Conway, Colleen M., and Thomas M. Hodgman. Teaching Music in Higher Education

By Sweet, Bridget | Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, October 2011 | Go to article overview

Conway, Colleen M., and Thomas M. Hodgman. Teaching Music in Higher Education


Sweet, Bridget, Journal of Historical Research in Music Education


Conway, Colleen M., and Thomas M. Hodgman. Teaching Music in Higher Education. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. xii + 244 pp. Index, softcover. ISBN 978-0-19536-935-9, $29.95

Teaching Music in Higher Education is designed for a wide audience that includes graduate students, new music faculty teaching undergraduate courses to music majors, and others at colleges and universities in the United States. The authors, Colleen Conway and Thomas Hodgman, have extensive college teaching experience and developed this book in response to the lack of research and writing focused on the teaching and learning of music within higher education. Conway and Hodgman provide a research base for their book by referencing work from the field of education in general and utilize opinions and commentary from respected professionals within music.

Teaching Music in Higher Education is composed of three parts, each intended to address a specific cluster of educational topics. Special attention is paid to curricular matters that meet National Association of School of Music requirements. Ultimately, this book is designed to be practical and user-friendly, supplying suggestions, resources, and ideas for immediate implementation. One of its strengths is the inclusion of real-world vignettes from new professors and both graduate and undergraduate music students. The vignettes nicely supplement the practical and methodological discussions. Readers will identify with the stories and comments and, as a result, may feel that their feelings of unease or trepidation about teaching college music courses have been validated.

Throughout the book, the authors advocate for learner-centered teaching, regardless of whether the setting is an academic music course or applied lesson. To Conway and Hodgman, good music teaching does not follow a linear model and is not a simple transfer of information from teacher to student. "Good teaching involves an interaction between teaching and learning. It requires awareness that students must construct their own understanding of the content and that merely 'telling' students does not constitute teaching" (p. 4). Strategies for developing a learner-centered teaching practice are either directly woven into discussions or implied through management of the point at hand.

In step with their focus on a learner-centered approach, Conway and Hodgman establish the reader as a learner from the beginning. Chapter 1 encourages readers to reflect on their own "autobiography as a learner" (p. 2) and to focus on personal learning experiences influential in the formation of their academic identity. The first two parts of the book, "Course Planning and Preparation" (chapters 1 through 4) and "Issues in Teaching and Learning" (chapters 5 through 9) are designed to assist graduate students or new music professors in the successful planning, preparation, and execution of music courses. Topics addressed within these two parts include designing an undergraduate music course, assessment and grading, understanding college students' learning processes, syllabus construction, learning environments, and instructional strategies.

To assist readers in sustaining an interactive, learner-centered teaching practice, Conway and Hodgman supply numerous ideas and materials, including samples of course descriptions and content statements, strategies for choosing a textbook, considerations for designing a curriculum, models for structuring syllabi, assessment methods, as well as discussions of power, identity, planning, teaching, and strategies for leading meaningful, learner-centered discussions. They suggest additional resources for further investigation on various topics. "Questions for Discussion and Suggested Activities," provided at the end of each chapter, propose supplementary ways for readers to develop a deeper understanding of the topics presented throughout the text's first two parts.

Chapter 3 ("Understanding the Learners") is especially poignant , with a more personal feel than the other chapters. …

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