Music Cognition and Student Creativity: A Look Back at the 2017 NAfME National Conference

Music Cognition and Student Creativity: A Look Back at the 2017 NAfME National Conference

By NAfME Member Elisabeth H. DeRichmond

The original article first appeared on Elisabeth DeRichmond’s blog Musikation.

While the World Class Minds workshop did provide a basic overall background on how music can be correlated with improved cognition, I was most impressed with Dr. Aurelia Hartenberger’s emphasis on instilling and improving students’ creativity, which she explained through the individualist approach and sociocultural approach. The individualist approach, which includes Jean Piaget’s experimental cognitive psychology and Gordon Allport’s personality psychology, may be best beneficial to those outside of school, but the sociocultural approach can greatly improve K-12 music classes.

Photo Courtesy of Matt Janson Photography

Hartenberger (2017) defines the sociocultural approach as one where “groups collectively generate innovation.” It is a study of “creative people working together in social and cultural systems.” Explaining how the creative process can take place in the classroom, Hartenberger (2017) offered these eight stages:

  1. Find and formulate the problem so that it is more likely to lead to a creative solution.
  2. Acquire knowledge relevant to the problem.
  3. Gather a broad range of potentially related information.
  4. Take time off for incubation.
  5. Generate a large variety of ideas.
  6. Combine ideas in unexpected ways.
  7. Select the best ideas, applying relevant criteria.
  8. Externalize the idea using materials and representations.

One thing I appreciated in her presentation was that a process can’t be considered creativity unless it is expressed in some way.

Photo Courtesy of Matt Janson Photography

So, how does a teacher ask creativity of music students? Hartenberger offered a few examples.

In a music appreciation class, rather than just teach the students about classical music, she instructed them to develop an instrument and a composition. This is a huge ask for non-music students, but it required creativity as students worked together to learn about sounds, rhythms, instruments, and notation. In another instance, she offered asking students how can they best strategize for optimal rehearsal. The goal is giving the students autonomy to create and explain their music.

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About the author:

Elisabeth H. DeRichmond, MS, has been an inquisitive thinking since she was a preteen, with a background in psychology, Spanish, and student financial aid. A self-described perpetual learner, she embraced research as a means to combine her renewed love of music and a long ago discovered passion for psychology and education. In 2012, Elisabeth learned about an emerging field in educational psychology, music cognition. Within this field, she found she could merge her devotion to learning, her advocacy for education, and her appreciation of music into one clear entity. And 2016 brought a new adventure for Elisabeth as she delved into the field of early childhood education. It is her goal, in the coming years, to return to school to pursue a doctorate degree in either Music Cognition or Neuroscience. Learn more about Elisabeth here.

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