Cooperative Learning: Where is its Place in the Music Classroom?

July 1, 1992 / By: Anabel Christiansen

Cooperative learning is a method of instruction that has long been incorporated into the general classroom. I identified the currently popular methodologies of cooperative learning and investigated the possibility of using them in the music classroom. After researching the methods of David and Roger Johnson, Robert Slavin, Elizabeth Cohen, Spencer Kagan, and Shlomo Sharan, I am convinced that cooperative learning, when used carefully and appropriately, does have a valid place in the music classroom. Knowledge of goal structures (competitive, individualistic, and cooperative) as well as elements of instruction insures the most appropriate choice of lesson structure for each objective taught.

Outcomes of cooperative learning instruction include: (1) Positive social interactions; (2) Academic achievement; (3) Development of social skills; (4) Positive self-esteem; (5) Active participation; and (6) Development of cognitive skills. These are desirable outcomes in music classrooms as well as any other curricular subject.

In this project, five broad areas were identified for study: (1) Musical language; (2) Musical skills; (3) Music instruments, composers, history, and multi-cultural music; (4) Musical games; and (5) Music appreciation. Using Lesson Plans for Cooperative Learning (Alberts, Caldwell, & Schmidt, 1990) as a guide, a lesson was developed in this study from each of the music objectives areas to be presented in a cooperative learning style. In exploring possibilities for each lesson plan structure, the value of Orff Schulwerk, Kodály, and Dalcroze methodologies was considered.

In conclusion, it would appear that cooperative learning is a valuable teaching strategy to be used in a music classroom. It can enhance music instruction by meeting many learning style needs of students. The cooperative skills learned in this manner will help to effectively teach music objectives while music helps to promote cooperation and interaction among students.