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Musical Thinking: A Multi-Dimensional Model and Taxonomy

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As a part of societies worldwide, music is a universal feature of human culture. Regardless of genre or style, people enjoy wonderful musical performances as moving, emotional, and memorable experiences. While music is remarkably entertaining in this context, audiences often overlook the related cognitive value. This presentation explores and combines that element in a holistic model of Musical Thinking as the psychomotor, affective, and cognitive engagement with musical experiences. Based on a forthcoming book publication, this holistic approach to musical thinking represents a new direction in music education. By reframing music teaching and learning in terms that reflect the multi-dimensional and inherently meaningful nature of music, this approach describes the creative and responsive processes that occur preceding, during, and following musical experiences. The resultant model and taxonomy for musical thinking offers teachers and students a theoretical framework with practical applications. This presentation includes an examination of established and emergent research on student engagement and interdisciplinary arts education as practical examples of the model in action. By embracing musical thinking as an amalgamation of knowing, doing, and feeling, this model articulates and enhances meaningful, multi-modal musical experiences with practical suggestions for memorable and effective music teaching and learning.


Daniel Johnson is an international authority on music education pedagogy and a Fulbright Scholar with over twenty-five years of teaching experience spanning the PK - university gamut. He has presented teacher education seminars and workshops through the world, focusing on classroom music instruction, music listening, and integrated arts education. Also recognized as a Medici Scholar, he has received multiple nominations for the prestigious UNCW Faculty Research Award along with numerous grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Science Foundation, the College Music Society, the North Carolina Arts Council, the American Orff-Schulwerk Association, and Partners of the Americas. A graduate of the New England Conservatory and the University of Arizona, Dr Johnson has published in numerous eminent journals including The Journal of Research in Music Education, The Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, The International Journal of Music Education, and Arts Education Policy Review. His most recent book chapters appear in The Oxford Handbook of Assessment Policy and Practice in Music Education, Applying Model Cornerstone Assessments in K–12 Music, and The Handbook of Listening. The sixth edition of his latest textbook, Musical Explorations: Fundamentals Through Experience, is published by Kendall-Hunt.

This talk is part of the Arts and Creativities Research Group series.

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