Researching New Approaches

Myth: Measuring musicianship is a subjective thing; not amenable to 'data-driven' instruction.
Truth:  Measuring musicianship is an objective thing; perfectly amenable to 'data-driven' instruction.

One aspect of my prior job as Learning Network Leader--Music for GEMS was conducting research. My research involves applying language learning skills to musical content & measuring the results.

I have been strongly influenced by the ideas of  Howard Gardner and Edwin E. Gordon. In A Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Gardner posits Musical Intelligence is its own distinct type of thinking. He further categorized music as a language-related discipline. A great deal of research chiefly by Gordon suggests he was largely, but not fully correct.

Thanks to Gordon's work (some of) what we now know is:
  • musical thought is unique, yet multi-dimensional (there are multiple musical intelligences!!
  • many processes involved in becoming musical are similar to language learning
The most basic truth is, music learning & language learning involve similar skills but different contents.

One of the real problems is that, whereas language teaching long ago abandoned a ‘memorize-recite’ approach in favor of more ‘brain-friendly’ and effective methods, music teaching remains largely stuck in this antiquated mode of teaching.

To try to measure the impact of my teaching and the children’s learning, I have administered standardized, norms-referenced tests to all 4th and 5th grade students prior to teaching music in this new manner. I will re-administer the same tests at the end of the year and report the results to all parties concerned.

If such an approach proves as effective as I believe it will, I want to help other interested teachers in adopting and/or adapting their teaching for the benefit of all students.



See Dubai American Academy's results here:  Learning Network Leader Research


  1. You call it 'memorize-recite.' I call it 'learn-perform.' What else is there?

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    Thank you sincerely for commenting. I love dialogue!

    I don't mean to disparage a segment of what we do as music teachers; learn this song and perform it will always be valuable. But, there is much more that, if done well makes learning & performing a much richer experience, while nullifying the need to memorize at all.

    Read on and please do ask questions about anything you find.

    Towards future collaboration,


  3. Hey Ron

    Nice post, "musical thought is unique, yet multi-dimensional (there are multiple musical intelligences!!)" Now that's something to think about. I love anything to do with the unknown, i read an article not to long ago that talked about how are thought may be more than we think. Crazy!

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