If we can think about elements that exist when children play and make music organically, we may be able to better support the three primary needs outlined in Self Determination Theory, and promote students’ motivation and musical engagement in our classrooms.

Have you ever had one of those music classes where you think, oh my gosh that went beautifully. The students were engaged, curious, and it felt like every game or activity played itself. It’s the best feeling in the world.

After a lot of thinking and some researching (and sidenote, all of my sources for today are linked below), I think the most successful games in my classroom are those games that really “play themselves.” What I mean by that, is that once my students know how a game works, they fall into a flow where they don’t need me anymore, not really even as a facilitator.

Those are the times that students are making choices and improvising, and doing it all according to their own group and individual comfort levels. These types of classroom interactions showcase important elements of Self Determination Theory, where students can nurture their own curiosity and motivation to participate, and how. (Neimiec & Ryan, 2009).

References from Today’s Episode:

Countryman, J. (2014). Missteps, flaws and morphings in children’s musical play: Snapshots from school playgrounds. Research Studies in Music Education, 36(1), 3–18. https://doi.org/10.1177/1321103X14528456

Harwood E., Marsh K. (2012). Children’s ways of learning inside and outside the classroom. In McPherson G. E., Welch G. F. (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of music education (Vol. 1) (pp. 322–340). Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199730810.013.0020

Mizener, C. P. (1993). Attitudes of children toward singing and choir participation and assessed singing skill. Journal of Research in Music Education, 41(3), 233-245. https://doi.org/10.2307/3345327

Niemiec, C. P., & Ryan, R. M. (2009). Autonomy, competence, and relatedness in the classroom: Applying self-determination theory to educational practice. Theory and Research in Education, 7(2), 133–144. https://doi.org/10.1177/1477878509104318

Renwick, J. M., & Reeve, J. (2012). Supporting motivation in music education. In G. E. McPherson & G. F. Welch (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of music education (Vol. 1) (pp. 143–162). Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199730810.013.0009

Roberts, J. C. (2018). Self-determination theory and children’s singing games in and out of the classroom: A literature review. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 36(3), 12–19. https://doi.org/10.1177/8755123317741488

Ryan R. M., Deci E. L. (2002). An overview of self-determination theory: An organismic- dialectical perspective. In Ryan R. M., Deci E. L. (Eds.), Handbook of self-determination research (pp. 3–36). University of Rochester Press.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2020). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation from a self-determination theory perspective: Definitions, theory, practices, and future directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 61, 101860-. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2020.101860

Looking for more? Here’s a related video from today’s podcast…

Free Music Teacher Guide

Your Ultimate Sequencing Roadmap

Get everything you need to know what concepts to teach when and stop worry and wondering what to teach next & start making music.