Malleable Mindsets: Rethinking Instructional Design in Undergraduate Music Theory
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This dissertation explores why undergraduate music theory students may not be motivated in their classes and how we can begin to improve music theory pedagogy by addressing the negative preconceptions surrounding the subject and changing student motivation. I will investigate student motivation in the core curriculum of music theory by studying students’ self-theories (that is, the mindsets that they bring to the study of the subject, which dictate whether they view a construct like intelligence or ability as being either malleable or fixed) and detailing how an instructional design specific to music theory may influence that self-theory. By drawing upon research in fields outside of music theory, such as psychology, mathematics, and video game design, I will show how our classrooms can be more motivating and engaging through the adoption of an instructional design that ultimately helps our students develop a stronger ability in music theory. I theorize that a model for improving student motivation begins with the Instructional Design for Incremental Self-Theory Adoption (IDISTA). This model introduces a new way of designing a course through different levels of focus based on a student-centered approach to teaching. By using IDISTA, teachers can design their courses in a way that encourages students to adopt a more malleable mindset as they pursue their studies in music theory. Based on my theoretical model of motivation, I propose that students will adopt a more malleable mindset that will lead to a change in motivation, and also to an increase in their music theory ability. These robust models provide an important and significant contribution to the field of music theory pedagogy by transforming the way instructors design and conceptualize their curricula. Most importantly, these models and their application in music theory pedagogy will improve the learning environment for our students and help them gain a new fluency in understanding music.