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Project Based Learning in the Music Classroom.

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Keywords: Project Based Learning in the Music Classroom
Subject(s): Technology, Music, Science, History
Grades 9 through 12
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: Burr and Burton Academy, Manchester, VT
Planned By: Neil Freebern
Original Author: Neil Freebern, Manchester
To have the freedom to guide your own learning into areas that are of interest to you is empowering and a privilege. In order to ensure success a few guidelines are being offered to assist you.

1. The project must be an extension of your work in Electronic Music thus far.
2. The project must involve a degree of research to push your knowledge of the subject
3. Documentation of all research should occur.
3. Journal your work often, sharing what you have been doing in pursuit of learning the concept of study. Document the Process!
4. A creative representation of your work will be presented to your peers as the conclusion of the time allotted for the project. Details can be found in the Assessment link.
5. Projects must be submitted by a proposal for approval. See proposal link.


1. Brainstorm
Write down any aspect of electronic music that intrigues you.
What do you want to know more about?
What topic will inspire you to engage in creative research?
Does the topic allow you to be creative using the tools that have been provided?

2. Narrow down the topic
What are all the components that would need to be learned in order to master the topic?
If you are unsure of all the components, do you think you can find more information to help you find depth for your study?
Are there enough questions about the topic that need to be solved or do you already know enough about the subject?
Is there a history to your subject that can help your study? Who has done this? What have they done with it? Has it ever been done before?

3. Complete the proposal form and submit for approval. If you think that your subject of study is unique enough and you have the opportunity to learn new information, then fill out the proposal. Be a specific as you can. Submitting Project for Approval


Understanding that 'you do not know what you do not know,' please fill out this form as specifically as possible. As you engage in your research, feel free to revise the "process" as needed. You will refer to this process each class period. It will guide your learning and will provide the structure to your daily reflections.
You may find that your topic may shift as you dive deeper into the process. That is fine, but please be sure to meet with your instructor if you have a major shift in your planning.
Project Title
Write the name of your project.

Project Description
This should be a detailed description of what your project will be. What is the problem you are trying to solve? What concept are you going to be researching?

Project Rationale
Why did you choose this particular topic? What will be the ultimate benefit to mastering this concept/topic? How will you expand upon the concept for yourself and others?

Components for Mastery
What are all the aspects of the topic that you will need to explore in order to become a master of the subject of study? Consider historical connections, techniques or skills required, connections to prior learning, etc. (You may add to this later as you learn more about the topic)

Have you found some initial information on your topic?
What resources are you planning to use to extend your knowledge of the subject?

Outline of Process (Critical component of plan)
What will be studied and in what order?
How will your record your research and work?
What is the estimated timeline for each part of your plan?

Creative Work and Presentation
What will be the application of your research? How will you demonstrate your understanding of the concept? How will you use the information? How will you share this with others?

What specifically will make your project a success, both to you and to others?


Once you have your outline of the process completed, copy it to a wiki page that can function as your journal. Take notes, put your research findings here and check it daily. It is important to monitor your process carefully.

Copy these questions to your wiki portfolio.

Prior to sharing your final presentation, take a moment to answer these questions in your portfolio:
Did you change your topic during this process?

Were you able to find information on your topic that was helpful to your understanding of the subject?

Where you able to stretch yourself to learn more on the topic or did you find that you relied only on what you already knew on the topic? Be specific.

In what way have you grown intellectually as a result of this project?

How would you approach the process differently if you had another opportunity to learn in this manner?

What was the greatest benefit of your learning experience?


This will take some creative thought and preparation.

You may find that some projects may not have been completed. If this happened to you, our hope is that you identify some areas that will need improvement. I.E., time management, willingness to put in extra time, not understanding the difficulty etc. Be specific in your presentation and self reflection. Most likely you will still have a great deal to share with the class... works in progress can be shown. Assessments will reflect accordingly.
Remember, project based learning is all about the process.

Your presentation should first be focused on how you arrived at your final product.
What steps did you take?
What research did you engage in?
What challenges did you have?
What did you learn?
Where you stretched in your learning?
What concepts became the most important for you to understand?

Secondly, you should have some creative presentation prepared with some type of representation of your learning.
Audio Examples
Pre Recorded Audio Files
Live Software Generated Audio
Visual Aids
Slide Presentations
Movie Files
Screen Shots
Software Projections
Mechanical Devices
Fine Art

Sequence your live presentation carefully and be sure to have a record of your work in your portfolio.

A rubic has been created to assess each section of this project. It can be found at:

overaching philosophy is a focus on the "Process" of acquiring knowledge. Through this process each student will develop a final artifact of their learning and will share both the process and the artifact with the class. All work is documented in a student web portfolio and can be easily monitored by the instructor.

Examples of projects that were selected as an extension of our music technology curriculum:

1. The effect of music on the brain. Student studied the role of sound on brain activity, then composed four different songs, using finale software, to elicit a specific response. The student then tested his results on the class during his final presentation.

2. As a result of the study of electronic music history, one student chose to build a "Singing Arc." He spent a significant portion of his time researching how to read electrical schematics, learning the function of each component, then built a small version with the assistance of an electrical engineer.

3. One student chose to investigate the art of Remixing music. He studied Logic software, researched past practice then created a tutorial for the class on how best to remix songs.

All projects are then transfered to a class archive so that students in future classes can build off the knowledge of those that came before them.

Feel free to visit our web page the outlines the process in further detail.

Archiving the process is critical to the success of Project Based Instruction. Access to digital cameras would assist the process as well as access to computers. Many students composed music so access to additional sound libraries would be benifitial.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
This type of learning can cross into many disciplines.
It is important to archive the projects to serve as models for future students.
Links: BBA Music Web Page
Materials: Flip Video, Point and Shoot, Short Throw Projectors, Projector Screens, Digital Voice Recorders, MP3 Players, Microphones, PA Systems, Headsets, Large Pro Monitors, Flash/USB Drives, Pro Composition, Sound Libraries, Midi Instruments, Hardware Devices