Popular Music Pedagogy: Course Syllabi

The IASPM-US Branch has a longstanding interest in scholarly dialogue and research regarding the pedagogy of popular music, particularly in college and university settings. Several issues of the Journal of Popular Music Studies have explored the topic through research articles, course syllabi, and reflective essays on pedagogical practices for learners within the K-16 spectrum (see volumes 9 [1997], 10 [1998], and 21 [2009]).

In 2011, the Popular Music Pedagogy Committee issued a call for syllabi for college-level courses on the study of popular music. Since then, we have aimed to make a wide variety of syllabi with related commentaries accessible to those seeking guidance about teaching and learning in popular music studies. We define popular music broadly, and with the potential to be addressed from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives. Posted courses may use a variety of pedagogical formats, such as broad historical or cultural surveys, performance ensembles, ethnographic studies, or issue-based seminars.  Topics may include history, culture, analysis, performance, politics, aesthetics, and/or technology, among other subjects.

The submissions below were shared with permission of the instructor who authored each syllabus. Additional submissions are welcomed; the submission guidelines are posted below.

Please note that the syllabi presented here are descriptive of pedagogical practice, not prescriptive or definitive.

The IASPM-US Web Editor team invites college and university instructors with teaching experience in any disciplinary area to submit course syllabi on popular music. Along with the syllabus or syllabi, the instructor will submit a brief commentary (500-1500 words) on related pedagogical approaches or issues. Accepted syllabi will be posted on the IASPM-US website’s Pedagogy page.

The related discussion, which will be highlighted as a blog post on the IASPM-US website, may address any pedagogical issue related to the submitted syllabus, such as:

  • An instructional challenge of the course and solutions;
  • Ways that students have actively engaged with course content, issues, guiding questions, etc.;
  • The pedagogical aims and outcomes of a particularly valuable assignment and/or resource;
  • Ways that students apply course concepts to make music, conduct original research, plan or lead instruction as music educators, etc.;
  • How your course advances students toward departmental and/or institutional goals for building core knowledge, skills, and/or specialized training;
  • A philosophical or theoretical concern about pedagogy for popular music studies illustrated by the course;
  • How and why your course’s design changed after its application(s) in the classroom.

While the Web Editor team expects that most syllabi will have been generated from courses that have been taught, and therefore tested in the classroom, we will also consider proposed syllabi. We ask that each syllabus contains the following basic elements:

  • A brief descriptive statement of the topic or survey, and its significance to the academic development of students;
  • A set of objectives: what students will be able to know and do as a result of the course;
  • Appropriate means of assessing and evaluating student work (journals, papers, exams, performance rubrics, projects, etc.);
  • A bibliography of appropriate readings;
  • A class schedule, outlining how the course topics, central instructional activities, and assignments will unfold over a semester;
  • The course author’s name and preferred contact information;
  • (Optional) Copyright symbol, name of author, and year the syllabus was written or revised;
  • A statement of permission: I, [name, title, and affiliation], give permission to IASPM-US to publish this syllabus on the IASPM-US website. I retain ownership of the syllabus and the intellectual property contained therein.

Most syllabi, with routine fonts and 1-inch margins, are approximately 3-6 pages. The related commentary should not exceed 1500 words, and may include photographs, graphics, audio, or video. Those interested in submitting a syllabus should email the text, preferably in Microsoft Word, to iaspmus@gmail.com.