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Simon Howard


Using Playlists to Demonstrate Understanding of Social Issues  

Simon Howard, University of Miami

2022 Teaching Resource Prize Awardee  

Art reflects society and music in particular is often the auditory extension of what we believe, feel, and do (or want to be doing). As a fan of hip-hop music and a recording artist in my own right (SiHow The Doctor on all streaming platforms), I have always made connections to the lyrics of my favorite artists with the writings of my favorite social psychologists and race scholars. Hip-hop music has a long history of highlighting racial injustice experienced by Black people in a White supremacist power structure, as well as promoting Black empowerment and Black activism. This led me to developing an assignment where I had my students in my psychology of racism class curate playlists containing songs that highlight/reflect theories and concepts of covered and discussed during the duration of the semester.  

Working in groups student’s created playlist containing 12-15 songs from a variety of genres that highlighted an overall theme (e.g., racial identity development, role of White allies in collective action, consequences of stereotyping). In addition to creating the playlist students also do a 15–20-minute presentation and discussion based on their playlist. Having students create a playlist and do a presentation on their playlist helps foster both analytical and critical thinking skills as while allowing for opportunities for creative application.  

Given that most of the major music streaming services are free to use (on Spotify, Apple Music, Youtube, etc), and any member of group can add to the playlist from anywhere, the assignment can be used in remote or in person classes at no cost to the students. Additionally, although I used this assignment for a class on the psychology of racism, this assignment could be used in any class focused on the psychological study of social issues.  

Lastly, because students are creating playlists these lists could potentially be used in the future for individuals outside of our courses as introductions to complex psychological concepts and ideas.  

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