Author ORCID Identifier


Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Patrick K. Freer

Second Advisor

Martin Norgaard

Third Advisor

Janice Fournillier

Fourth Advisor

Garett Delavan

Fifth Advisor

Graham McPhail


A song is a form of musical composition that involves a marriage between words and melody. In music education, songwriting often belongs to the sphere of popular music. Although songs are omnipresent in adolescents’ lives, less than 7% of the secondary schools in the United States offer songwriting. The present study focused on an after-school songwriting course in a middle school in the Southern U.S., a 21st-century learning environment where music and technology walked hand in hand, and adolescents composed, produced, and distributed original songs while finding their voices as songwriters. Five broad interrelated themes emerged from the literature review: songwriting is a place for inclusion, a music technology laboratory, it does not need traditional music notation, the teacher as facilitator, and conceptual teaching. The purpose of this study was to explore middle school songwriting pedagogy, how the teacher designed, implemented, and evaluated the songwriting course, and the students’ perspectives on their experiences. Ethnographic methods of data collection were employed, comprising interviews, field notes and participant observation, documents, and creative writing as research. Thematic and structural narrative analytical approaches suggested that teachers succeeded in forging a 21st-century popular music laboratory where students pursued their interests facilitated by a safe and collaborative environment in which teacher and peer feedback enriched trial-and-error in sound. Teachers’ strategies ranged from modeling to fading and the formulation of scaffolding where students interacted with music technology in a recording studio the size of their hands, resituating play at the center of music-making. Consequently, students learned from eliminating their mistakes and solving real-world musical problems that emerged from and within the processual products of their songwriting. The teacher described her pedagogic approach as focused on constant feedback, modeling, and scaffolding toward small projects that strengthened students’ musicianship. In her view, songwriting was personal. In addition, it offered the opportunity to pull students into large ensembles. Students expressed ease in using Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) on tablet-based devices to facilitate music participation since most did not play a musical instrument. They believed songwriting enabled them to learn to collaborate, take risks, and improve their musical skills through constructive feedback.


File Upload Confirmation