Summer 2023 - EDUC 478 E100

Designs for Learning: Music (4)

Class Number: 4904

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    May 8 – Aug 4, 2023: Tue, 5:30–9:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    EDUC 401/402 or corequisite EDUC 403.



Designed for in-service and pre-service teachers who would like to acquire the skills that will allow them to teach music competently and creatively. They will learn basic conducting techniques, design their own curriculums and have an opportunity to prepare and teach their own lesson plans. Previous musical experience is welcome, but not required.


This course is about finding the means and motivation for lifelong active music learning and music making. It specifically aims to help those who would like to learn to play a musical instrument and use their developing competence and insights in guiding their own students or communities toward lifelong learning and “sustainable” active music making.

Previous musical experience is welcome, but none is required. Rank rookies welcome! Desire to learn is crucial; we will work on motivation and know-how.

Students will need to bring a stringed instrument (buy, rent, or borrow). The instructor is available even before the start of classes to guide you in your selection. Just send an email.

This semester, we will attempt to utilize the small-ensemble format employed by vernacular music (regional, folk, jazz, and popular music programs in America) and ethnomusicology departments. (For a definition of “vernacular music,” as opposed to cultivated or Art Music, see the end of this section.)

We will look at the histories, evolving cultural contexts, and performance styles and techniques of fretted stringed instruments including, but not limited to, the guitar, mandolin, ukulele, and bass guitar. Banjo, bouzouki, fretted dulcimer, oud, lute, balalaika, saz, baglama, rabab, and other fretted plucked stringed instruments are also welcome, and we may also explore their histories and techniques.

Student-teachers will quickly be able to pick up the basics of practical music theory and instrumental performance techniques, while also exploring the various formal and popular resources for music learning now exploding on the digital horizon, which make our age perhaps the best time in human history for all to learn and actively participate in music making.

Student-teachers may then work on their own lesson plans and curricula integrating the online resources they have discovered and started using. The emphasis will be on researching and devising alternative approaches to music education that utilize vernacular and popular musics, foster appreciation of diverse musics and cultures, and explore the emergent promises of the digital universe. We will be shaping innovative models or “designs for learning” that can make humans stick to music making, lifelong.

In addition to the small-ensemble format (which will partly depend on enrolment, available space etc.) another approach we will use (one which was helpful in the instructor’s own learning journey) is music composition or songwriting and informal transcription, utilizing just the basic understandings you are forming this semester. Each week, each student should try to make up a piece of music or part of a song based on one or more of many possible approaches: rhythmic (groove, riff); melodic; harmonic (chord progression); lyrical etc. Each student will develop four of these pieces into a more satisfactory shape over the semester.


“Western culture has tended to divide musical practices into two very broad fields, the vernacular and the cultivated. Vernacular refers to everyday, informal musical practices located outside the official arena of high culture—the conservatory, the concert hall, and the high church. The field of vernacular music is often further subdivided into the domains of folk music (orally transmitted and community based) and popular music (mediated for a mass audience). Cultivated music, often referred to as classical or art music, is associated with formal training and written composition. The boundaries between so-called folk, popular, and classical music are becoming increasingly blurred as we enter the 21st century, due to the pervasive effects of mass media that have made music of all American ethnic/racial groups, classes, and regions available to everyone.”—Allen, Cohen et al. in Music: Its Language, History, and Culture. Brooklyn College, New York: 2006.


At course completion, students should have acquired:

An appreciation for the histories, cultural journeys, and repertoires of fretted stringed instruments AND developed a love for some of the related music

Basics of practical musical theory (as gleaned from examining children’s, folk, and popular songs, as well as examples from some World Music genres), and ability to visualize/map it on variously tuned fretted stringed instruments

A knowledge of the histories of use of vernacular and popular music in formal and informal educational settings, including in Ethnomusicology world music ensembles, regional music programs in North America and Europe, and jazz and popular music programs (universities and private colleges).

A knowledge of history of popular and vernacular music instruction in print (books, magazines) and media (cassette, VHS, DVD, digital downloads, music instructors’ channels and websites, YouTube), emphasizing the digital era

Ability to integrate their own emergent understandings of 1. The formal use of these alternative approaches (ones not based in Western Art music pedagody) and 2. The expanding informal resources for such learning in the digital sphere, WITH 3. their own experience with learning and making music in this class. This dovetailing will lead to student-teachers devising flexible approaches suiting their own individual evolving expertise and their varied audiences’ needs. Lesson plans and curricula that students develop in this class should reflect such synthesis.


  • List of 100 songs/pieces you are learning or will hope to learn in the next year (Title, Artist/Composer, Genre/Style, Best Recordings, Learning Resources/Online Tutorials) 10%
  • Maintain personal (physical) notebook of “informal” transcriptions of your favorite songs—chord progressions (functional/numerical), melody, some aspects of rhythm (minimum 20 songs/pieces) 10%
  • Classroom participation including song/music composition (see above) 20%
  • Annotated bibliography of experimental, unconventional, non-traditional approaches (with special focus on popular, world, and folk/vernacular music models) to classroom teaching of music (schools or colleges). Include articles/books as well as other resources that describe a project, program, or initiative. 15%
  • Annotated list of online music teaching/learning resources that you may use for yourself or for your students (detailed descriptions only of your favorites) 15%
  • Final project (see below for details) 30%


NOTE: There is no final exam during exam week.

NOTE: Final project might involve an in-class presentation and/or performance (depending on format selected by student) during the last two weeks.

Final project: (Choose one of these formats or a combination thereof.)

a. Traditional “Term paper” (15 pages)

b. curriculum/syllabus/lesson plan + shorter analytical paper (4 pages)

c. presentation (could include musical performances) + shorter analytical paper

d. other format(s) (in consultation with the instructor).

Subject: Personal vision and tentative method for making music learning a lifelong process for one’s own students/children—two suggested areas of emphasis are:

1. incorporating folk/vernacular/popular musics and instruments and

2. utilizing popular online digital instruction/participation resources.



Attendance is required in each class. In case of emergency, please notify instructor by email.



Required readings will be supplied or available for free online access.


Mark Harrison, All About Music Theory: A Fun and Simple Guide to Understanding Music (From Novice to Expert). Hal Leonard, 2009. (ISBN: 978-1-4234-5208-9)

ISBN: 978-1-4234-5208-9

Recommendations for individual instruments will be made in class.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at:

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university.


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.