Constrained creativity
: composing curriculum-based songs for learning

  • Aniko Debreceny

    Student thesis: Masters by Research - CDU


    For more than twenty-five years I have been writing curriculum-based songs as a way of helping my teacher friends and colleagues deliver complex and sometimes dense content to their students. My desire to improve my skills and understanding of the process led me to investigate the process of writing educational songs. Describing it must, of necessity, relate a personal journey. In order to describe this journey this thesis has adopted the qualitative research methodology of auto ethnography. This narrative approach combines biography, ethnography, and self-analysis, and presents contextualized information about a subject, linking personal experiences with theory. The goal is to connect with the reader through evocative and accessible storytelling, and to extend understanding of a culture or process.

    This methodology places me as the principal subject of the research. It not only describes the evolution of my research and composition processes but also expresses my emotional and professional journey. The multilayered account embeds three vignettes under the title of Three Cups of Tea that portray pivotal moments within my inner journey, and explores the effect of research, reflection, reflexivity, and critical evaluation on my work and pedagogy.

    Curriculum-based song is a pedagogical device used to help students learn and remember. The songs need to be well researched, written for the needs and capabilities of targeted age groups, and must engage the students. The melody must be catchy and memorable, as this acts as a trigger to memory. Lyrics of curriculum songs result from deep research into prescribed topics, and are set to rhythms and music that are appealing to the target audience, in this case middle school students.

    Using examples from my own compositions as a case study, I analyse my process of creating original curriculum-based songs, and how my writing and composition techniques evolved over two years of research. I document the creation of sixteen songs about the ancient civilisations of Egypt, Greece, Rome and China. Research data consists of multiple sources of information, including personal journals, work notes, poems, reflective analysis, and conversations with other educators. The purpose of sharing my work and experiences through auto ethnography is to expand understanding of the process of curriculum-based song composition, and to connect with other educators who may find this information useful in their own teaching.
    Date of Award2017
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMartin Jarvis (Supervisor)

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