active participants in the learning process who negotiate their world to construct their own knowledge.

Like cognitivism, constructivism emerged in the early 20th century as a reaction to behaviorism. Though very similar to cognitivism, and sharing many innovators and innovations, constructivism places greater emphasis on social circles and engagement, rather than internal processes of cognition.

Constructivism is, like cognitivism, based largely on the work of Lev Vygotsky and Jerome Bruner. The concepts articulated by each of these researchers are zone of proximal development and scaffolding, respectively. Both ideas emphasize social interactions in learning. Zone of proximal development (ZPD) places particular emphasis on the networks of individuals who encourage and help develop an individual's learning by imparting knowledge and helping learners to construct their own knowledge. Scaffolding, in a related manner, gives learners the opportunity to develop their knowledge through successive activities that gradually removes aids and support so that the learner can gradually work more independently, developing their knowledge.

Lastly, instructional design researcher Thomas Keller's ARCS model allows application for constructivism by emphasizing motivation, which is critical to constructivism. If a learner is not motivated, they won't engage content, teaching, or their own faculties to construct knowledge. 

Constructivism and learning design

Constructivism allows for and encourages differentiatied and cooperative learning approaches that emphasize engagement and motivation. These include anchored learning, reciprocal teaching, cooperative learning, and situated learning. Each of these approaches have in common the principal that people learn best when placed in environments where their learning is recursive, authentic, and engaged. In this, students are engaging "real-world" situations (replicated real world situations) that encourages them to place their knowledge and experience in interaction with other people, other content, or lived situations.

Constructivism strengths/weaknesses

Like cognitivism, I'm quite drawn to constructivism. It is student-centered, which aligns with my philosophy of teaching. It meets students where they are and uses their experiences as assets and springboards for learning. It allows for students to immediately put what their learning into practice and to engage others with their work. On the negative side, it strikes me that it would be quite difficult to create measurable assessments in this model, which could frustrate students who may not see their progress reflected. Consistent feedback would encourage more growth, but might be read as overly critical. Perhaps most strikingly, though, the role of instructor and learning designer under construcivism seems to move to coaching as opposed to teaching. Discovery-based learning seems to deemphasize content expertise, which, to my mind, makes motivation more difficult at a moment when it's more critical.

Devising an online learning activity drive by constructivism

While I've never taught a course in jazz improvisation, it is in my skill set to do so, and thinking about how I might do it, a constructivist approach seems to be appropriate. I'd like to encourage students' motivation from the start by demonstrating the musical and expressive possibilities of a deep engagement with improvisation by beginning a course with a series of listening exercises. I'd begin with asking students to listen to a series of recorded jazz solos, while transcribing engaging sections, and writing a short reflective piece on what each of the solos might spark in them. I'd then ask them to work in peer groups to exchange and discuss ideas on the solos. What gestures do they hear? Are performers using specific scales or techniques? I'd then ask students to practice such gestures on their respective instruments before returning to groups to perform together. In this, the scaffolded activities would allow students the opportunities to master each skill required at their own pace and motivation before asking them to replicate the gesture. And the zone of proximal development would remain among peers who could encourage greater use of the acquired skills while also prodding each other to develop such skills in new and expressive ways.

Week five - Connectivism

Connectivism emphasizes the importance of networks and connections in the learning process. In this, learning is not simply about acquiring knowledge, but also about developing the ability to learn and adapt in a rapidly changing world, and it is thus closely related to constructivism.

George Siemens and Stephen Downes introduced connectivism as a learning theory in 2004 as a response to the increasing importance of technology in learning. They argued that traditional learning theories, such as behaviorism and cognitivism, were not adequate for understanding how people learn in an increasingly digital age.

Two key principles involved in connectivism are digital literacy and personal learning networks. The former refers to the ability of digital users to discern and navigate digital resources in order to evaluate their trustworthiness, and to communicate effectively and authoritatively with others. The latter principle, personal learning networks, refers to the curated and culled networks a person builds via their use of social media and other related resources that support their learning and information. 

Connections to teaching and learning

Connectivism has a number of implications for teaching and learning. One of the most important implications is that teachers need to help students develop the ability to learn and adapt in a rapidly changing world. This means teaching students how to identify, evaluate, and synthesize information from a variety of sources. It also means teaching students how to collaborate with others and to learn from each other.

Another important implication of connectivism is that teachers need to create learning environments that are connected to the real world. This means providing students with opportunities to learn from experts in the field by curating personal learning networks and to apply what they are learning to real-world problems.

Strengths/limitations of connectivism

Teaching approaches linked to connectivism, particularly given the increasing prevalence of online and hybrid learning environments. When instructors are not necessarily in-person authorities, it opens opportunities for students to engage with other potential experts and authorities, which increases their sphere of education. However, without proper digital literacy training, it could be very difficult for students to cultivate a responsible and efficacious personal learning network. Social media tools can be very helpful, but must be vetted and traced back to sources. 

Connectivist teaching approaches and learning design can also respond more immediately and effectively to changes in a field by incorporating resources that reflect new research or changing practices. But the perpetual "present" of all sources in such a learning environment might also lead to a decontextualization of research and historical approaches to a field or body of information.

Reflecting on PLN

I had been a regular follower/participant in the informal network "Musicology Twitter" over the past ten years. In recent developments around X, many of the musicologists connected to this network migrated to Blue Sky Social. I've found myself also making such a move. The network has been critical in keeping me informed on latest developments in the field, as without access to the latest journals and reviews, and being siloed in the departments where I teach, I don't have the intellectual community that supported such learning in, say, graduate school. It has also opened discussions on topics and sharing of ideas related to resources and topics that sit outside of academic resources. For instance, discussions about representation in opera, particularly the Metropolitan Opera, appeared in the New York Times, and Musicology Twitter generated a number of discussions and comments that I was able to both learn from, but also screenshot to allow my students to read.

Week six - Andragogy

Developed by Malcolm Knowles in the 1960s, and solidified in his 1968 book, The Adult Learner, andragogy distinguishes between the learning processes of adults and the traditional instructional processes geared toward children (pedagogy). By the early 1980s, andragogy became a widely popular learning theory, reflected in the outgrowth of adult education in the US and elsewhere. 

Andragogy builds on five key assumptions and identifies specific characteristics of adult learners. These include

Implications for learning design

The implications of andragogy for learning design, then, are significant. Andragogy suggests that adult learners should be involved in the planning and implementation of their own learning, that their prior experience should be valued and incorporated into the learning process, and that the learning should be relevant to their personal or professional lives.

Based on the six principles of andragogic learning desion, instructional designers and teachers need to: 

Strengths/limitations of andragogy

It strikes me as a bit difficult to discuss andragogy in terms of strengths and weaknesses. It is wholly different from other learning theories we've studied because its focus is not necessarily on how learning occurs universally, but among a subset of learners. As such, its evaluation needs to be taken differently. It would seem apparent that given life experience, adults act less as tabulas rasa in education, but their lived experiences need to be negotiated.

With this being said, the strengths of andragogy to me lie in its student-centeredness. Each learning theory we've studied has become increasingly student-centered to the point where we've now stepped beyond understanding the learner as a subjective participant to now understanding the relationship between teacher and learner as entirely intersubjective. That's positive as it ends up being entirely tailored toward a student's learning style, desire and motivation to learn.

The major limitation of andragogy as I see it is the near disregard of teacher as expert beyond related to concept. There's a continuum to consider in which learning can be self-directed to the point at which the learner determines what is valid information. While I'm a firm believer in intersubjective and relational education, there still must be a point at which even adult learners are held to standards that are quasi-universal in order to assess and evaluate their knowledge and critical abilities. 

Assessing past learning experiences

In addition to being a university music instructor, I am also an adult educator, working with students at Luzerne County Community College in northeastern Pennsylvania, so my experience with adult students is deep. As an adult student, however, I'm thinking of a formal experience I had when I began teaching online at Boston College. Having already taught in the music department for eight years, I was asked in 2019 to convert one of my courses to a summer, asynchronous course for the summer of 2020 (which was fortuitous given the coming pandemic). I was eager to do the task, but was extraordinarily resistant to do any training to convert my course. My graduate assistantship funding my dissertation research was in learning design (my title was Assistant in Learning Technology) and I was both an early adopter and consultant for the music department in instructional design. I felt insulted that I would have to study in a required course on top of my usual work. My motivation for learning was near zero. 

However, the instructor of the course, being quite well versed in andragogic theory, worked with me to show how this course could benefit me not only in teaching this singular course, but as a teacher in general. I'm glad he did so. It increased my motivation and reflected how it could reinforce both my self concept while also drawing on my already considerable teaching experience. The course ended up being a watershed in terms of my teaching, and is probably the reason I'm working through the UMGC program now. It provided a foundation for my course design--even in f2f settings--and was the most important professional development I've ever done. I became incredibly involved in our professional development and instructional design programs at BC after that, even having been accepted as a faculty fellow in instructional technology that I unfortunately had to turn down because my family moved from Boston to Pennsylvania. 

Informally, I think often about the continued work I do as a musician, learning from others and building my skills via desire to improve as a guitarist and improviser. 

Influence of a principle of andragogy

As I'm already a student-centered instructor, each of the principles of andragogy appeal to me. However, I'd say that drawing on a learner's lived experience in order to build real-world examples that appeal to them is particularly informative to me. Even today, I taught a GED math class for adults in which I demonstrated to my students how the, in fact, use algebra each day of their lives even though they don't necessarily realize it. I gave them an example of having a budget of $50 for groceries, and wondering how much they could buy for it, setting up a related mathematical expression. Upon doing so, the buy-in from students is/was considerable, and I'd have to say that as a designer, I would continue to build on this technique and strategy, emphasizing this principle.

Week seven - Assessment and learning models

In the spring semester of 2021, I experimented, for the first time, with contract and labor-based assessment models for my course on The Beatles at Boston College. In this, I attempted to gear assessment more toward experiential and authentic assessment, while also build on students' experiences and musical backgrounds, rather than imposing universal, one-size-fits-all standards to the course. The experiment was moderately successful, though there were many bumps as both the students and I didn't quite know how to negotiate some aspects of it. So for this assignment, I'm going to reimagine one aspect of assessment through the studied learning models. 

One of the learning tasks in that course was to familiarize students with the Beatles' catalog. I did this mainly via listening quizzes that were at first done in person in a "drop-the-needle" timed fashion. I then moved them to an online module, where students worked open book in Canvas at their own pace. I think for a future design, I'd break the task into more variegated assessment models, drawing on a gamified learning model.

To begin, rather than standard quizzes, I'd offer students quizzes in a gaming format in which mastery of each module of the course would allow them to progress to the next level of "Beatlemaniac." Each level of mastery would be demonstrated by knowing the titles of songs, the contexts of albums' production, and/or aspects of music theory regarding each song. The quiz would be along the lines of quizizz.com and their gamified quizzes. Until students mastered a level, however, they couldn't progress. If they complete all five levels (with these acting as formative assessment) they would become a certified Beatlemaniac and would be allowed to progressive to the "final boss," a cumulative assessment in which they, along with their classmates, would design a quiz for me to take that would try to stump me, perhaps even in a challenge round in which one of the students wouldn't help design the quiz, but would be my challenger. This would draw on all of the listening skills and repertory they would have accumulated and built upon throughout the semester.

In terms of authentic assessment, I always have and would continue to offer students with an interest in music journalism or academia to write reviews and/or critical essays for publishing (some real, some imagined) outlets. That would continue for the students with different career goals and/or considerations.

Week eight - Signature assignment and mini-course

Identify an issue or knowledge gap

I had begun working on an instructional design document in IDT200x, which I enrolled in prior to taking this course. After realizing I'd put the cart before the horse, so to speak, I switched sessions for that class and waited to take IDT100x before refining it. During the short time I worked in IDT200x, I identified that I wanted to work on my popular music history teaching, and after working through this course, I'm going to stick with that topic. Specifically, the issue or knowledge gap I'd like to address is writing about music. Students demonstrate more trepidation writing about music than just about any other subject I've witnessed. The prospect of writing about an ephemeral, temporal art form is daunting enough without also having the spectre of feeling like their vocabulary or knowledge set is limited because of gatekeeping in music scholarship, journalism, and discourse. I'd like my minicourse to address this. 

My target audience

Though I've identified this problem as endemic among the student population with whom I work, I'd like to make my mini-course available for the general public, perhaps similar to what's being done on EdX. I think it's a course that might benefit a cross section of people, and would be both educational and potentially just fun, to improve writing skills in general. 

Learning theories

Given the nature of my topic, I'd consider that some of the more sophisticated learning theories we've studied would work best with my course. Specifically, I think that building instruction on constructivist and connectivist learning theories would work best. Writing is best learned and improved in communal and social settings. Writing is best done alone, but best improved with others. For that reason, I would insist my students open themselves to critiques of peers, and networks of others they'd trust to offer suggestions to improve their writing. Social interactions and proximal zones would be the classroom community design, with students learning from one another and from available resources online. 

Strengths/Limitations of various learning theories on this subject

Behaviorism - Frankly, I don't see much applicability of behaviorism to this topic. Students will not really be responding to stimuli, and there's not much I can do to condition them to the subject. Perhaps there are some activities regarding the more lower-order skills of writing, regarding grammar, mechanics, and editing to which a behaviorist approach might apply, but that won't be the focus of this minicourse. 

Cognitivism - The internal negotation that leads to learning which is at the heart of cognitivism would work in this course. I could design activities that would allow students to develop their own skills by writing to particular prompts, and judging their ability to do so by offering them rubrics to set standards for their work. 

Constructivism - As noted above, this is the learning theory that would perhaps guide my planning most. The social interaction and zones of proximal development resulting from application of constructivism would be critical to the workshop model of this course. Students would need to feel comfortable exchanging criticism and feedback openly, and we would need to develop a clear sense of trust in the classroom community to embrace such activities.

Connectivism - Again, as noted above, this would be a guided learning theory for me. As most writing about music happens for online outlets, and is adapted to a variety of platforms, students would necessarily need to connect to develop their skills. They'd be able to interact with some of the best music-writing and music writers online. Though the big limitation here would be the temptation to simply use AI platforms like ChatGPT and Bard. The power of such tools is immense and can be harnessed to develop writing skills, and so I'd attempt to embrace them while emphasizing that the texts generated by such tools should not be an end result. 

Andragogy - Students engaging in my course would necessarily be self-motivated, given the plan for platform. This is not a course that anyone would be compelled to take, so I'd have to take the principles of andragogy into consideration in thinking about allowing for real-world applications and developing internal motivation.

Other thoughts on design and assessment

This mincourse would be designed to run asynchronously and remotely, but with a tight schedule for deadlines in order to give students adequate time to assess each others' work, and to allow me adequate time for assessment. As noted above, early formative assessment would focus on short, guided prompts that would allow for self-assessment against rubrics, but as the course developed, students would engage in broader workshop formats, perhaps even one or two running synchronously on Zoom. I might even encourage students to put together small collection of music essays that they'd edit together, though that's likely beyond the scope of a minicourse. My summative assessment would be a piece of music journalism or criticism designed as if for a published outlet.