Dr. Keith Smolinski, a Connecticut middle school teacher, combined his love of music and science to help engage his students in the classroom. By incorporating his musical talents into his science curriculum, Keith realized he could use his students’ interest in music to help them learn the material they were studying in class. While attending Walden University for his Doctor of Education, Keith decided to focus his doctoral dissertation on the notion that people learn more effectively when music is part of the process. He also recognized that his research could have a positive impact on other educators’ teaching methods.
As part of his doctoral dissertation, Keith composed an album of science songs and sheet music that helped students learn biology, memorize science vocabulary, and perform better on tests. The students learned songs about biology topics in their chorus class while studying the same topic in science class. Not only did the students retain the information, but they also had a fun and rewarding learning experience both in and outside of the classroom.
Keith’s music and research are in the process of being published. Today, he continues to improve his “music education” and look for new ways to help his students learn. In 2010, he was named one of Walden’s Scholars of Change for his video “Sparking Social Change: Singing Science,” which showcased how his efforts were making a difference in the lives of his students.
Recently, Keith shared his thoughts with Walden about how music has had an effect in his classroom and how his Walden experience has impacted his own life.
How can a student’s interest in music help them learn?
Music is motivational, and for many students, it may be their only true motivation. Also, music is part of a student’s everyday life. Students most likely hear it each day on their portable music devices, the radio, around the house, and at school. By presenting content in a musical form, students who previously may not have had an interest in the content or struggled learning new material now can use the music to help them remember the material and to get motivated about learning.
What improvements did you see with your students from this new learning method?
I found that students became more excited about their learning. Students would sing the science music in the classroom, in the hallway, and with their chorus class. Students who used the music had better test scores than those who didn’t. Also, the majority of students interviewed agreed that the music helped them remember their course materials when taking their test and that they would want to use music again in other units to help them learn.
How has your Walden education made an impact in your life both personally and professionally?
The Walden experience was enriching. Professionally, I feel as though my teaching has reached a new level because I am working with students in ways I never could have imagined. I think my classroom provides more opportunities for a greater variety of learners, and students are more comfortable using music as a learning tool. Students are even creating their own songs to help them learn. Personally, I feel as though by completing the doctoral degree I achieved a goal that I had always wanted to accomplish but didn’t think I would. It has also created opportunities in presenting and public speaking, which has been completely unexpected but very welcome.