Sound Design Curriculum Assessment

Sound Design Curriculum Assessment:

Much like Kieran Egan’s book Getting it Wrong from the Beginning; I have enjoyed the challenge and rewards of stepping away from scripting technical instructional message projects of instructional design, and writing on the historical and modern context of curriculum development. Studying Ornstein and Hunkins’ text Curriculum has been a great introduction to the philosophical aspects of curriculum design, and how the roots of the major philosophies, like Idealism and Realism have laid the foundation for advancing educational theory. Having a chance to study the philosophical structures of curriculum development has allowed me to strengthen the foundation of my own teaching methods in the classroom and online.

The educational philosophy I have chosen to build my assignment on is “Realism.” I’ve chosen this philosophy because of the stress on logical and abstract concepts in mix. I like the fact that Realism “values the sciences as much as the arts.” (Pg.35) My own experience through the education system is based on this structure and my studies of becoming a sound designer have been very rewarding by studying the historical aspects of the sound design discipline.

The basis of my lesson plans is to educate students on the foundational principles of sound design and the designers that have shaped modern day sound design in film. I like the quote suggested under the philosophical studies of Aristotle that: “Aristotle believed that everything had a purpose and that human’s purpose is to think.” (Pg.35) Followed by: “For Aristotle and later Aquinas, the universe is ordered; things happen for a purpose and education should illuminate purpose.” (Pg.35)

Combining this with a strong value on arts and science, I agree that in order to reach your potential around “thinking”, and then one day be constructing advanced and original abstract ideas in your discipline, you must start by learning the fundamental steps. In order to one day be a great composer of orchestral music, you must start with the educational order of reading and learning notation and the staff. I believe that once you move through this curriculum process you will have a stronger opportunity to lead in your discipline, and even teach others in this trade, thus advancing the future orchestration of your discipline.

My lessons are constructed to introduce sound design theory through the context of film studies. It will introduce some of the most popular theorists and technicians in the development of sound design in film. The final aim is to introduce the concept of the Audio Hierarchy (Dialogue, Sound Effects, Ambience, or Music) as the primary narrative design tool for either learning about, or creating film in a post-production context. In doing so, I’m trying to introduce the powerful expressive voice of sound, which is one of the key components in helping film reach its full creative potential.

My work is based on an “Intellectual Aim: focusing on the acquisition and comprehension of knowledge, problem-solving skills, and methods of thinking.” (Pg.224) I think this particular curriculum aim for students is a perfect match for the “thinking” and “purpose” driven philosophical base of Realism. Perhaps it’s best to place the “problem-solving skills” in the context of intellectual scripting and not necessarily direct technical application. Through this method my main goal is to help my students learn about, and try to understand the value and importance of using sound effectively in film to help convey narrative and meaning.

I found an interesting challenge in the way I want to place my objective types under “Nonbehavioral General Objectives” rather then “Behavioral.” Advocates of nonbehavioral objectives use words such as appreciate, know, and understand. They believe stating objectives too specifically restricts learning to measurable achievements.” (Pg.229) I firmly believe that Realism is trying to get to the core Cognitive objectives and to primarily be the first rung on the ladder of “knowledge.” But, I believe that the evaluation system under the “Behavioral Objectives” …they consider it essential that behavior objectives state what the student will do (e.g., write a paragraph or compare data) in terms of subject content (Pg.228) is the real way to evaluate my Realism philosophy driven units. In The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Cognitive Domain, Benjamin Bloom divided cognitive learning into “(1) knowledge, (2) comprehension, (3) application, (4) analysis, (5) synthesis, and evaluation.” (Pg229) There is a division after “ (1) knowledge” and that the rest will fall in to the development of specific skills and abilities, which will not be the path of evaluation for my Realist unit work.

Lesson Plan 1:

Starting with a focus on the “cognitive domain” learning objectives of “knowledge”: “Knowledge objectives are related to knowledge of (1) specifics, such as facts and terminology; (2) ways to deal with specifics, such as classifications, criteria, and methodology; and (3) universals and abstractions, such as principles, generalizations, theories, and structures. Example: The student will name the highest mountain in range in Asia.” (Pg. 229)

As stated in Program Planning for Adult Learners by Rosemary S. Caffarella: “There are five major categories of learning outcomes: acquiring new knowledge; enhancing cognitive skills;
developing psychomotor skills; strengthening problem-solving and –finding capabilities; and changing attitudes, beliefs, values, and/or feelings (Bloom, 1956; Kemp, Morrison, and Ross, 1996; Smith and Ragana, 1999). (Pg.169). For the learning outcomes of my three lesson units, I will be focusing on (Direct examples from the text) “Acquisition of knowledge. i.e., Participants will be able to describe what a ropes course is and identify the basic principles of team building.” (Pg.169) and “Enhancement of cognitive skills. i.e., Participants will analyze each of the team-building exercises and translate what they have learned into one or two proposed changes in their professional practice and/or personal lives.” (Pg.169)

I’ve decided to focus strongly on these two learning outcomes, because they contribute highly to my Realism directed philosophy, by focusing on the accumulation of knowledge and on logical and abstract thinking. In staying true to my philosophy, it is imperative that the instructor and the planned student’s reading rarely deviate from the ordered plan of sound design history. It is important at this stage that students are able to process the material and are able to write on and internalize the information to construct a fundamental base of sound design theory. Students will be able to acquire knowledge and enhance their cognitive skills by transferring the knowledge into cognitive skills where they will eventually analyze, write-on and contribute to the historical transfer of the who? what? and why? that have shaped modern sound design.

The learning outcome techniques will follow the format Caffarella’s “Exhibit 9.6 – Examples of techniques by Learning Outcomes.” (Pg.176) the acquiring knowledge techniques that will be used include Lecture, Textbook, Web Based searching, and Hypermedia. All of these techniques are true to Realism in the fact that it is “authority figure” content given to the student to absorb and process. The variations in format apply a good example of modern physical and virtual learning that allow the learner to acquire the necessary knowledge, but not be forced with one particular mode of delivery.

A key question to be directed at the students at the beginning of the unit will be to locate the definition of “Sound Designer”. They will need to be prepared to acquire the knowledge of what it means to talk about sound design as a physical career for an individual, and also, as a concept that is newly implored into the design world, that is so commonly dominated by the visual medium.

The first acquiring knowledge link provided will be: and the Preface and Introduction text from David Sonnenchien’ Sound Design. (Pg.xvii – xxiii)

From the web link reference: “Sound designer” is an artist who is brought on staff during the planning stages of a film, along with the set and costume designers, and who does his own mixing. The sound designer works with the director to shape an overall, consistent soundtrack that exploits the expressive possibilities of the sound medium.”
From the introduction of these terms it will be important that the instructors present their professional view on the Sonnenchien text and then provide lectures from their personal expertise as a sound designer in film. Once students have finished the lessons they will spend time memorizing and going over their lecture notes and researching further on the assigned readings.

The “Enhancing Cognitive Skills” aspect of the unit will consist of a “Case Study”,“Observation” exercises in class and an assignment outside of class. “The Case Study – analysis solves an event, incident, or situation presented orally, in written form, or through computer based means.” (Caffarella, Pg.177) Students are to write out and define a typical sound design situation given to them by the instructor. They will be asked, based on the definitions they have read, if the situation requires a sound designer to enhance the narrative, and based on what they have written, what design techniques might a sound designer employ in the situation. At this point the exercise will be a general paragraph and suggest only the most basic of design elements. This will correspond with the behavioral assessment evaluation and will stay true with the direction of the Realism philosophy. The students are engaged in low involvement and are only being assessed on their written comprehension from the lecture, textbook, web based searching and hypermedia materials. It will be enough for the instructor to witness: “Exercising the mind; logical and abstract thinking are highest form” (Ornstein, Hunkins, Pg.37) in highest order from the students.

I have added assessment techniques most suitable to Realism centered unit plans from Caffarella, “Exhibit 9.9” (Pg.189) which states that the best assessment techniques for Acquiring Knowledge:

I will place each sample instructional plan in the chart I have been using in my MEd studies according to Caffarella “Exhibit 9.12 Sample Instructional Plan” (Pg.194):

Title: Introduction to Sound Design
Date and Time: Monday 1:45pm to 2:45pm
Learning objectives: The participants will be able to understand and describe what a sound designer is and what they are capable of doing in the context of film studies.
Content Heading: Introduction to Sound Design
Key Points to Emphasize: The definition of Sound Design from multiple sources and what a sound designer can offer in the development of a film.
Instructional Techniques: Lectures, and time for students to research web-related material on lab computers.

Lesson Plan 2:

In keeping with the learning objectives of knowledge, I will be presenting a similar format for introducing some of the key personnel that have shaped modern sound design in Film: Michael Chion, Walter Murch, Randy Thom, Ben Burtt and David Sonnenschien. Students will be introduced to the work of these individuals in class by lecture from the instructor and by resources including: Textbooks, Web Based searching and Hypermedia. Resources will come from Sound Design by David Sonnenschien and web resource

I put a stronger emphasis on the “enhancing cognitive skills” side of this lesson plan in assessment and evaluation by including “Concept Maps – Learners make diagrams and drawings that represent the mental connections between and among major concepts and ideas.”(Caffarella, Pg.189) I like the idea of the concept map because it is strongly relevant to a high order of thinking and exhibiting abstract thinking. This is done by evoking a non-linear map that shows connections between the sound designers in terms of historical connections and how the theories and technological advancements have evolved over time.

Title: Introduction to Modern Sound Designers in Film
Date and Time: Wednesday 1:45pm to 2:45pm
Learning objectives: The participants will be able to understand and describe the key sound designers that make up modern sound deign in film: Michael Chion, Walter Murch, Ben Burtt and Randy Thom.
Content Heading: Introduction to Modern Sound Designers in Film
Key Points to Emphasize: Who the modern film designers are and how they have shaped the definition of the words sound designer. It is important that students will be able to construct a concept map that shows a timeline of how each designer would have influenced each other and what technological breakthroughs each might have applied to sound design in film. This will come from their lectures and research that happens independently through online work, texts and Hypermedia.
Instructional Techniques: Lecture and time for students to research web-related material on lab computers.

Lesson 3

The objective in lesson plan three will be the first time that students are introduced to a scientific/artistic concept that is static, but ever changing in possibilities.

Unlike the static unchangeable historical aspects of what a sound designer does, and the modern day designs that have shaped sound in film, the introduction of the Audio hierarchy is absolute in its definition, but ever changing in its combination possibilities. The introduction of the Auditory Hierarchy will come from Sound Design with the following preliminary definition: “The distinction between levels and what is most appropriate at any given moment for any given sound (dialogue, effects, ambience, or music) is often handled in the mix, pulling up or dropping down (or out) the tracks as they play with the visuals.” (Pg.196)

Title: Introduction to The Audio Hierarchy
Date and Time: Friday 1:45pm to 2:45pm
Learning objectives: The participants will be able to understand and describe what three components of sound make up the audio hierarchy and what it means to mix the sounds to help construct meaning and aid narrative with the visuals in constructing a film.
Content Heading: Introduction to The Audio Hierarchy
Key Points to Emphasize: The definition of the Audio Hierarchy consisting of the mix between dialogue, sound effects and ambience, or music.
Instructional Techniques: Lecture and time for students to research web-related material on lab computers.

When first reading about the philosophical theory of Realism in Ornstein and Hunkin’s Curriculum and the seemingly stringent concepts based around the Major Philosophies”, I was sure that I would be selecting a more modern philosophy surrounding learning and curriculum. Once I read through the text Curriculum and did some independent research, I realized that all along in my film studies and sound design work I have been studying under a Realism driven curriculum and learning driven by the writing of experts in their field. I found that in order to make sense of the work of one sound designer in film, I had to first study and gain knowledge surrounding where their ideas on sound had come from. I’m hoping that my own work has been able to lock into true Realism driven lesson plans and philosophy.

Ornstein, Allan (2009). Curriculum. (35,37,224,228,229).
Caffarella, Rosemary (2002) Program Planning For Adult Learners. (169,176,177,189,194).
Sonnenschein, David (2001) Sound Design: The Expressive Power of Music, Voice, and Sound Effects in Cinema. (xvii-xxiii,196).

– John


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