Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Education

Major

Education, Teaching-Learning Processes

Date of Defense

7-27-2007

Graduate Advisor

Joseph L. Polman, Ph.D.

Committee

Susan Catapano

Turpin. Douglas

Hoagland, Carl

Abstract

The project described in this study developed due to the gap in achievement between African-American and white students. As music teacher I noticed my urban students could rap all the words of popular songs. Therefore I incorporated the use of technology with an authentic need to learn reading, writing, and lyric development for science and history content within a "hip-hop opera". This study details the instructional sequence, in which students watched musical performances, learned songs with a karaoke machine, and wrote new lyrics for the songs based on history and science material. I combined the students' lyrics into new versions of the songs, which they then learned and performed within a dramatic opera. The mixed method research study, conducted in grade 2 through 6 music classes, addressed three questions: How does the learning process differ between culturally relevant hip-hop operas and culturally non-relevant operas? What do children who create culturally relevant hip-hop operas learn about history and science content compared to an opera utilizing music from outside the students' culture? How does creating a culturally relevant hip-hop opera impact students? desire to learn science and history? A case study revealed that both culturally relevant and non-relevant operas could sustain students' involvement in history and science, but students were more eager to participate in instruction utilizing culturally relevant melodies. The quantitative analysis was limited by small numbers of participants with complete data, but some results were obtained. Learning outcome measures revealed gains on basic understanding of some history and science topics embedded in opera-based instruction, but the cultural relevance of the music did not impact the learning outcomes. A follow-up analysis revealed that involving the students in composition of lyrics based on any musical text, culturally relevant or non-relevant, led to greater learning gains than having students learn and perform texts written by the teacher. Analysis of interview results showed that some students increased their desire to learn history and science in school because of the opera instruction. The importance of research such as this aimed at improving urban education is stressed, and suggestions for further research are made.

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