Inclusive Education Case Studies

Ryan Rimington describes using Learning by Design to create ‘multi-cultural choral connections’.

I recently led a performance, my choral program’s March Concerts, which combined with a day-after evaluation, effectively ended my teaching of my recent Multi-Cultural Choral Connections Learning-by-Design Learning element. I must say this was one of the most intense yet effective learning units I’ve led in my teaching career. And, I can honestly say that a good deal of its effectiveness can be attributed to the ways in which the Learning by Design element motivates educators to lead a comprehensive, student-centered curriculum.

While I feel that my teaching philosophy has always been aligned to a comprehensive approach, the LbD model influenced me in my planning to truly be diversified in my techniques and strategies. The balance between experiential, conceptual, analytical, and application is so simple, yet so integral for any classroom. In my Multi-Cultural Choral Connections element specifically, the LbD model influenced me to take what my students had already known and experienced, use that to introduce and reinforce new concepts, develop a “reflective practitioner” approach so integral for a performing musician, and make effective associations between multi-cultural music and other art forms, politics, and sociology related to the cultures we studied.

Because of the comprehensive nature of the LbD model, my Multi-Cultural Choral Connections unit was enhanced by collaborations with visual art, history, foreign language, and instrumental music departments, students, and faculty. Specifically, I had foreign langue students and faculty assist with the pronunciation and dialects associated with some of the studied repertoire. I asked history students and teachers to provide some background of the cultures we have been studying and to lead a presentation regarding America as a “melting pot”. I also asked students from our instrumental music department to research, rehearse, and add culturally appropriate percussion parts to a couple of the songs/cultures that we studied.

I am often a “fluid” educator who regularly changes the course of a lesson and curricular learning unit several times due to various factors and influences. However, with this unit, I decided to “test” the LbD model and persistently remain faithful to the scope, sequence, and pace of my original placemat. While I know this may not always be the case, that approach did not disappoint. It effectively led me to plan and steer my students through a well-balanced and comprehensive, engaging sequence of activities and objectives.

This particular learning unit, as influence by the LbD model, I feel, effectively contributed to engaging the wide variety of experience and motivation levels of my target student audience. Specifically, it led me to relate, embrace, and celebrate the experiences and cultural backgrounds of my students, and influenced us to even have some courageous conversations regarding the role of multi-culturalism and race-recognition in society.

Overall, my experience with LbD model for this learning unit was a joy and definitely a highlight of my teaching this school year. While the planning and process of the LbD takes some getting used to and perhaps is not the most efficient model for curriculum and lesson planning, it definitely embraces that which is most important in a student-centered classroom environment.

Here is a link to my LbD element entitled Multi-Cultural Choral Connections.