Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Music Listening and Critical Thinking: Teaching Using a Constructivist Paradigm

Daniel Johnson.

In this article, the benefits of teaching music using a methodology based on critical thinking will be discussed. Music, a universal human endeavor, offers a unique perspective on studying the humanities. Studying music combines the intellectual and emotional meaning listeners make from music, engaging them in aesthetically focused-activities. Additionally, the nature of critical thinking will be explored from multiple perspectives. To elevate intellectual standards and to effect a qualitative change in thinking, critical thinking advocates such as Paul have encouraged students to think for themselves by guiding students’ reflection on their own experiences, by developing listening as a critical thinking skill, and by asking probing questions. Reflecting fast-paced technological changes in contemporary society and education, teachers should impart thinking skills instead of mere information. As Whitehead suggested, the real goal of education is the development of thought processes instead of the accumulation of information. Constructivism, an approach emphasizing the meaning students create in the process of education, will also be examined in terms of musical settings. While human beings are naturally predisposed to create meaning and construct concepts, particular ways in which we make sense of the world are learned. From constructivist paradigms to educational interventions, critical thinking will be discussed as a movement based both on theory and applied techniques. Among the goals of this movement is the responsibility to educate independent thinkers and autonomous learners who actively make their own meaning of the world. Implications for understanding music, critical thinking, and the humanities in general will be discussed.


Daniel Johnson  (United States)
Lecturer in Music Education
Department of Music
University of North Carolina

Daniel Johnson, Ph.D., graduated summa cum laude from the University of Arizona. His primary areas of concentration were music cognition, critical thinking, music listening, and educational psychology during his doctoral studies in music education. He earned his Graduate Diploma magna cum laude from the New England Conservatory of Music and his Master’s degree magna cum lade from the St. Louis Conservatory of Music. He received his Bachelor’s Degree magna cum laude from Emory University with majors in Music and Chemistry.

  • Music Listening
  • Critical Thinking
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Aesthetic Engagement
  • Constructivism

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)