RTRL.63: Elementary Music Performance Preparation and Teacher Stress (Potter, 2021)

Source:

Potter, J. (2021). Elementary general music performances and teachers’ perceptions of stress. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 40(1), 36-44.

What did the researcher want to know?

What are elementary general music teachers’ perceptions of performance preparation and how do they perceive its impacts on their stress level?

What did the researcher do?

Potter conducted a multiple case study of three mid-career elementary general music teachers. She interviewed each participant two times over the course of two months. (Interviews took place over Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic.) Potter analyzed the interview transcripts through qualitative coding to identify themes in response to the research questions.

What did the researcher find?

Potter identified three themes in response to the research questions.

  1. Theme 1: Time Management
    • All three participants considered time management to be critical in performance preparation. They stressed the importance of planning performances well in advance, which included giving students enough time to learn the material. For example, one mentioned that she began preparing her students for a mid-February performance before Thanksgiving break. Balancing curriculum instructional time with performance preparation was a concern for all three participants. One participant said, “I feel like programs can take a little bit away from the curriculum that you’re trying to teach because they take so much time to put together and to get done to a level that you want to perform in front of people” (p. 40).
  2. Theme 2: Control
    • Participants expressed “concern about the degree of control they had over certain aspects of their students’ performances” (p. 40). For two of the three participants, performances were part of a supplemental contract, which dictated the number of performances required in a given school year. While all three felt they had control over selecting repertoire,  they did not all have control over factors such as equipment and venues. For example, one participant was required to perform at the middle school due to lack of space at her elementary school, which was a source of stress. In addition, “all participants discussed how their stress levels spiked the night of the performance, perhaps due to an overall lack of control in student, audience, or parent/guardian behavior” (p. 41).
  3. Theme 3: Isolation
    • All three of the participants felt there was “a general lack of understanding, from people outside the general music program, of undertaking so many extra responsibilities in facilitating these performances” (p. 41). One participant explained, “Nobody understands what I’m actually doing. Because they [teachers, administrators, parents] always see the product. They don’t see the process” (p. 41).

What does this mean for my classroom?

Performances can be a significant source of stress for elementary general music educators and may cause them to sacrifice time spent on student learning and accomplishing curricular goals. Elementary music teachers might consider shifting to in-class performances or “informances,” in which students demonstrate classroom activities and show what they are learning in a smaller setting rather than simply putting on a large show. This can help parents and administrators see the depth and breadth of the curriculum by focusing more on the process of learning than the final product of a performance.

For more information on “informances”…

E01.35: Rhythm Aural/Oral Skills

In this episode, we focus on rhythm skills learned at the Aural/Oral level of the Skill Learning Sequence.

E01.35: Rhythm Aural/Oral Skills

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[RE-AIR] E01.03: What Is Sequential Music Learning?

There have been a LOT of new listeners in the past few weeks so in the next few off-weeks, I’ll be re-airing some old episodes. These will cover key concepts for those new to MLT!

E01.03: What Is Sequential Music Learning?

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RTRL.62: Instrumental Teachers’ Non-verbal Behaviors, Ensemble Set-up, and Use of Classroom Space (Roseth, 2020)

Source:

Potter, J. (2021). Elementary general music performances and teachers’ perceptions of stress. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 40(1), 36-44.

What did the researcher want to know?

Roseth, N. E. (2020). A survey of secondary instrumental teachers’ immediacy, ensemble setup, and use of classroom space in Colorado and Indiana. Journal of Research in Music Education,  68(3), 305-327.

What did the researcher want to know?

What are band and orchestra teachers’ perceptions of immediacy behaviors (non-verbal teacher behaviors that increase nonverbal interaction with students and communicate closeness), how are teachers organizing their ensembles, and how do teachers say they use classroom space? How do these factors interact and how do they vary by teacher sex and teaching position?

What did the researcher do?

Roseth surveyed 436 band and orchestra teachers (middle, junior high, or high school) in Colorado and Indiana. In addition to demographic information, the questionnaire asked teachers to rate the importance of various immediacy behaviors, such as “frequent eye contact,” “sense of humor,” and “move toward and among the group.” Next, teachers were asked to indicate which ensemble setup they use most frequently (options shown in Figure 1), how frequently they use the other setups, how frequently they change their setup, and their reasons why they do or do not change it. Teachers then responded to a set of items designed to reflect their immediacy behaviors (e.g., “I gesture when I talk to students” or “I avoid gesturing when I talk to students.”). Finally, teachers were asked to estimate how much time they spent teaching on or behind their podium, moving around the classroom, seated in a chair within the ensemble, at the board, and at other locations.

What did the researcher find?

In terms of immediacy, teachers reported that they used behaviors related to eye contact the most and proximity-related behaviors (e.g., touching, moving toward, sit/stand close) the least. Immediacy behaviors did not vary by teaching position (e.g., middle vs. high school) but did vary by teacher sex, with female teachers reporting more frequent use of behaviors including vocal variety, smiling, being animated, and proximity-related behaviors (touch, closeness, moving/leaning toward).

In terms of ensemble setup, 68% of teachers reported that their primary setup was arcs (setup A), followed by 15% reporting use of arcs with aisle (setup B) and 9% using arcs and rows (setup F). The vast majority (83%) said they often or always use arcs. When asked how frequently they changed their setup, the most common response was once or twice per year. There was no significant difference between closed/open setup use by teacher sex. However, teachers of younger ensembles were significantly more likely to report use of open setups. There were no significant differences between open/close setup use and overall teacher immediately. However, teachers who used open setups were significantly more likely to report moving toward and among students than teachers who used closed setups.

In terms of classroom space, the average amount of time reportedly spent at the podium was 66%, followed by 19% moving toward or among students and 7% at the board. Female teachers reported significantly less time on the podium than male teachers, and teachers of younger ensembles reported significantly less time on the podium than high school teachers. In addition, teachers who used closed setups reported significantly more time spent on the podium and less moving toward/among students than those who used open setups.

What does this mean for my classroom?

Instrumental ensemble teachers should consider the variety of classroom setup options available and the ramifications for choosing each possible setup option. Open setups allow more freedom for teachers to move around the classroom rather than staying on the podium. It is important, however, to also remember that correlation does not equal causation. Just because teachers with open setups are more likely to move around the room does not mean that one caused the other. It is worth considering the broader mindset that may underlie both the amount of time a teacher spends on the podium and their classroom setup. Additionally, given the percentage of teachers who report rarely changing their classroom setup, teachers might reflect on the potential benefits of changing up their classroom setup on a more frequent basis. How might this affect student engagement, motivation, and/or listening skills?

E01.34: Tonal Aural/Oral Skills

In this episode, we focus on tonal skills learned at the Aural/Oral level of the Skill Learning Sequence. 

E01.34 Tonal Aural/Oral Skills

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[RE-AIR] E01.02: What is Music Aptitude?

There have been a LOT of new listeners in the past few weeks so in the next few off-weeks, I’ll be re-airing some old episodes. These will cover key concepts for those new to MLT!

E01.02: What Is Music Aptitude?

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Host: Heather Nelson Shouldice


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RTRL.61: Student and Teacher Perceptions of an Independent Choral Music Learning Project (Haning, 2021)

Source:

Potter, J. (2021). Elementary general music performances and teachers’ perceptions of stress. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 40(1), 36-44.

What did the researcher want to know?

Haning, M. (2021). “I didn’t know I could do that!”: Student and teacher perceptions of an independent choral music learning project. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 39(2), 15-24.

What did the researcher want to know?

What are student and teacher perceptions of a collaborative, student-directed approach to learning in an ensemble setting, and what are the challenges or barriers to implementing such an approach?

What did the researcher do?

Haning conducted a case study of 29 students and himself in his own high school choral classroom. He allowed the students to choose a piece to perform for their final concert and to spend time independently preparing the piece over a 2-month period. Whenever the students worked on the piece, Haning did not provide direct instruction and instead observed the students. After the performance, students completed a reflection form, and then Haning chose six students (two from each voice part) who had taken on a “visible leadership role . . . , who had previously expressed strong opinions about the project, or who [he] otherwise thought would be able to provide important context” (p. 18) to participate in interviews about their experiences. Handing coded the interview transcripts to identify categories and themes.

What did the researcher find?

Haning identified four main themes:

  1. Collaboration and Connection: Students enjoyed working collaboratively and building connections among group members. One commented “that being able to share their opinions more frequently made them feel that ‘we got to be our own directors’” (p. 19). Another commented that “because of the independent structure of this project, ‘we’re actually having to listen to each other’” (p. 19).
  2. Growth and Learning: The ownership that students took in the project led to substantial growth and learning. Haning reflected, “from a teacher’s perspective, I was very pleased to see that the students were able to apply the skills and techniques that I had been teaching throughout the year” (p. 19).
  3. Accomplishment: Both the students and Haning noted the sense of accomplishment and pride students found in the project. “Many students seemed taken aback that they were able to succeed at learning the piece on their own, and they grew noticeably more confident in their own abilities as the project continued” (p. 20).
  4. Conflict: The primary challenge of the project was navigating conflict among the students, which most often stemmed from lack of participation/effort, competition between students, and struggles with giving and receiving constructive criticism.

What does this mean for my classroom?

Teacher-led learning experiences have long been a key component of school music classes, particularly in ensemble settings, but independent student learning experiences can provide unique benefits. In addition to teacher-led experiences, music educators should consider including opportunities for student-led learning. In doing so, teachers should anticipate student conflict and/or off-task behavior but keep in mind that this will not necessarily detract from the overall positive experience.

E01.33: Intro to Aural/Oral

In this episode, I give an overview of the first level of learning in the skill learning sequence: Aural/Oral.

E01.33 Intro to Aural/Oral

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[RE-AIR] E01.01: What Is Audiation?

There have been a LOT of new listeners in the past few weeks so in the next few off-weeks, I’ll be re-airing some old episodes. These will cover key concepts for those new to MLT!


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Host: Heather Nelson Shouldice


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If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes, email them to everydaymusicality@gmail.com!

E01.32: Leaping Into Lydian

In this episode, we focus on building audiation in Lydian tonality. 

E01.32: Leaping Into Lydian

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RTRL.60: Confronting and Overcoming Music Teacher Burnout (Hanson, 2021)

Source:

Potter, J. (2021). Elementary general music performances and teachers’ perceptions of stress. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 40(1), 36-44.

What did the researcher want to know?

Hanson, J. (2021). Research-to-resource: Confronting and overcoming music teacher burnout. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education. https://doi.org/10.1177/87551233211019999

What did the researcher want to know?

How can we equip music teachers and other educational stakeholders with research-informed definitions, warning signs, and potential remedies for burnout!?

What did the researcher do?

In order to offer suggestions for identifying and remedying music teacher burnout, Hanson conducted a literature review of existing research studies pertaining to teacher burnout.

What did the researcher find?

Burnout is defined as “a psychological syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who work with other people in some capacity” (Maslach, as cited in Hanson, p. 2). Research shows that the most common sources leading to music teacher burnout are low administrative support and poor working conditions, as well as challenges specific to music teachers (e.g, classroom management, large class sizes, feeling “unprepared for their teaching assignment”). Hanson cites five categories of symptoms of music teacher burnout, according to Sandene (1995): 

  1. Physical symptoms
    • fatigue, sleep disorders, weight fluctuation, high blood pressure, headaches, etc.
  2. Intellectual symptoms
    • lack of focus, procrastination, impaired decision making, lowered productivity, apathy, etc.
  3. Social symptoms
    • irritability, feeling isolated, withdrawing from relationships, lacking adequate family time, etc.
  4. Psychological/emotional symptoms
    • anxiety, depression, hopelessness, low self-esteem, coping behaviors such as excessive drinking or eating, etc.
  5. Spiritual symptoms
    • detachment from religious practices or mindfulness habits, changes to one’s values system, etc.

Synthesis of the existing research suggests that “macro-level remedies” can be implemented in response burnout related to working conditions. These include the following:

  • Address issues of time constraints, resource inadequacy, and gaps in preparation. Possible solutions include providing targeted mentoring, course-load adjustments, and altered expectations for performing, traveling, and participating in contests/festival.
  • Provide more support and agency to teachers. Encourage teachers to set and maintain boundaries and help create a culture of open communication and shared decision making.
  • Address burnout prevention in teacher preparation programs and inservice professional development.

While these are not within an individual teacher’s control, teachers can introduce these ideas to administrative decision makers and begin a conversation about burnout.

Existing research suggests that music teachers can try stress-reduction approaches like the following:

  • Practice efficient time management. Set limits on the number of hours of daily work and stick to them. Get comfortable saying “no” to extra tasks.
  • “Seek clarity from supervisors on roles, responsibilities, and the boundaries governing what should and should not be included in teaching duties” (p. 4). If tasks extend beyond teaching, seek additional help, such as parent volunteers.
  • Prioritize health and wellness. Work on healthy sleep, eating, and movement habits. Spend time on a hobby and/or establish a mindfulness/meditation practice.
  • “Remember your ‘why’…. Keep students and the joy of learning in the foreground” (p. 4). However, if work becomes unbearable with no improvement on the horizon, prioritize your well-being by considering job changes: taking a leave of absence, going part-time, or applying for positions in different schools or districts” (p. 4).

What does this mean for my classroom?

We are going through a very stressful time! Teachers should be aware of the symptoms of burnout and consider whether they might be experiencing (or on the road to) burnout. While it is not within the control of individual teachers to make macro-level changes, music teachers can begin a conversation with their administrators regarding burnout and can proactively take steps to reduce stress.

E01.31: Special Guests and MORE Exciting News!

In this episode, I have a conversation with TWO special guests–Jill Reese and Jennifer Bailey–and share some more exciting news!

E01.31: Special Guests and MORE Exciting News!

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E01.30: Exciting News!

In this episode, I share some exciting news: MY BOOK IS OUT!

E01.30: Exciting News!
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E01.29: Listener Q & A

In this episode, I answer listener questions!

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RTRL.59: Race-based Microaggressions Experienced by Black Girls In Relation to Their Hair (Essien & Wood, 2020)

Source:

Potter, J. (2021). Elementary general music performances and teachers’ perceptions of stress. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 40(1), 36-44.

What did the researcher want to know?

Essien, I., & Wood, J. L. (2020). I love my hair: The weaponizing of Black girls hair by educators in early childhood education. Early Childhood Education Journal, 49(3), 401-412.

What did the researchers want to know?

What race-based microaggressions are experienced by Black girls, specifically in relation to their hair?

What did the researchers do?

Essien and Wood surveyed 44 parents of Black/African American girls in early childhood education (preschool through third grade) “to share their perspectives on their experiences and perceptions of how Black girls were engaged in early learning, with particular regard to their hair” (p. 405). Parents were provided with definitions and examples of microaggressions* and were then asked to provided open-ended descriptions of up to five relevant instances of gender-based microaggressions related to their daughters’ hair. Essien and Wood coded the parent responses to identify salient themes.

  • *Microaggressions are defined by Sue (2010) as “the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership” (p. 3).
  • Sue, D. W. (2010). Microaggressions, marginality, and oppression: An introduction. In D. W. Sue (Ed.), Microaggressions and marginality: Manifestation, dynamics, and impact (pp. 3-22). John Wiley and Sons.

What did the researchers find?

Analysis of parent responses revealed two primary ways in which Black girls experienced microaggressions related to their hair: second-class hair and a presumption of defilement. 

The first theme relates to peers’ and educators’ perceptions of Black girls’ hair as “lesser than.” “Parents reported that teachers and students extended negative comments about Black hair,” which tended to be “most common whenever hair was worn naturally” (p. 407). “Overall, the comments demonstrated that teachers perceived natural hair as nonstandard, unbeautiful, and not well-maintained” (p. 407). One parent described an incident in which her child’s teacher would put barrettes or rubber bands in her daughter’s hair because the teacher perceived the girl’s Afro as unkept. Parents also described instances of “normative assumptions about hairstyles” being communicated by their daughters’ peers. One parent recalled that her daughter was teased so much in her first week of kindergarten for wearing her hair in two puff balls that she didn’t want to wear her hair that way anymore.

The second theme relates to the assumption that Black girls’ hair is unclean. “The most pervasive connotation was that Black girls’ hair was inherently dirty” (p. 408). One parent described an example in which their kindergarten daughter was repeatedly sent to the office to be checked for lice because her hair had been styled in the same Marley braids for multiple weeks at a time. The parent recalled, “This became a recurring event, and when I asked if these checks were a regular thing for all kids, the answer was no. The nurse, unaware of the dry scalp my daughter has, repeatedly sent my daughter home claiming she had nits in her hair so she must have lice…. I finally had to go to the doctor with my daughter for an exam by the pediatrician to determine she did not in fact have lice. The missed days for nonexistent lice had an impact on my daughter’s attendance” (p. 408). Many parents also felt that teachers’ responses to their daughters being teased for “dirty” hair were unsatisfactory. “Concerns about Black mistreatment being dismissed or ignored was apparent across this theme” (p. 408).

What does this mean for my classroom?

Children need a school environment in which they feel emotionally safe and can form positive relationships. The findings of this study suggest that many Black girls experience race-based microaggressions related to their hair that may hinder their feelings of safety and relationships with teachers and peers. Teachers should be aware of the ways in which their words may send messages to Black girls about their hair, including comments about natural hairstyles (e.g., Afro, twists) that may be perceived as negative. Similarly, complimenting Black girls when their hairstyle is more aligned with European beauty standards (e.g., permed, straightened, less coiled) can also send negative messages. Additionally, teachers should be aware that negative messages about Black hair are “further reinforced by a lack of response to teasing” (p. 409).

To help educators improve the experiences of Black girls in relation to their hair, Essien and Wood suggest the acronym HAIR: Hone, Affirm, Intervene, Refrain.

  • HONE “understanding of Black hair by learning what symptoms of dry scalp look like” (p. 410).
  • AFFIRM the beauty of black hair. “Given the ubiquitous social perceptions of Black hair that are negative, it is necessary for educators to affirm the beauty of Black hair as a counter-messaging effort” (p. 410), particularly when worn in natural styles.
  • INTERVENE when Black girls are being teased for their hair. “Educators should consider negative messages about hair to be hair harassment, or bullying, and should respond to these issues with an appropriate level of intervention and consequence for perpetrators of these messages” (p. 410).
  • REFRAIN from touching, manipulating, or redoing Black children’s hair.

E01.28: Fiddling With Phrygian

In this episode, we focus on building audiation in Phrygian tonality.

E01.28: Fiddling With Phrygian

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RTRL.58: Orchestral Performances at the Midwest Clinic (Zabanal, 2021)

Source:

Zabanal, J. R. A. (2021). An examination of orchestras and repertoire performed at the Midwest Clinic from 1990 through 2019. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 39(3), 29-38.

What did the researcher want to know?

What types of ensembles, repertoire, and composers/arrangers have been represented at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in the previous 30 years?

What did the researcher do?

Zabanal accessed programs from the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic from 1990 through 2019 and conducted a content analysis. To analyze the ensembles invited to perform, he recorded the performance year, school/organization name, ensemble name, and geographic origin (state/country) as well as level (elementary, middle school, high school, multilevel, collegiate, or professional). To analyze the repertoire performed, Zabanal recorded the title of each piece along with the composer and/or arranger and instrumentation (i.e., full orchestra or string orchestra). He also coded each composer/arranger according to their assumed gender (male/female).

What did the researcher find?

Of the 261 total orchestras that performed at the Midwest Clinic from 1990 through 2019, 58% were string orchestras and 39% were full orchestras. High school ensembles were most common, making up 63% of orchestra performances. The state with the most representation in orchestra performances was Texas (n = 73), followed by Georgia (n = 25), Illinois (n = 23), Nevada (n = 14), Michigan (n = 12), and Missouri (n = 11).

Of the 624 full orchestra pieces performed that listed at least one composer, only 24 (3.69%) were composed by women. Of the 305 individual composers whose full orchestra pieces were performed, only 17 (5.57%) were female. Of the 1,524 string orchestra pieces performed that listed at least one composer, 140 (9.19%) were composed by women. Of the 574 individual composers whose string orchestra pieces were performed, 46 (8.01%) were female. Similarly, women accounted for 6.48% of arrangers of full orchestra pieces performed and 11.02% of arrangers of string orchestra pieces.

Zabanal also reported statistics pertaining to the most performed composers/arrangers and most performed pieces.

What does this mean for my classroom?

Female composers are still underrepresented in the field of orchestral music and string music education. This imbalance was more pronounced among full orchestra performances at the Midwest Clinic, which more often featured repertoire by male composers “who were European and deceased” (p. 34). Orchestra teachers should seek out more works composed/arranged by women and provide more representation of female composers in their classrooms. 

E01.27: Intro to LSAs

In this episode, I give an overview of Learning Sequence Activities or LSAs—what are they and how can we use them?

E01.27: Intro to LSAs

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E01.26: Differentiating Instruction

In this episode, I talk about how to individualize instruction on the basis of your students’ tonal and rhythm aptitudes so that they are appropriately challenged and experiencing success.

E01.26: Differentiating Instruction

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RTRL.57: Teacher Beliefs as Predictors of Student engagement and achievement in Math (Archambault, Janosz, & Chouinard, 2012)

Source:

Potter, J. (2021). Elementary general music performances and teachers’ perceptions of stress. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 40(1), 36-44.

What did the researcher want to know?

Source:

Archambault, I., Janosz, M., & Chouinard, R. (2012). Teacher beliefs as predictors of adolescents’ cognitive engagement and achievement in mathematics. The Journal of Educational Research, 105, 319-328.

What did the researchers want to know?

How do teachers’ beliefs affect students’ cognitive engagement and achievement in math?

What did the researchers do?

Archambault, Janosz, and Chouinard studied 79 teachers and 2,364 of their students in Grades 7-11 at 33 schools in Québec. Teacher beliefs were measured using a questionnaire containing items pertaining to their expectancies about students’ ability to succeed in math, their sense of self-efficacy as a teacher. Students’ cognitive engagement was measured using a questionnaire that asked students to rate the amount of time and effort they were ready to invest in math-related activities, and students’ math achievement was gauged by asking them to report their average grade in math during the given school year. The teachers completed their questionnaire between January and March, and the students completed their questionnaire at the end of the previous school year and again at the end of the given school year.

What did the researchers find?

Hierarchical linear modeling revealed that teachers’ expectancies about students’ success and teachers’ sense of self-efficacy had a significant effect on their students’ math achievement at the end of the given school year. Specifically, teachers who expected more student success and who had a stronger sense of self-efficacy had students who showed greater math achievement. Furthermore, this did not vary between high- and low-achieving students. In general, all students showed increased achievement at the end of the school year regardless of their achievement the year before if they had a teacher who expected student success and who had a strong sense of self-efficacy. However, teacher beliefs were not significantly related to students’ self-reported engagement level.

What does this mean for my classroom?

According to the researchers, “the more teachers maintain high expectations and the more efficacious they feel in helping their students succeed, the more students’ achievement in- creased over the year” (p. 324). Although this study was focused on math classrooms, it is plausible that beliefs and self-efficacy among music teachers also can influence their students’ achievement in the music classroom. It is important that music teachers believe that all students can be successful at music and experience growth in musical knowledge and skills throughout the school year. Rather than buying into the traditional myth of musical “talent” that is innate in some but not in others, students will benefit from having a music teacher who believes in the musical potential of every child in their classroom, is confident that every student can succeed in music, and communicates this confidence to their students.

E01.25: Music Aptitude Testing — Why and How?

In this episode, I talk about music aptitude tests and how they are useful in providing differentiated instruction in music.

E01.25: Music Aptitude Testing — Why and How?

Mentioned in this episode:

RTRL.56: Student Preferences for Music learning And Music Courses (Pendergast & Robinson, 2020)

Source:

Pendergast, S., & Robinson, N. R. (2020). Secondary students’ preferences for various learning conditions and music courses: A comparison of school music, out-of-school music, and nonmusical participants. Journal of Research in Music Education, 68(3), 264-285.

What did the researchers want to know?

In terms of music class, what are secondary students’ preferences for teacher role, group size, repertoire, and class options? Do these preferences differ by socioeconomic status, ethnicity, or whether students participate in school music, out-of-school music, or no music? Why do some students choose not to participate in music?

What did the researchers do?

Pendergast and Robinson surveyed 827 middle and high school students from one urban and one suburban school district who were chosen through stratified random sampling to ensure diversity. The survey included items regarding demographics (gender, ethnicity, free/reduced lunch status, participation in school music, participation in out-of-school music), their learning condition preferences  (group sizes, amount of independent learning, degree of input on repertoire selection), and their interest in various music courses (including piano/guitar, composition with technology, popular music group, large ensemble, history/theory, and world music group).

What did the researchers find?

Overall, the least preferred teacher role was exclusively teacher-led instruction, with only 23.0% of students preferring this option. Teachers sometimes leading was preferred by 43.5%, and learning independently with teacher intervention only when necessary was preferred by 33.5%. Among in-school music participants, only 20.1% preferred exclusively teacher-led instruction. In terms of group size, only 13.3% of students preferred exclusively large group, with 35.9% preferring small groups and 50.8% preferring a mix of large and small groups. In terms of repertoire choice, most students (61.8%) preferred when the teacher and students choose music together, with 28.7% preferring that students select all the music and only 9.6% preferring when teachers select all the music.

All students—even those who participate in school music—expressed the most interest in piano/guitar class. While large ensemble received the second-most interest from in-school music participants, it was rated second-to-last by out-of-school music participants and nonparticipants. The second and third most interesting to those students were music composition class with technology and popular music group.

Pendergast and Robinson found a significant difference in repertoire choice preferences by ethnicity, with Latinx and Black students significantly more likely to prefer that students choose the repertoire. When comparing preferences by music participation group, Pendergast and Robinson found that out-of-school participants and nonparticipants were significantly more likely to prefer small group learning and students choosing the repertoire learned.

When responding to questions on why they were not enrolled in school music, 80.1% of nonparticipants said they were not interested, while 19.6% said they don’t have time and less than 5% said they couldn’t afford an instrument. Among out-of-school music participants, 35.4% said they had no interest, 37% said they did not have time, 9.1% said they couldn’t afford an instrument, and 20.1% indicated “Other.”

What does this mean for my classroom?

While teacher-led, large-group instruction may be the dominant mode in traditional school music classes, this kind of learning may actually be least preferred by students. Music teachers might consider providing opportunities for small group and/or student-led learning experiences. Since Pendergast and Robinson found that very few students prefer having the teacher select all their repertoire, teachers also might consider allowing students to have a voice in choosing the music they will perform. This may be especially critical for teachers who work with Latinx and Black students, as these students were significantly more likely to prefer choosing their own repertoire. Small group learning and student-chosen repertoire may be especially powerful in attracting more students, as they were significantly more preferred by out-of-school participants and nonparticipants.

In addition to adjusting how current music courses operate, that out-of-school participants and nonparticipants rated large ensemble as one of their least desired music class options suggests we should consider adding other types of courses to the curriculum. Doing so might draw in students who are not interested in traditional band, orchestra, and choir offerings but would be interested in other types of much learning. Since over 80% of nonparticipants said they did not enroll in school music because they simply were not interested, it is possible that these students would enroll in another type of music offering they found more compelling. Piano/guitar, music composition class with technology, and popular music group may be promising options, as these were most preferred by out-of-school participants and nonparticipants.

E01.24: Developmental vs. Stabilized Aptitude

In this episode, I kick off a mini-series on music aptitude by discussing the two stages of music aptitude and how they are related to brain development.

E01.24: Developmental vs. Stabilized Aptitude

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RTRL.55: Young Children’s Spontaneous Singing (Dean, 2020)

* This guest post was authored by Sarah Boyd, graduate student at Eastern Michigan University, Lead Teaching Artist for the Detroit Symphony, and director of Hummingbird Music Together. Click here and here to learn more about Ms. Boyd and her work.

Source:

Potter, J. (2021). Elementary general music performances and teachers’ perceptions of stress. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 40(1), 36-44.

What did the researcher want to know?

Dean, B. (2020). Spontaneous singing in early childhood: An examination of young children’s singing at home. Research Studies in Music Education. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1177/1321103X20924139

What did the researcher want to know?

How do young children use spontaneous singing in their everyday lives?

What did the researcher do?

Due to technological advances, Dean was able to capture continuous audio recording of fifteen children, ages three and four years, at home in daily life.  In total, over 180 hours of audio footage were recorded from parents monitoring a small recording device that the child wore on their clothes. The mobile recording technology allowed the children to be recorded without disrupting daily routines. Data was collected without relying on adult observation. Most families recorded over 2-4 days, and the total time that each child was recorded ranged from 4 hours to 24 hours.  Once the recordings were collected, Dean manually located episodes of singing within the recordings and created audio-clips for analysis. Each clip was labeled according to the type of singing behavior, context, communication intent, and the function of the singing. The four types of singing behaviors identified after analysis of the clips were improvisatory singing, singing based on learned songs, humming, and chant. Dean then further analyzes the context of clips that included spontaneous singing.

What did the researcher find?

Spontaneous singing is the most common form of singing in young children. 

Data showed that all fifteen children improvised songs to some degree. On average, children spent almost 5% of their total recorded time (total time, not just musical clips) in spontaneous song. It was the most frequently recorded type of singing behavior and the type recorded for the longest total time. Dean points out that although previous major studies refer to chant as the main singing behavior in young children, this is not the case for these 3- and 4-year-olds at home. 

Children use music in ways that are meaningful to them and suit their needs. 

In addition to improvising songs, children rarely sang unaltered versions of conventional songs they knew. Children made use of spontaneous singing during self-directed play, especially when playing alone. After play, children used spontaneous song during stationary activities (bath, meals) or parent-directed activities like transitioning or waiting. Dean asserts these findings suggest that “singing may act as a substitute for physical activity, reflecting an active state of mind even when the body is relatively still” (p. 11). 

Children amend their singing behaviors based on their social context. 

Children sang songs they knew, or improvised songs with words that had meaning, when they were singing to communicate with others. The motivation behind their singing behaviors seemed to be to be understood and share common songs with their family or caregivers. In contrast, when children were alone, their spontaneous songs had less focus on language and meaning. These improvisations were highly exploratory, with more humming, nonsense words, and syllables. The focus appeared to be experimentation and altering songs for their own purposes – narrating their own play or experimenting vocally.

What does this mean for my classroom?

Early childhood educators – both music and classroom – need to develop and foster an environment where spontaneous song has a place in classroom life. Furthermore, the improvisational songs of children need to be recognized as a fundamental singing behavior that is valuable to their musical development. Notably, the study showed that the children who improvised the most had families who included a wide repertoire of song in their daily life. Children will benefit from having a large repertoire of songs in their listening and singing vocabularies, upon which they can draw from when in spontaneous song. Using a wide variety of tunes in your classroom – include a variety of tonalities and meters – can provide this repertoire for children.

Spontaneous song occurred most during free play but was also found in active and stationary contexts – which shows us that singing can be a part of any and all activity! Educators can model using their own spontaneous song while washing hands or cleaning up, making music a part of your daily classroom activities. Be aware of the “hum” of your classroom – if you hear a child’s song, validate it by singing something back to them, either an echo or your own musical idea. This shows that you value their music making. 

Finally, children are aware of what is accepted socially with music, and they quickly add words or sing conventional songs when interacting with adults. Allow children the freedom to sing without words, thus enabling them to focus on the music at hand. Just as 3- and 4-year-old children need to explore in order to teach themselves through play, the same is true with music. Children will flourish in a classroom that gives space for spontaneous song, as it is what comes most naturally to them. 

E01.23: My MLT Journey

In this episode, I share the story of my own journey discovering and using MLT over the past 20 years.

E01.23 My MLT Journey

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RTRL.54: Can Empathy Reduce Implicit Bias? (Whitford & Emerson, 2019)

Source:

Potter, J. (2021). Elementary general music performances and teachers’ perceptions of stress. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 40(1), 36-44.

What did the researcher want to know?

Whitford, D. K., Emerson, A. M. (2019). Empathy intervention to reduce implicit bias in pre-service teachers. Psychological Reports, 122(2), 670-688.

What did the researchers want to know?

Can a brief intervention designed to solicit empathy for Black individuals reduce implicit bias among white preservice teachers?

What did the researchers do?

Whitford and Emerson randomly assigned 34 white preservice teachers to two groups, both of which completed the Race Implicit Association Test as a measure of their implicit bias at the beginning of the study. Next, each group was asked to read either the experimental or control group passage, type their thoughts and feelings for 10 minutes after reading, and then complete the Implicit Association Test again. Participants in the control group read an article about integrating technology into elementary science lessons and were asked to write about how this made them feel, what they liked about it, and how they might improve the lessons. Participants in the experimental group read descriptions of 10 personal experiences of explicit racism from Black student peers, and they were asked to imagine themselves in the Black students’ situations and write about how this made them feel, how they would have reacted, and how these experiences might be prevented.

What did the researchers find?

Although the two groups did not differ on their Implicit Association Test scores before the intervention, there was a statistically significant difference between the groups’ post-intervention scores. Possible scores range from -2.0 to 2.0, with scores closer to zero indicating  less bias. While the control group mean only went from 0.53 to 0.47, the experimental group mean went from 0.57 to 0.18, indicating significantly less implicit bias after the intervention. 

What does this mean for my classroom?

Whitford and Emerson’s results suggest experiences soliciting empathy can be effective in reducing negative bias toward Black individuals. Specifically, White teachers who consider and empathize with Black students’ experiences with explicit racism may show less bias toward Black students, thereby reducing discriminatory discipline. Okonofua and Eberhardt found in this study that teachers responded more harshly to behavior infractions committed by students with Black-sounding names than with White-sounding names. However, according to Whitford and Emerson, “our results indicate that teacher training aimed at racial consciousness, and personal awareness of implicit bias holds promise for promoting empathy within the education workforce” (p. 680). Similarly, Okonofua, Paunesku, and Walton found in this study that teachers who take an empathic mindset punish students less severely and that their students have greater respect for them and are more motivated to behave well in the future. As Whitford and Emerson state, “School discipline inequality is one of the major contributors to the prison pipe-line for at-risk children and adolescents, but it does not have to be” (p. 682). Empathy interventions can be one effective strategy for turning the tide.

E01.22: Chatting with Cindy Taggart

In this episode, I have a conversation with GIML faculty member and current GIML president, Dr. Cynthia Crump Taggart.

E01.22: Chatting with Cindy Taggart

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RTRL.53: Effects of Choral Performance Movement on Choral Sound (Grady & Gilliam, 2020)

Source:

Potter, J. (2021). Elementary general music performances and teachers’ perceptions of stress. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 40(1), 36-44.

What did the researcher want to know?

Grady, M. L., & Gilliam, T. M. (2020). Effects of three common choral performance movement conditions on acoustic and perceptual measures of choral sound. Journal of Research in Music Education, 68(3), 286-304.

What did the researchers want to know?

How does singer movement affect choral sound and perceptions of choral sound?

What did the researchers do?

Grady and Gilliam audio-recorded a non-auditioned, mixed-voice university choir performing a 16-measure excerpt (Klebanow’s arrangement of “Erev Shel Shoshanim”) under three conditions: standing still, slight swaying (up to 2 inches in any direction), and full-body swaying (“natural swaying that could exceed 2 in. in any direction and include a shifting of weight between feet” (p. 290)). Two weeks later the singers were invited to participate as “singer-listeners,” which 19 of the 29 choir members agreed to do. In addition, the researchers invited  16 “expert listeners” with graduate degrees in music education or choral conducting and experience in choral teaching/conducting to participate. The singer-listeners and expert listeners were asked to rate the overall choral sound and expressiveness of each of the three audio recordings (heard in random order and blinded to condition) and to rank them in order of preference. In addition, the researchers acoustically analyzed the sound of each recording for timbre (“spectral energy”) and pitch.

What did the researchers find?

Acoustical analysis showed significant differences in spectral energy between all three conditions, with full-body swaying showing a the highest mean and no movement showing the lowest. Acoustical analysis also showed that the slight sway condition resulted in the smallest overall pitch deviation, with no movement resulting in the largest overall pitch deviation. 

In terms of singer-listeners’ perception of overall choral sound, the average rating was lowest for the no-movement performance and highest for the full-body swaying performance. Although the lowest average rating from expert listeners was also for the no-movement performance, expert listeners rated the slight-swaying performance as having the best choral sound. When rating expressiveness, expert listeners gave the highest average rating to the full-body swaying performance and lowest to the no-movement performance. Singer-listeners also gave the lowest average rating to the no-movement performance but the highest rating to the slight-swaying performance. However, the only statistically significant difference was between expert listeners’ ratings of overall choral sound for slight swaying versus no movement.

When asked to rank the three recordings in order of preference, singer-listeners most preferred the full-body-swaying performance while expert listeners preferred the slight-swaying recording. Both groups ranked the no-movement performance as least preferred.

What does this mean for my classroom?

Many music educators require their students to stand still while singing because they believe this makes the choir’s performance more visually appealing. However, the results of this study indicate that requiring students to stand still can be detrimental to their pitch, expressiveness and overall choral sound. The researchers also asked the singers to comment on their experiences in each of the three conditions, and the singers remarked “that the full-body swaying helped them feel ‘more free’ and ‘breathe easier’ and that ‘anxiety/tension was reduced’” while they “were ‘stiff’ and ‘tight’ during the no-movement condition, with a ‘tendency to hold and clutch’” (p. 299). Teachers might reconsider the requirement that students stand still while singing and experiment to see whether and what kinds of movement might have the best effect on singers’ sound and experience of singing.

Related Studies:

McCabe (2006) found benefits of movement for beginning instrumentalists.

E01.21: Musicianship-Building Pt. 2

In this episode, we continue our musicianship skill-building and REALLY get into improvisation!

E01.21: Musicianship-Building Pt. 2

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RTRL.52: Children’s Perceptions of Gender Stereotypes in Musical Instruments (Pickering & Repacholi, 2002)

Source:

Pickering, S., & Repacholi, B. (2002). Modifying children’s gender-typed musical instrument preferences: The effects of gender and age. Sex Roles, 45(9-10), 623-643.

What did the researchers want to know?

Do older students perceive stronger gender stereotypes among musical instruments than younger students? Can exposure to counter-stereotyped musicians affect students’ instrument preferences?

What did the researchers do?

Pickering and Repacholi conducted a study involving 156 kindergarten students and 158 fourth-grade students. They showed the students videos of high-school musicians playing one of eight instruments that had previously been identified as either feminine (flute, violin, clarinet, cello) or masculine (drum, saxophone, trumpet, trombone) by Australian adults. The musicians wore school uniforms and all played the same musical excerpt. Participants were divided into three groups: one who viewed videos that aligned with gender stereotypes (e.g., females playing “feminine” instruments and males playing “masculine” instruments), one who viewed “counter-stereotyped” musicians (e.g., males playing “feminine” instruments and females playing “masculine” instruments), and one who simply viewed a static image of the instrument (with no musician visible).

Pickering and Repacholi had each student view their assigned videos individually (in a room separate from their classroom) and then asked them which instrument they would most like to play.

What did the researchers find?

Students in the control group (who saw static images rather than musicians) were significantly more likely to select instruments consistent with gender stereotypes than those inconsistent with gender stereotypes. There were, however, no significant differences in stereotyping by gender or age.

When all three groups were compared, Pickering and Repacholi found that students in the control group and the gender-consistent group were equally likely to prefer gender-consistent instruments. However, students exposed to the counter-examples were significantly less likely to choose gender-consistent instruments. 

What does this mean for my classroom?

The issue of gender-stereotyping of instruments persists in music education. However, the results of this study suggest that exposing students to musicians who defy gender stereotypes can help them resist rather than perpetuate these stereotypes. When choosing audio/video or live examples for use in the music classroom, music educators should be conscious of who is represented and work to actively combat gender stereotypes. In addition to noticing the gender of instrumentalists featured in the music classroom, teachers should also pay attention to the gender of composers and conductors so that students see women represented in these roles. Music educators might also notice who is (or is not) represented in our professional materials, such as textbooks and journals. (This study found that women are much less likely to be represented as conductors in photographs published in the Music Educators Journal.) Similarly, teachers can notice the race/ethnicity of those who are represented. This noticing is the first step to taking action in ensuring that the representation in our classrooms is one that allows ALL students to see themselves represented in a diversity of musical roles.

E01.20: Musicianship-Building Pt. 1

In this episode, we experience some musicianship skill-building (including learning a tune by rote, chord roots by rote, and tonal/rhythm patterns), which will get us into improvisation! 

E01.20: Musicianship Building Pt. 1

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RTRL.51: Research on Children’s Singing (Hedden, 2012)

Source:

Potter, J. (2021). Elementary general music performances and teachers’ perceptions of stress. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 40(1), 36-44.

What did the researcher want to know?

Hedden, D. (2012). An overview of existing research about children’s singing and the implications of teaching children to sing. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 30(2), 52-62.

What research exists on children’s singing and what insight can it provide for music educators?

What did the researcher do?

In order to offer suggestions for helping children learn to sing, Hedden conducted a literature review of existing research studies pertaining to prepubescent children’s singing. This included studies of both internal factors (e.g., vocal range, pitch matching, sex differences) and external factors (e.g., solo versus group, use of accompaniment, use of text, vocal modeling).

In synthesizing the 50+ studies on children’s singing, Hedden identified many important themes. While I cannot present them all in this post, here are a few I find to be particularly valuable for teaching elementary general music:

✴ Young children can sing short patterns more accurately than whole songs.

Hedden summarized numerous studies that suggest young children may struggle with singing complete songs. Children in these studies were more able to accurately sing short patterns or individual pitches.

✴ Children benefit from whole group, small group, and solo singing experiences.

A number of researchers have studied whether children sing more accurately in solo or in large or small groups, to varying results. Ensuring that students experience both seems to be most beneficial.

✴ Children may benefit when singing is introduced on neutral syllables before text.

Though research findings have varied, there is some evidence to suggest that children may sing less accurately when learning songs with text. “There appears to be some merit in introducing singing on neutral syllables to offer one challenge at a time” (Hedden, 2012,  p. 58).

✴ Learning a song by rote or immersion may be more effective than phrase-by-phrase.

Children may have an easier time absorbing and retaining a new melody when they’re given numerous opportunities to listen in a focused way before being asked to sing. “As the child hears the song several times, [they] will gain familiarity with the pitch contour…. This process is akin to that of language acquisition, in that the young children hears certain words and phrases repeatedly before attempting to replicate them” (p. 58).

What does this mean for my classroom?

Because young children initially sing short patterns more accurately than whole songs, we can provide students with opportunities to echo short tonal patterns or chime in on short melodic patterns within a song. For example, you might model singing “Frog Song” and pretending to make your hand hop upward on the “ga-gung” pattern. Then you might invite students to chime in on that pattern whenever it occurs during the song.

Most music classes feature ample opportunities for students to sing as a whole group. To build musical independence, we can also add opportunities for students to sing in small groups and in solo. For example, once students are familiar with “Frog Song,” I add a frog finger puppet on the “ga-gung” pattern, inviting students to sing the rest of the song as I sing that pattern in solo while moving the frog puppet in an upward motion. Then I pass out three puppets to three individual students, who each sing one “ga-gung” in solo with the puppet while the rest of the class sings the rest of the song. Once students are familiar with the activity, it also provides an opportunity for singing assessment, using a rating scale such as the following:

  • 4 = Student sings the entire tonal pattern accurately.
  • 3 = Student sings the tonal pattern with slight intonation error. 
  • 2 = Student performs the pattern in singing voice but inaccurate pitches.
  • 1 = Student performs the pattern in speaking voice.

You could also have students echo short tonal patterns in solo, as shown in this video:

Kindergarten Students Echoing Tonal Patterns on Neutral Syllables

When teaching students a new melody, one approach is to use this process for teaching a song by rote, common among practitioners of Gordon’s Music Learning Theory: 

  1. Teacher models singing the song while students listen.
  2. Teacher models singing the resting tone (on “bum” or solfege) and invites students to audiate and sing the resting tone whenever they pause and gesture during the song.
  3. Teacher models moving to the microbeats (e.g., tapping, etc.) and invites students to move to the microbeats as they listen to the teacher sing the song.
  4. Teacher models moving to the macrobeats (e.g., swaying, etc.) and invites students to move to the macrobeats as they listen to the teacher sing the song.
  5. Teacher and students move to simultaneous macrobeat/microbeat while the teacher sings the song.
  6. Students close their eyes and sing the song silently in their heads, raising their hands when they are finished. (Teacher should be sure to give a starting signal/cue.)
  7. Students sing the song independently (without the teacher).

Songs can also be taught through immersion by engaging students in imaginative play as you expose them to the song. For example, you might…

  • Pretend to stir a different ingredient into a big pot of soup each time the teacher sings the song. Invite individual students to suggest ingredients to add!
  • Pretend to make a pizza, acting out a different step each time the teacher sings the song (stir, roll dough, poke dough, toss in the air, sway and sing or chant “tick-tock” to the beat while baking, slice to the beat, eat!)
  • Pretend it’s a snow day and do a different action each time the teacher sings the song (wake up/stretch, jump for joy, build a snowman, sledding, snow angels, snowball fight).
  • Pretend to bake cookies (stir, roll dough, use cookie cutters, “tick-tock”, frost, eat!), acting out a different step each time the teacher sings the song. Here is a video of this activity using a song in Lydian tonality sung on neutral syllables:
Informal Music Guidance: Kindergarten Students Absorbing a New Song

Playful activities like these allow students to hear and absorb the song a number of times so that by the time you ask them to sing it, they can already audiate it and are ready to sing.

Finally, since children may initially sing more accurately without text/lyrics, consider first teaching songs on a neutral syllable, such as “bum”, “loo”, “da”, or a combination of syllables.

E01.19: The Importance of Improvisation

In this episode, I talk about the importance of improvisation and developing the readiness to be a successful improvisor. 

E01.19 The Importance of Improvisation

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E01.18: Taking a Moment

In this episode, I… do nothing?

E01.18: Taking a Moment

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RTRL.50: Effects of Movement, Tempo, and Gender on Children’s Steady Beat Accuracy (Rose, 2016)

Source:

Potter, J. (2021). Elementary general music performances and teachers’ perceptions of stress. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 40(1), 36-44.

What did the researcher want to know?

Rose, P. (2016). Effects of movement, tempo, and gender on steady beat performance of kindergarten children. International Journal of Music Education, 34(1), 104-115.

How do movement type, gender, and tempo affect children’s steady beat accuracy?

What did the researcher do?

Rose studied 119 kindergarten students in two schools who were divided into two groups: one that was asked to pat their hands to the beat and one that was asked to step their feet in place to the beat. Each student was asked to move to the steady beat to a musical excerpt heard three times at different tempi (slow/quarter-note = 80 bpm, medium/quarter-note = 100 bpm, and fast/quarter-note = 120 bpm). The hand-patting students were asked to tap the beat with both hands simultaneously on a MIDI controller while the foot-stepping students were asked to step (alternating) on a piece of foam with a MIDI controller against it. The researcher then calculated how many of the 16 total beats each participant accurately moved to at each tempo and conducted a two-way mixed ANOVA with hand/foot grouping and gender as the between-subjects variables and tempo as the within-subjects variable.

The students were least accurate at the fast tempo and most accurate at the medium tempo, but these differences were not statistically significant. There was also no significant difference by gender. There was, however, a statistically significant difference by movement type: students who patted their hands to the beat were more accurate than students who stepped to the beat across all three tempi.

What does this mean for my classroom?

If music teachers wish to help students accurately move to the steady beat, they may find more initial success in asking students to pat with their hands rather than step with their feet. Rose noted that this seemed to be a result of a struggle with balance when standing on one foot at a time. However, it could also be that the alternating bilateral movement required of stepping with alternating feet was the reason for the decreased accuracy when compared to the parallel bilateral hand-patting. If teachers notice students are struggling to keep a steady beat with alternating movement, they might remediate to provide more experiences with parallel movement first or spend more time on parallel movement before progressing to alternating movement in the first place.

The effects of movement type and tempo should also be considered when formally assessing students’ steady beat accuracy. Teachers might experiment with various beat movement experiences and/or provide a variety of opportunities through which students can demonstrate their beat competency to ensure it is being measured validly and reliably.

E01.17: Dabbling in Dorian

In this episode, I focus on building audiation in Dorian tonality. 

E01.17: Dabbling in Dorian

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RTRL.49: Memory for Culturally Unfamiliar Music (Morrison et al., 2013)

Source:

Potter, J. (2021). Elementary general music performances and teachers’ perceptions of stress. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 40(1), 36-44.

What did the researcher want to know?

Morrison, S. J., Demorest, S. M., Campbell, P. S., Bartolome, S. J., & Roberts, J. C. (2013). Effects of intensive instruction on elementary students’ memory for culturally unfamiliar music. Journal of Research in Music Education, 60(4), 363-374.

What did the researchers want to know?

Does instruction improve memory for culturally unfamiliar music?

What did the researchers do?

Morrison and colleagues used a quasi-experimental design to study 110 students in six fifth-grade classes at two elementary schools. At the beginning of the study, all students completed a music memory test in which they heard examples of culturally familiar (Western) and culturally unfamiliar (Turkish) music. For each type of music, students listened to a longer excerpt (25-33 sec.) and then were asked to listen to 12 shorter excerpts (4-8 sec.) and answer whether or not they had heard each in the longer excerpt. 

Four classes were randomly assigned to experience 8 weeks of instruction in Turkish music. The unit consisted of “singing, moving, playing instruments, and listening, with an emphasis on music literacy and cultural context” (p. 367). This included lessons on Turkish culture and a culminating experience in which Turkish culture bearers demonstrated instruments, discussed musical traditions, and answered questions. Students in the two control classes experienced similar lessons but with English, East African, and Appalachian music instead of Turkish.

After the 8-week instructional unit, students completed the listening test again. Morrison et al. used a multivariate repeated-measures ANOVA to analyze differences in students’ pretest and posttest scores.

What did the researchers find?

Results indicated that all participants’ scores for both Western and Turkish music improved from pretest to posttest. However, all students more accurately remembered Western music than Turkish music on both the pretest and posttest. Furthermore, students who experienced the 8-week instructional unit on Turkish music did not remember Turkish music more accurately than students who had not experienced the unit.

What does this mean for my classroom?

If we consider memory as an indicator of music comprehension, the results of this study would suggest that experiencing culturally unfamiliar music does not increase students’ comprehension of that music after 8 weeks. This has several implications:

  • Hannon and Trehub (2005) found that, while adults’ ability to discriminate between examples of Balkan music was unchanged after 1-2 weeks of listening, infants’ ability to do so improved after 2 weeks of exposure to Balkan music. Along with the findings of the Morrison et al. study, this suggests that exposure to a variety of musics should occur as early as possible in a child’s life. 
  • Eight weeks is a relatively short period of time, and students only received 30 minutes of instruction each week. It is possible that more extensive exposure could result in greater recognition/comprehension.
  • That students who experienced instruction in Turkish music did not show improved aural comprehension of Turkish music may have been a result of the nature of the instruction itself. Morrison et al. did not provide specific details as to how the instructional experiences were designed to help students comprehend Turkish music or whether there were certain musical aspects (e.g., meter, mode/tonality) that may have made the Turkish music more difficult for students to recognize. The researchers did state that the unit emphasized music literacy and cultural context, but it is unclear how these concepts would facilitate greater aural comprehension of culturally unfamiliar music. If the unit had focused on helping students audiate the tonal and rhythmic context (e.g., tonal center, beat levels) of the music and helping students develop an aural/oral vocabulary of tonal patterns and rhythm patterns inherent in Turkish music, it is possible students may have shown improved aural comprehension.

E01.16: Chatting with Alison Reynolds

In this episode, I have a conversation with GIML faculty member and Professor of Music Education, Dr. Alison Reynolds.

E01.16: Chatting With Alison Reynolds

Mentioned in this episode:


Support the podcast by becoming a patron on Patreon!


Host: Heather Nelson Shouldice


Sponsors: GIA Publications, Inc., Gordon Institute for Music Learning


Podcast Cover Art: Tyler Nordstrom


Intro/Outro Music: Heather Nelson Shouldice


If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes, email them to everydaymusicality@gmail.com!

RTRL.48: Predictors of Music Class Enrollment in Urban Middle/High Schools (Kinney, 2019)

Source:

Kinney, D. W. (2019). Selected nonmusic predictors of urban students’ decisions to enroll and persist in middle school and high school music ensemble electives. Journal of Research in Music Education, 67(1), 23-44.

Who enrolls in urban middle school and high school music classes?

What did the researcher do?

Kinney obtained student demographic information from one large midwestern metropolis area. This district was comprised of mostly minority students (62% Black, 26% Caucasian, 9% Hispanic, 3% Asian, <1% Native American), and 78.5% of students were enrolled in free/reduced lunch programs. Since elective choices began in 6th grade in this district and state standardized tests were administered in 6th, 8th, and 10th grades, Kinney collected data for students in those three grades.

Kinney assembled a database that indicated whether each student in 6th, 8th, and 10th grade was enrolled in band, strings, or choir. This database also included the following information for each student:

  • reading achievement test score
  • math achievement test score
  • free/reduced lunch status (as an indicator of SES)
  • number of parents/guardians in the home
  • district mobility (whether the student had moved into the district in the past year),
  • school mobility (whether the student had transferred schools within the district in the past year)
  • ethnicity
  • sex

Kinney used these factors as variables in conducting a multinomial logistic regression to build a predictive model for initial 6th grade enrollment and 8th/10th grade enrollment/retention in band, orchestra, and choir.

Statistical analyses revealed the following student characteristics to be significant predictors of whether a student was more or less likely to enroll in elective music classes at each grade level:

What does this mean for my classroom?

Results suggest that students with higher math achievement are more likely to participate in instrumental music in urban schools. However, the fact that this was consistent across the span of grade levels suggests “that higher achieving students are attracted to instrumental programs from the outset and that systematic differences between this population and the general school population remain relatively stable over time” (p. 36). This provides evidence against the common argument that participation in music raises standardized tests scores and instead implies the difference lies in who chooses to participate in instrumental music in the first place.

Band teachers should be aware that student SES can predict whether a student participates in band. Teachers should be conscious of the fact that SES can be a limiting factor for student enrollment and find ways to make access to band class accessible to students who might struggle to afford an instrument or other supplies.

High school band programs typically involve various before- and after-school requirements (e.g., marching band, pep band), which may be why students from two-parent/guardian homes were more likely to participate in band in high school. It is possible that single-parent/guardian homes encounter more challenges in navigating these extra activities. For example, a single parent who works the night shift may not be able to transport their child to or from before- or after-school activities. High school band teachers should be aware of these challenges and work to mitigate them so that all students have equal opportunity to participate.

Finally, teachers should be aware of the ways in which enrollment trends may reflect racial and gendered “norms” of who participates in band, orchestra, or choir. Only band reflected a more balanced enrollment of males and females, while females were two to three times as likely as males to enroll in orchestra or choir. While race/ethnicity trends varied across grade levels and ensemble types, the data implies that white students tend to more consistently enroll in ensemble classes. Teachers can be mindful of these trends in their recruiting efforts, and all music educators can work to defy racial/ethnic and gender stereotypes in the repertoire they choose, the materials they use, and the musicians who are represented in their classrooms. “Through deliberate, conscientious efforts to reach students often underserved by music ensemble offerings, teachers will no doubt create a more democratic, equitable, and viable elective choice for all” (p. 41).

E01.15: Informal Guidance Ideas

In this episode, I share some ideas for providing students with informal music guidance experiences.

E01.15: Informal Guidance Ideas

Mentioned in this episode:


Support the podcast by becoming a patron on Patreon!


Host: Heather Nelson Shouldice


Sponsors: GIA Publications, Inc., Gordon Institute for Music Learning


Podcast Cover Art: Tyler Nordstrom


Intro/Outro Music: Heather Nelson Shouldice


If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes, email them to everydaymusicality@gmail.com!

RTRL.47: Band Performance Ratings and Director Gender (Shouldice & Eastridge, 2020)

Source:

Potter, J. (2021). Elementary general music performances and teachers’ perceptions of stress. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 40(1), 36-44.

What did the researcher want to know?

Shouldice, H. N., & Eastridge, J. L. (2020). A comparison of Virginia band performance assessments in relation to director gender. Journal of Research in Music Education, 68(2), 125-137.

What did the researchers want to know?

Given that existing research shows many women perceive gender-related discrimination in their jobs as secondary band teachers, is there a significant association between band festival ratings and director gender at the middle school or high school level?

What did the researchers do?

Shouldice and Eastridge accessed 6 years (2013-2018) of District Concert Assessment ratings sponsored by the Virginia Band and Orchestra Directors Association (VBODA), which are publicly available on the VBODA website. Data included ensembles’ overall performance ratings and director names, which Shouldice and Eastridge used to code each ensemble performance according to the assumed gender (male/ female) of the director(s). If the first name of a director was ambiguous or gender-neutral (e.g., Robin, Jamie), they performed an internet search to ascertain gender (via pronouns, title, and/or photograph). Finally, Shouldice and Eastridge then conducted statistical analyses to ascertain the percentages of ensembles receiving each rating (by level and director gender) and whether there was a statistically significant relationship between director gender and overall performance rating.

What did the researchers find?

At both the middle school and high school levels, male-directed ensembles were more likely to receive a I rating while female-directed ensembles more likely to receive a II rating. The table below shows the percentages of ensembles receiving each rating by director gender, and the bar chart shows the comparison of I and II ratings by gender and level.

Table 1. Percentages of Ensembles Receiving Each Rating, by Director Gender.*
Figure 1. Number/Comparison of I and II Ratings Included in Chi-Square Analyses.*

*Due to required assumptions of the Chi-Square test, multiple ensemble performances from the same director were randomly removed so that only one listing was included for each director, which is why 3,229 performances are reflected in Table 1 but only 730 in Figure 1.

What does this mean for my classroom?

We cannot definitively infer the cause behind the association between ensemble ratings and director gender discovered by Shouldice and Eastridge. However, it is worth reflecting on possible explanations for this finding. One explanation might be that societal norms expect and permit men to display the behaviors and characteristics that are associated with being a successful band director (such as assertiveness and competitiveness) whereas these traits may be less expected and/or acceptable in women. Another potential explanation could be that women are more likely to be hired for band teaching jobs in smaller and/or rural schools/districts, which may be more likely to earn lower ratings than ensembles from larger school districts. Finally, female-directed bands may receive lower ratings than male-directed bands as a result of gender bias, either explicit or implicit.

One possibility is that gender bias might influence judges to rate female-directed groups differently than male-directed groups. Given that previous research findings suggest larger ensembles or those performing more difficult classifications of music may tend to receive higher ratings than smaller ensembles or those performing easier music, it is also possible that gender bias may be an influence in the hiring practices that lead to greater numbers of men than women securing jobs in larger, more prestigious programs that are likely to perform more advanced repertoire.

The results of this study indicate that although improving, a gender imbalance still exists in the secondary band teaching profession. Discrimination in the hiring process may be one possible explanation for this persistent gender imbalance, as suggested by findings of existing research. It is critical that those involved in the hiring process examine their own biases and actively work toward more equitable hiring of men and women. It is also crucial to strive for more equitable representation of women in the field of secondary band teaching. Rather than reinforcing the common image of conductor as male, music educators and music teacher educators might actively work to provide students with images of women in these teaching roles.

Related Research Summarized by “Research to Real Life”:

Career Intentions and Experiences of Pre- and In-service Female Band Teachers (Fischer-Croneis, 2016)

Male and Female Photographic Representation in 50 Years of Music Educators Journal (Kruse, Giebelhausen, Shouldice, & Ramsey, 2015)

E01.14: Preparatory Audiation

In this episode, I give an overview of Gordon’s theory of preparatory audiation.

E01.14: Preparatory Audiation

Mentioned in this episode:


Support the podcast by becoming a patron on Patreon!


Host: Heather Nelson Shouldice


Sponsors: GIA Publications, Inc., Gordon Institute for Music Learning


Podcast Cover Art: Tyler Nordstrom


Intro/Outro Music: Heather Nelson Shouldice


If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes, email them to everydaymusicality@gmail.com!

RTRL.46: Practice Habits of Middle School Band Students (Miksza, Prichard, & Sorbo, 2012)

* This guest post was authored by Dr. Lisa Martin, Assistant Professor of music education at Bowling Green State University. Click here to learn more about Dr. Martin and her work.
Dr. Lisa Martin, guest contributor

Source:

Potter, J. (2021). Elementary general music performances and teachers’ perceptions of stress. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 40(1), 36-44.

What did the researcher want to know?

Miksza, P., Prichard, S., Sorbo, D. (2012). An observational study of intermediate band students’ self-regulated practice behavior. Journal of Research in Music Education, 60(3), 254-266.

What did the researchers want to know?

What characterizes the practice habits of middle school band students?

What did the researchers do?

A total of 30 middle school band students were video recorded as they practiced in a room by themselves for 20 minutes. The student participants were instructed to practice their band repertoire as if working on it at home. Miksza, Prichard, and Sorbo analyzed each video to determine (a) how students organized their practice with regard to time spent on given musical excerpts, (b) which musical objectives students prioritized (e.g., rhythmic accuracy, pitch accuracy), and (c) what strategies students employed to achieve various musical goals. The researchers also rated each practice session using a researcher-developed self-regulation scale to provide an overall picture of the extent to which students demonstrated self-regulated behaviors in their practice.

What did the researchers find?

In terms of practice organization, students tended to practice longer segments of music (nine or more consecutive measures), and they were less inclined to focus on segments of four measures or less. Across the 20-minute practice session, students spent an average of 2 minutes 45 seconds on each segment. As the practice session progressed, students spent significantly less time on each segment. Overall, there was a high degree of variability in the frequency and duration of these practice segments. 

Students tended to focus primarily on pitch accuracy as their main objective, and less attention was paid to objectives such as dynamics or rhythmic accuracy. The most commonly employed practice strategies were repetition and varying the tempo. Around half the participants demonstrated irrelevant playing, and approximately one third clapped/tapped or wrote on their music during the practice session.  

With regard to the self-regulation ratings, the researcher-developed measurement yielded a possible score range of 12 to 60, with higher scores suggesting greater self-regulation. Participants had a mean score of 30.86 on this scale, and those with higher self-regulation ratings typically utilized a higher number of practice strategies during their session. Those students who employed more irrelevant playing in their practice session tended to have lower self-regulation ratings. 

What does this mean for my classroom?

When working with developing musicians, teachers should not assume students inherently know how to practice effectively. Younger students can struggle with establishing priorities during their practice, may find it difficult to identify specific challenges to address, and tend to employ a limited range of corrective strategies. Teachers can help students establish discrete goals for their practice and improve practice time efficiency by modeling practice strategies during class time. The range of self-regulation ratings and demonstrated practice behaviors in this study also suggest that differentiated approaches toward practice instruction could be useful. 

E01.13: Formal Instruction vs. Informal Guidance

In this episode, I focus on the differences between formal instruction and informal guidance. 

E01.13: Formal Instruction vs. Informal Guidance

Mentioned in this episode:


Support the podcast by becoming a patron on Patreon!


Host: Heather Nelson Shouldice


Sponsors: GIA Publications, Inc., Gordon Institute for Music Learning


Podcast Cover Art: Tyler Nordstrom


Intro/Outro Music: Heather Nelson Shouldice


If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes, email them to everydaymusicality@gmail.com!

RTRL.45: The Power of Teacher Empathy (Okonofua, Paunesku, & Walton, 2016)

Source:

Potter, J. (2021). Elementary general music performances and teachers’ perceptions of stress. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 40(1), 36-44.

What did the researcher want to know?

Okonofua, J. A., Paunesku, D., & Walton, G. M. (2016). Brief intervention cuts suspension rates in half. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(19), 5221-5226.

What did the researchers want to know?

Does an empathic mindset related to student misbehavior result in more positive outcomes than a punitive mindset?

What did the researchers do?

Okonofua, Paunesku, and Walton conducted three experiments. In Experiment 1, they randomly assigned 39 teachers to either an empathic- or punitive-mindset condition. Each teacher was asked to read a short article in which they were reminded either “that ‘good teacher-student relationships are critical for students to learn self-control’ (empathic mindset) or that ‘punishment is critical for teachers to take control of the classroom’ (punitive mindset)” (p. 5221). Then they read three minor misbehavior records, described how they would discipline each student, and rated the extent to which they considered each student a “troublemaker.”

In Experiment 2, the researchers asked 302 college students to “imagine themselves as middle-school students who had disrupted class by repeatedly walking around to throw away trash” (p. 5222). Each student then read a description for how their imaginary teacher (“Mrs. Smith”) responded—either by giving them detention and sending them to the principal (punitive) or by asking them about their behavior and moving the trashcan closer to their desk (empathic). After this, the students rated how much respect they would have for Mrs. Smith and their motivation to behave well in the future.

Experiment 3 was a longitudinal study in which the researchers “tested whether encouraging an empathic mindset about discipline would reduce student suspension rates over an academic year” (p. 5222). Thirty-one teachers at five diverse middle schools in California participated in this study. These teachers participated in two online modules, the purpose of which they were told was “to review common but sometimes neglected wisdom about teaching and to collect their perspectives as experienced teachers on how to best handle difficult interactions with students” (p. 5223). After consenting to participate, each teacher was randomly assigned to either the empathic mindset condition or the control condition. Modules in the control condition focused on using technology to promote learning. For the empathic-condition, the first module focused on “non-pejorative reasons why students sometimes misbehave in class and how positive relationships with teachers can facilitate students’ growth” (p. 5223). The materials encouraged teachers to “understand and value students’ experiences and negative feelings that can cause misbehavior” and reminded them that “a teacher who makes … students feel hear, valued, and respected shows them that school is fair and they can grow and succeed there” (p. 5223). This included stories from students and opportunities for teachers to reflect on how they could incorporate the ideas into their teaching. Two months later, teachers completed the second module, which in the empathic condition focused on reminding them that “students’ feelings about and behavior in school can and do improve when teachers successfully convey the care and respect students crave” (p. 5223). At this time, students were also asked to complete a survey assessing the school climate, specifically focusing on perceived respect from teachers and other school adults. At the end of the school year, the researchers collected students’ suspension rates from each school.

What did the researchers find?

The results of Experiment 1 showed the teachers with an empathic mindset chose to punish students less severely and were less likely to label students as troublemakers than the teachers with a punitive mindset. 

In Experiment 2, students whose teacher responded with empathy reported having greater respect for the teacher and being more motivated to behave well in the future than students whose teacher responded punitively. Furthermore, the greater the respect the student reported having for the teacher, the more motivated they were to behave well in the future.

Experiment 3 results showed that students whose teachers received the empathic-mindset intervention were half as likely to be suspended as students of the control teachers, even when statistically controlled for race, gender, and prior-year suspensions. In addition, students with a history of prior suspension whose teachers received the empathic-mindset condition reported feeling more respected by their teachers than did those who were students of the control teachers.

What does this mean for my classroom?

Students whose teachers take a punitive approach to discipline may feel less respected and less inclined to behave well in class. However, students will likely feel more cared for and respected if we try to have empathy for them, to understand the reasons behind their misbehavior, and to assume positive (or at least neutral) intentions. Doing so can help build a positive, caring relationship with the student, which may lead them to want to do better in the future.

Some ideas from teachers who participated in this study include the following:

“When asked how they ‘would like … to improve your relationships with your students?’ teachers powerfully echoed the intervention themes: For example,

  • ‘[I] greet every student at the door with a smile every day no matter what has occurred the day before’;
  • ‘[I] answer their questions thoughtfully and respectfully no matter what their academic history with me has been’; and
  • ‘I NEVER hold grudges. I try to remember that they are all the son or daughter of someone who loves them more than anything in the world. They are the light of someone’s life!’” (p. 5223)

Further Reading:

This research was featured in the New York Times.

This article provides further insight into teaching with empathy.

This article has ideas for helping students learn empathy.

Dr. Okonofua also co-authored this research study on race and perceptions of student misbehavior.

E01.12: Mixolydian Meanderings

In this episode, I focus on building audiation in Mixolydian tonality. 

E01.12: Mixolydian Meanderings

Mentioned in this episode:


Support the podcast by becoming a patron on Patreon!


Host: Heather Nelson Shouldice


Sponsors: GIA Publications, Inc., Gordon Institute for Music Learning


Podcast Cover Art: Tyler Nordstrom


Intro/Outro Music: Heather Nelson Shouldice


If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes, email them to everydaymusicality@gmail.com!

RTRL.44: Using a Trauma-informed Approach to Supporting Students (Rosenbaum-Nordoft, 2018)

Source:

Potter, J. (2021). Elementary general music performances and teachers’ perceptions of stress. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 40(1), 36-44.

What did the researcher want to know?

Rosenbaum-Nordoft, C. (2018). Building teacher capacity for trauma-informed practice in the inclusive elementary school classroom. Early Childhood Education, 45(1), 3-12.

What did the researcher want to know?

How can teachers support students who have experienced trauma?

What did the researcher do?

Rosenbaum-Nordoft conducted a review of research studies and other literature pertaining to childhood trauma. She synthesizes these findings in her article and provides suggestions to equip teachers to more effectively support students in elementary school classrooms.

What did the researcher find?

Rosenbaum-Nordoft first gives an overview of the roots and effects of complex trauma. Trauma is rooted in the body’s fear response, which is “the brain’s natural reaction to perceived or actual threats” (p. 4). When the brain is alerted to possible danger, it suspends logical thought and prepares the body to protect itself through one of three responses: fight, flight, or freeze. “A fight, flight, or freeze response can lead to a rapid reactivity to a perceived threat, including self-protective behaviors such as agression, withdrawal [e.g., running away], or freezing [e.g., becoming non-responsive]” (p. 5). Repeatedly experiencing this fear response over time can lead to chronically elevated levels of stress hormones, hindered brain development, mental health concerns like anxiety or depression, poor impulse control, and impaired ability to concentrate and learn. “Children in a state of fear retrieve information from the world differently than children who feel calm” (Perry, as cited in Rosenbaum-Nordoft, 2018, p. 5). Therefore, it is important for teachers to acknowledge the long-term implications of complex trauma on physical and mental health and  use a “trauma-informed lens” in the classroom.

“A trauma-informed approach to supporting students … expands the lens through which educators view educational success so that it includes both academic achievement and mental health” (p. 6). Teachers should be on the lookout for signs of trauma in students and take this into consideration when responding to student behaviors. For example, rather than seeing a student as “‘bad,’ unmotivated or hostile” (p. 6) and asking “What is wrong with this student?”, a teacher might shift their thinking to instead ask “What is the function of that behavior?” Asking the latter question can help the teacher identify triggers for the behavior, which can then be prevented or mitigated. Rosenbaum-Nordoft provides several examples of how behavior can be analyzed in this way using functional behavioral analysis.

Finally, the author stresses the importance of relationships in supporting students who have experienced trauma. For example, she cites a study in which the researchers “found that having a trusted adult in the school was associated with greater academic gains” and “that teachers who take the time to listen and communicate an attitude of acceptance, accessibility, warmth and knowledge supported the trust in the relationship” (p. 6). Taking the time to get to know students and build a positive relationship will help them feel safer in school, thus enabling them to learn more effectively.

What does this mean for my classroom?

Life has changed drastically over the past five months throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, it is likely that many of our students are experiencing trauma. In order to help our students through this difficult time, we must first attend to connecting with them and making them feel seen, valued, and safe. Building relationships should be our main priority as we move forward with our students.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network provides a number of helpful resources, including “Trauma-Informed School Strategies during COVID-19.” Visit their website here.

E01.11: MLT Resources

In this episode, I share an overview of available MLT-related resources.

E01.11: MLT Resources

Mentioned in this episode:


Support the podcast by becoming a patron on Patreon!


Host: Heather Nelson Shouldice


Sponsors: GIA Publications, Inc., Gordon Institute for Music Learning


Podcast Cover Art: Tyler Nordstrom


Intro/Outro Music: Heather Nelson Shouldice


If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes, email them to everydaymusicality@gmail.com!

E01.10: An Impromptu Episode

In this episode, I reflect a bit about recent events and share some thoughts on what we can do as music educators and MLT practitioners.

E01.10: An Impromptu Episode

Mentioned in this episode:


Support the podcast by becoming a patron on Patreon!


Host: Heather Nelson Shouldice


Sponsors: GIA Publications, Inc., Gordon Institute for Music Learning


Podcast Cover Art: Tyler Nordstrom


Intro/Outro Music: Heather Nelson Shouldice


If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes, email them to everydaymusicality@gmail.com!

RTRL.43: Race and Perceptions of Student Misbehavior (Okonofua & Eberhardt, 2015)

Source:

Potter, J. (2021). Elementary general music performances and teachers’ perceptions of stress. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 40(1), 36-44.

What did the researcher want to know?

Okonofua, J. A., & Eberhardt, J. L. (2015). Two strikes: Race and the disciplining of young students. Psychological Science, 26(5), 617-624.

What did the researchers want to know?

Does race influence teachers’ perceptions of student misbehavior?

What did the researchers do?

Okonofua and Eberhardt conducted two related studies.

Study #1:

The researchers recruited 57 K-12 teachers (38 white, 2 black, 1 Asian, 16 of unknown race) from various school districts across the United States. They showed each teacher a school record for a middle school student who had misbehaved twice, asking them to imagine they were the student’s teacher. The student was assigned either a stereotypically Black name (Darnell or Deshawn) or a stereotypically White name (Greg or Jake). After reading about each of the student’s two behavior infractions (one for insubordination and one for class disturbance), the teacher was asked to answer the following questions on a scale ranging from 1, not at all, to 7, extremely:

  • How severe was the student’s misbehavior?
  • To what extent is the student hindering you from maintaining order in your class?
  • How irritated do you feel by the student?
  • How severely should the student be disciplined?

The order of the two infractions (class disturbance/insubordination) varied randomly across participants to mitigate order effect. After reading and responding to both infractions, the teacher was asked to rate the likelihood they would say the student is a troublemaker. Finally, they asked how likely it was that the student was Black and what they suspected was the study’s hypothesis. (These final questions were used to identify any participants who may have been manipulating their responses based on their assumptions about the study’s hypothesis.) 

Study #2:

The first study was replicated with 204 more K-12 teachers (166 White, 17 Black, 10 Asian, 6 Latino, 2 other, 3 unknown) with an addition: After teachers rated the likelihood they would say the student was a troublemaker, they were also prompted to rate the extent to which they felt the student’s behaviors indicated a pattern and the likelihood they would imagine suspending the student at some point.

What did the researchers find?

Study #1:

Although teachers’ ratings of infraction severity, hindrance, and irritation did not vary by race in reaction to the first infraction, there was a statistically significant difference by race for the second infraction, with teachers rating students with stereotypically Black names more harshly than students with stereotypically White names. Similarly, teachers felt the students with stereotypically Black names should be disciplined more severely after the second infraction than students with stereotypically White names. “Thus, after only two strikes, racial disparities in discipline emerge” (p. 620). Furthermore, “the more likely teachers were to think the student was Black … the more likely they were to label the student a troublemaker” (p. 620).

Study #2:

Again, teachers’ ratings after the second infraction revealed perceptions that the misbehavior was more severe, more irritating, and more of a hindrance and warranted more severe discipline when the student had a stereotypically Black name. In addition, “the more likely the teachers were to think the student was Black, the more likely they were to label the student a troublemaker” (p. 621) and “the more likely they were to imagine themselves suspending that student in the future” (p. 622).

What does this mean for my classroom?

Though many studies and statistics show Black students are disciplined at higher rates and/or with greater severity, most only show a correlation. However, the findings of this study show a direct causal relationship between race and perceptions of misbehavior. According to Okonofua and Eberhardt, “what we have shown here is that racial disparities in discipline can occur even when Black and White students behave in the same manner. We have shown experimentally, for the first time, that teacher responses can contribute to racial disparities in discipline” (p. 622).

Since teaching is a helping profession, it can be assumed most teachers choose their career out of a desire to help others and make a difference. Like the teachers who participated in this study, though, none of us are immune to implicit bias. All educators must work to heighten awareness of their own implicit biases to help ensure all students are treated fairly and have equal opportunities for success.

Resources

This document has lots of helpful information and links to free resources: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1PrAq4iBNb4nVIcTsLcNlW8zjaQXBLkWayL8EaPlh0bc/mobilebasic

If you want to become more race-conscious, here are some great books:

In memory of George Floyd and far too many others.