Pedagogical Approaches to Encoding

Authors: Kijas, Anna / Duguid, Timothy / Grimmer, Jessica

Date: Monday, 4 September 2023, 2:15pm to 5:45pm

Location: online <o:stage>


As practitioners and scholars who engage with music encoding we already understand the affordances that encoding music or text can bring to our research and scholarship. However, individuals who are not yet familiar with encoding schemas and the usefulness of digital methodologies may not have a clear understanding of the “why” in using a digital method or an encoding schema (e.g. MEI, TEI). The aim of this workshop is to provide attendees with a concrete understanding and means for communicating the “why” through the use of two pedagogical approaches: deconstruction/reconstruction and backwards design.

Deconstruction/reconstruction is an approach in which you take an existing project and disassemble it according to the tools, technology, methods, and techniques used in its creation. This approach enables a learner to feel empowered and get an inside or “under-the-hood” look at how a digital project was developed, which in turn allows them to have a better understanding of the affordances that certain digital tools and methods can provide them. Backwards design focuses on identifying learning outcomes at the outset and facilitates learning, as well as critical thinking.

As our first example, we will turn to the Digital Splitleaf project ( This project was born out of musical practices such as balladry, folk music, and hymn and psalm singing in which a poetic text is sung with melody with which the performer is most familiar. This practice was particularly common in the early modern period, and it continues today in many churches located throughout Scotland. The printed resources supporting this tradition are produced in a split-leaf format, in which a booklet of tunes is bound above a booklet of texts, thereby allowing the user to select a tune and then select an accompanying text. The result was still rather awkward, requiring singers to keep one eye on the melody above and another on the text below. Before the creation of the Digital Splitleaf, digital editions would either print the text without the melodies or would preserve the awkward layout of the printed editions with the melody reproduced above and the text below. We will walk through the process of surveying existing digital editions that predated the Splitleaf and then ask workshop participants to consider how they might build their own edition. We will then consider the technologies that were eventually employed with the Digital Splitleaf, offering opportunity for extension and critique. We will then provide a sampling of other projects that use MEI and/or TEI, and through facilitation and prompts attendees will have an opportunity to deconstruct a project with a partner.

Using the backwards design approach, we will ask attendees to identify a learning goal, either for themselves or for students, in which an encoding language/schema plays a role. Attendees will work with a partner to develop questions and learning outcomes specific to their use case. For example: if someone is teaching a music seminar in which they are exploring critical editions in music, they may want to create an assignment in which their students have to encode excerpts from a manuscript or early edition. They will also create a learning activity that they can take away with them and apply in a real-world scenario.

This workshop is for individuals who are interested in applying pedagogical approaches to the encoding of musical and/or textual content. Participants will need their own laptops.

About the authors

Dr. Tim Duguid is a lecturer in Digital Humanities and Information Studies at the University of Glasgow. His current research interests lie in the intersection between digital humanities and historical musicology. His work on Reformation history and early modern music resulted in the creation of a performing edition of the Wode Psalter, an early modern music collection, and he was the associate editor for the digital project, “Letters in Exile: Documents from the Marian Exile.”

Dr. Jessica Grimmer is a Registration Specialist in the U.S. Copyright Office and Project Archivist at University of Maryland’s Special Collections in Performing Arts. Her current music research focuses on the musical resonances of the Holocaust, both in Europe and in North America. Grimmer is a co-researcher with University of Maryland iSchool assistant professor Katrina Fenlon on the Sustaining Digital Community Collections project, which received funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Anna Kijas is Head of Lilly Music Library at Tufts University. She is interested in the exploration and application of digital humanities tools and methods in historical (music) research, and in the application of standards, including TEI and MEI, for open access research and publishing, and the use of minimal computing. She leads Rebalancing the Music Canon, an open-access music data project that aims to make works by un(der)-represented people more discoverable, decenter the musical canon, and make data-driven music scholarship more diverse and inclusive.

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