Using Rap Music to Help Students Learn Critical Science Topics!

I don’t know about you, but I have always had a hard time learning science topics. Many of them are extremely abstract, and theoretical, and I always felt that the professor went so fast in class that I barely had time to keep up and ask questions. I would go home, feeling nervous and tense after class, and frantically search for a YouTube or Khan Academy video. However, when I started the video, I quickly found myself feeling disengaged, bored, and tired. I would spend hours on a video, just to find myself as confused as when I started watching the video. Initially, I thought it was just an issue with my understanding of that particular video, and I would try different videos on YouTube. Nevertheless, a point came when it just felt like every video was not working out, and that I was confused no matter what I did. I felt as if there was nothing I could do, and that I was just stuck not understanding the information and hoping for the best. Plus, with all my other classes, and all the tests I had plus my commitments outside of class, I felt extremely crunched for time and did not feel like I had the time to keep looking for resources. But something pushed me to try something new. I had heard of these parodies of songs that people used to learn complex topics before. Seeing that I was a big fan of rap music, I looked for rap music parodies. I was so pleasantly surprised by what I found! Suddenly, I actually felt engaged in what I was watching that I actually absorbed the information really effectively. This inspired me to try writing rap songs, myself, to teach science to kids and I decided to post rap lyrics, inspired my Migos that I have come up with so far to teach the processes of the circulatory system and how the heart pumps blood to kids. It goes as follows:

Rhythm drop, heart stop

Right A (atrium) pump blood to the V (ventricle) top

Get that O2 from the lung, lung lung

Come back down to the Left A, yeah

We go from O nothing to something now

The heart is really functioning wow

Left V so strong, circulating

Aortic valve kick starting and…

Myocardium pumping and pushing,

Valves open and blood flowing

Valves close preventin the leaking

We got normal function of heart (ay)

Myocardium pumpin and pushin,

Valves open and blood flowin

Valves close preventin the leaking

We got normal function of heart (ay)

Looking back, I have two hypotheses about why students learn significantly better when listening to these raps than using conventional methods. For one, many people in the Gen Z generation are into rap music. They like the beat, melody, and the flow of the words. Therefore, when they listen to a rap song, even if it is about a science related topic, they are significantly more likely to be engaged and interested as they get hooked into the music and focus less on what the song is actually about. At least from experience, when you try to teach someone a topic in a way that they can relate to and something in their life, like a hobby or an interest that they can personally connect the topic to, they are much more likely to be motivated and interested in learning. My second hypothesis is that listening to rap music increases their interest in the topic, and many research papers have demonstrated that when people are more interested in something, they are likely to retain much more of the information that they learn about it. For instance, one study that looked into the quantity of information that students remembered and the durability of their memory, regarding that information when they learned it in a way that was interesting to them vs. using a conventional method produced some results that were extremely insightful and fascinating. For instance, “The researchers found that the students who were interested in what they learned gained way more because they were more likely to go to class, pay attention, and even wanted to take more courses in that given area”(Interest Matters: The Importance of Promoting Interest in Education). This makes sense, from my personal experience, as I looked forward to going to classes where I knew that I would be entertained and I would have fun, while I dreaded and would not look forward to going to classes where I knew that I would be bored and that I would not be engaged. Similarly, another study found that “Experiencing situational interest, like seeing a brush being used to paint in art class can greatly increase engagement”(Interest Matters: The Importance of Promoting Interest in Education). This is one of the principles that I use in the raps that I create, as I try to include applications of how these topics apply to real life in the lyrics to increase peoples’ attention. I have also experienced this personally, as I was more engaged in my Biomechanics class, when I saw how what I was learning could be applied to the motion of joints in real life. What I do not understand is that with so many studies pointing to this finding, why have we not implemented this learning model in high schools and colleges across the country? What are we waiting for? Why do we keep using old methods, when we know their success rates are limited? It is high time to stop going with the conventional, tried and true method, and have the courage to try something new. Not only will it make students and professors, alike, happier, but students will actually retain more knowledge that will help them in their future careers and, more importantly, their life! If you are a professor reading this, I sincerely hope you have the courage to give this a try in your class one day! I guarantee you that you will not regret it!

Source:

Harackiewicz, J. M., Smith, J. L., & Priniski, S. J. (2016). Interest Matters: The Importance of Promoting Interest in Education. Policy insights from the behavioral and brain sciences3(2), 220–227. https://doi.org/10.1177/2372732216655542

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