Surviving Set Theory: A Pedagogical Game and Cooperative Learning Approach to Undergraduate Post-Tonal Music Theory

Angela Ripley

Undergraduate music students often experience difficulties when they first encounter pitch-class set theory, an analytical methodology very different from those they have studied previously. With the goal of fostering good will and openness toward studying post-tonal music, I adapt the reality competition show Survivor to frame a four-week unit on set theory and provide empirical results of Set Theory Survivor via student questionnaires and comments. The results of the study confirm that by combining the peer support of cooperative learning with the motivational force of constructive intergroup competition and the fun of a pedagogical game, Set Theory Survivor presents an effective approach to a difficult subject and provides a creative tool to enhance the pedagogy of pitch-class set theory.