Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Engaging Auditory Modalities through the Use of Music in Information Literacy Instruction

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Engaging Auditory Modalities through the Use of Music in Information Literacy Instruction

Article excerpt

The human body is composed of multiple sensory modalities, and each of them engages a different part of the brain when stimulated. A common assumption of learning theory is that individuals prefer some sensory paths over others for learning, hence the distinction between kinesthetic, verbal, visual, and aural learners. (1) Multiple intelligences and learning style theory suggest that teachers engage the widest variety of learners in the classroom by offering differentiated instruction using multiple sensory cues. Research also suggests that all learners benefit from multiple sensory stimuli in learning regardless of their learning preferences because the brain operates at its best in complex environments. We know the brain is "designed" to process many inputs at once--in fact, it actually prefers it so much, a slower linear pace actually reduces understanding. (2) Thus a differentiated learning environment that activates multiple sensory paths not only accommodates the particular learning preferences of individuals, it also enhances learning for everyone.

Aural learners prefer learning through hearing. They are particularly receptive to auditory stimuli that involve tone, rhythm, and pitch. Recommendations for providing aural stimuli in the classroom often have been confined to using music as a memorization device (singing the alphabet, for example) or playing background music to enhance the general learning environment. This article will suggest more meaningful ways to use music to teach information literacy (IL) skills and demonstrate that incorporating music is an excellent means for adding interest, variability, and inquiry learning into IL instruction.


Because of the constraints on information professionals' access to learners, IL instruction often occurs in brief, standalone sessions, sometimes called "one-shots" in the literature. (3) The one-shot instructional session is a convenient format conducive to the thinly stretched schedules of professors, librarians, and students; however, it has several drawbacks. Incorporating music into IL instruction may ameliorate some of those drawbacks by providing a creative and efficient means for stimulating an additional sensory path to engage the brain in learning.

The first drawback of the one-shot session is time. The traditional fifty to seventy-five minutes allotted for instruction is hardly conducive to achieving complex IL learning outcomes. Kenny calls the one-shot a "trailer for the full-length feature ... the ultimate goal for a one-shot ... session is to have students actively engage with the librarians and library resources to provide a glimpse into the many ways the library supports student learning." (4) Librarians often find their teaching methods constrained by time and struggle to address IL beyond the skills-building level of training. A common cultural construct, such as music, is useful in providing starting points for analogy and metaphor building, which increases conceptual learning.

While neither the instructor nor the students may have formally studied music, human beings are inherently musical. Studies have shown that rhythmic intelligence is the first of the intelligences to develop: The rhythm of the maternal heart beat and other external sounds, such as music, penetrate the womb and stimulate fetal response. (5) By the age of one, children of all cultural backgrounds engage in spontaneous singing (prior even to attaining language), and by age five they are already familiar with musical patterns and recognize when unexpected musical events occur. (6) Most students, even international students, have grown up surrounded by examples of Western music, from "Happy Birthday" to the international reach of pop music to the near-ubiquitous Christmas carols. By making connections to music, a subject with which students are already familiar, librarians help students extend their knowledge base more expediently. …

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