E01.44: Rhythm Pattern Function

E01.44: Rhythm Pattern Function

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RTRL.68: Effects of Melodic Familiarity on Children’s Piano Performance Accuracy (Goins Frewen, 2010)

Source:

Goins Frewen, K. (2010). Effects of familiarity with a melody prior to instruction on children’s piano performance accuracy. Journal of Research in Music Education, 57(4), 320-333.

What did the researcher want to know?

Does familiarity with a melody affect children’s learning to play the melody on the piano? 

What did the researcher do?

Elementary music classes at one school from kindergarten to fourth grade were divided into two groups: “familiar” and “unfamiliar.” All students in the study had no previous instrumental instruction. Children in the familiar group listened to a new melody as they entered and exited music class over the course of two weeks, hearing the melody more than 100 times during this period. Next, the familiar group received 25 minutes of instruction by rote from the researcher, who taught them how to play the melody on the piano. The rote methods used to teach the melody included modeling one measure at a time and singing finger numbers as the melody was played. Children in the unfamiliar group went straight to the step of learning the piece in 25 minutes by rote instruction from the researcher. Both groups were tested for pitch sequence accuracy immediately following their instruction session.

What did the researcher find?

A significant effect was found between familiarity and pitch sequence accuracy (more than one pitch correct in a row). Children in the familiar group scored significantly higher at all grade levels, both pre and post-test, than the unfamiliar group. Researchers state the aural familiarity allows students to have a “knowledge of a target response, allowing them to detect errors” (p. 329).  This greater ability to detect errors also bolstered students’ patience and attention to learn the piece. Video observation “suggested that students who were familiar with the melody were more willing to keep practicing, even when the music became more challenging” (p. 329).  Finally, a significant effect was found for accuracy in older students compared to younger students.  

What does this mean for my classroom?

Aural modeling is recognized as an effective and vital instructional technique, yet, building familiarity with a new melody is rarely included in the piano lesson. So often the habit of the piano teacher is to turn the page of the method book and dive into having the student count, recite, and play the new piece. This research serves as reminder that piano students—and surely all music students—benefit from familiarity with a melody. It is important to note that even though all students received the same 25 minutes of rote instruction (using a slow tempo, one measure at a time, and singing finger numbers), students unfamiliar with the melody had significantly more pitch sequence errors than students in the familiar group.  hen you picture the traditional piano lesson, many involve the exact same steps the researcher used when introducing a new piece. Students start off into unfamiliar music territory armed with a slow tempo and finger numbers as their support system. Perhaps these approaches could be replaced with active listening to learn the “whole” of the melody, before trying the “parts.” Remember Goins Frewen’s findings suggest that students are motivated to keep practicing, even through challenging parts, if they are familiar with the music. This is a win for both student and teacher! Including preparatory steps to familiarize students with their music isn’t a “crutch” to learning, it is a crucial part of the learning process.

Familiarity can easily be built into a piano lesson by playing an upcoming piece (live or recorded) as a student arrives or as they pack up to go. Recordings of the piece can be listened to ahead of time during home practice.  Planning ahead for repertoire so students are able to listen first is crucial in this process.  While it may seem like an extra step, it will be time well spent, as Frewen’s findings suggest. Music Moves for Piano, a piano series by Marilyn Lowe, includes a “Song to Sing” for each lesson. The student learns these songs by ear, using their pattern vocabulary. The same songs become performance pieces later in the series, facilitated by the melodic familiarity established by singing the song first.  Allowing piano students to work up to their full potential by including familiarity with a melody is a crucial part of the learning process.  

* 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.

E01.43: Tonal Verbal Association Skills

In this episode, I focus on tonal skills learned at the Verbal Association level of the Skill Learning Sequence. 

E01.43: Tonal Verbal Association Skills

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E01.42: Choosing a Tonal Solfege or Rhythm Syllable System

In this episode, I talk about choosing a tonal solfege or rhythm syllable system to use in MLT-based instruction.

E01.42: Choosing a Tonal Solfege or Rhythm Syllable System

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E01.41: Intro to Verbal Association

In this episode, I give an overview of the second level of learning in the skill learning sequence: Verbal Association.

E01.41 Intro to Verbal Association

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RTRL.67: Predictors of Music Teacher Well-being (Kang & Yoo, 2019)

Source:

Kang, S., & Yoo, H. (2019). Music teachers’ psychological needs and work engagement as predictors of their well-being. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, 221, 58-71.

What did the researchers want to know?

What are the strongest predictors of music teachers’ well-being, and do these vary career stage?

What did the researchers do?

Kang and Yoo surveyed 330 music teachers in the southeastern United States. In addition to collecting demographic information, the survey included questions to measure teachers’ psychological needs, work engagement, and subjective well-being. Measurement of teachers’ psychological needs included 16 questions focusing on three subfactors: “autonomy (to experience oneself as the originator of one’s behavior), competence (to feel that one can master challenges), and relatedness (to feel a sense of meaningful connectedness within one’s social condition” (p. 62). The nine questions pertaining to work engagement focused on teachers’ energy level, vigor, mental resilience, and willingness to invest effort in their work. Finally, 40 questions asked teachers to rate their well-being in a variety of areas, including general happiness and other emotions, confidence in coping with future challenges, relationships, and health.

Kang and Yoo conducted a stepwise regression to ascertain the strongest predictor of well-being. To investigate whether predictors of well-being vary throughout career stages, Kang and Yoo conducted stepwise regressions for each of five different stages (0-5 years teaching, 6-10 years, 11-20 years, 21-30 years, 31+ years).

What did the researchers find?

The strongest predictor of participants’ well-being was their sense of competence in their work as music educators. While competence was still the strongest predictor of well-being for teachers with 11-30 years of experience, relatedness was the strongest predictor of well-being for teachers with 0-10 years and 31+ years of experience.

What does this mean for my classroom?

“Based on the results of this study, we can conclude that promoting music teachers’ psychological needs, especially competence and relatedness, will ensure higher levels of their well-being” (p. 66). It is especially important for newer teachers and those nearing retirement to feel connected to their colleagues and students. In general, feeling competent in their work is the strongest predictor of a music teacher’s well-being. Thus, music teacher preparation programs and school districts can help teachers’ well-being by assisting them in developing their competence to the greatest extent possible.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has continually posed new and unforeseeable circumstances in schools. From moving to virtual instruction to eliminating key areas of learning and skill development (e.g., avoiding singing due to concern over aerosols) to having their own classes canceled so they can substitute for grade-level teachers, music educators have experienced two years of constant threats to their sense of competence in their work. If you are exhausted and feeling like you are failing as a teacher, you are not alone! There is no way you could have been prepared for this. Just as new teachers go through a period characterized as “survival,” we are all doing the best we can in the circumstances we are facing. To help strengthen well-being among teachers and students alike, now may be the time for scaling back educational goals and focusing on building relationships to the best of our abilities. School administrators should also prioritize teachers’ well-being and provide them with opportunities to build autonomy, relatedness, and competence. “Continuous efforts should be made to understand teachers’ well-being and promote it on an individual and/or case-by-case basis” (p. 69).

E01.40: Aid for Aeolian

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

E01.40: Aid for Aeolian

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RTRL.66: Burnout: A Review of Literature (Nápoles, 2022)

Source:

Nápoles, J. (2022). Burnout: A review of literature. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 40(2), 19-26. doi:10.1177/87551233211037669

What did the researcher want to know?

What is burnout and how can it be prevented?

What did the researcher do?

Nápoles conducted a literature review of existing scholarly resources and research studies pertaining to burnout in order to define the term, discuss factors contributing to burnout, and share possible remedies for burnout.

What did the researcher find?

Although it has been defined in a variety of ways, burnout can be regarded as a prolonged response to chronic emotional and interpersonal job stressors that is characterized by (a) emotional exhaustion, (b) depersonalization/cynicism, and (c) a reduced sense of personal accomplishment. “Emotional exhaustion was defined as feelings of being overextended and depleted of one’s emotional resources. Depersonalization/cynicism referred to the negative, callous, or excessively detached response to various aspects of the job…. Personal accomplishment was reduced when there were feelings of incompetence and a lack of achievement and productivity at work” (p. 20).

While some researchers have argued that certain characteristics of individuals make them more susceptible to burnout, it is more widely believed that burnout is predominately the result of external factors. Nápoles reviewed one model for understanding how organizations contribute to burnout, which encompassed six factors that can lead to burnout in employees:

  • work overload
  • lack of control
  • insufficient reward
  • breakdown in community (i.e., loss of positive connection with others)
  • absence of fairness
  • conflicting values

Within music education, numerous factors have been found to be linked to burnout among music teachers:

  • inadequate support
  • non-instructional responsibilities
  • feelings of isolation
  • lack of recognition by others
  • unclear goals from administrators or colleagues
  • too much work
  • low salary
  • not enough equipment, etc.

Burnout can manifest as both physical and psychological symptoms. Physical symptoms of burnout can include exhaustion, insomnia, use of alcohol/drugs, weight loss or gain, high blood pressure, migraines, and increased cholesterol. Psychological symptoms can include detachment, boredom, cynicism, irritability, mental disfunction, sense of impotence, paranoia, disorientation, impatience, crankiness, rigidity, mistrust of others, and worry. One pair of researchers observed a five-stage pattern to burnout, which consists of (1) honeymoon stage, (2) fuel shortage, (3) chronic symptoms, (4) crisis, and (5) hitting the wall.

Researchers have recommended three areas of possible focus for preventing teacher burnout: (a) in-school contexts, (b) out-of-school contexts, and (c) through mentoring/induction programs. One strategy for preventing burnout within in-school contexts is through “job crafting,” which involves making self-initiated changes to one’s job demands and job resources to attain and/or optimize their personal goals. Nurturing positive interpersonal relationships at work is another way to increase job satisfaction.

In addition to shaping one’s in-school experiences, “the majority of suggestions for mitigating burnout related to finding a better balance between work activities and personal activities outside of work. Relaxation, exercise, cutting back on overtime or excessive hours, limiting job spillover, and emphasizing other aspects of life are common strategies suggested by researchers” (p. 23).

What does this mean for my classroom?

The prolonged and intense stress of teaching during the Covid-19 pandemic may push even the most skilled and passionate of music educators to experience burnout. Having an awareness of the factors that contribute to burnout, the symptoms of burnout, and the five-stage pattern of burnout can help music teachers assess their own risk of experiencing burnout and take steps to prevent it. It can also be reassuring to know that certain experiences may be associated with burnout. For example, if you’re noticing that you have been feeling cynical about teaching lately, you may wonder, “What’s wrong with me? I used to love this job! Maybe I’m just not a good teacher any more.” If so, you are not alone, and there is nothing wrong with you! Instead, you might recognize this as a sign of burnout and take steps to alleviate it and prevent further burnout.

As Nápoles stresses, “A burned-out teacher is not as effective as one who has chosen to establish healthy boundaries around work” (p. 24). Teachers should be encouraged to “find avenues for separating from work activities and taking necessary time off to rejuvenate themselves” (p. 24). Music educators might also consider “job crafting”—adjusting aspects of their job to decrease time spent on draining tasks or interactions in favor of experiences that may be more fulfilling. One example Nápoles provides is to reduce the number of performances during the school year and spend class time in a different way, such as inviting a living composer to speak with students or trying a songwriting project.

Finally, it is incumbent upon administrators and school communities to take an active role in preventing teacher burnout. This includes treating teachers with respect, compensating them fairly, providing recognition, and acknowledging that teachers are human beings. “The public perception of the heroic teacher, always willing to work under any condition for the benefit of children, is unhelpful to teachers” (p. 24).

E01.39: Chatting With Krista Jadro and Hannah Mayo

In this episode, I have a conversation with two experts in Music Learning Theory-based piano teaching, Krista Jadro and Hannah Mayo.

E01.39: Chatting With Krista Jadro and Hannah Mayo

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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!

RTRL.65: Reported Self-care Practices of Music Educators (Kelley et al., 2021)

Source:

Kelley, J., Nussbaum, K., Crawford, M. O., Critchfield, J. B., Flippin, S. H., Grey, A. N., & Mahaffey, C. R. (2021). The reported self-care practices of music educators. Journal of Music Teacher Education. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/10570837211056615

What did the researchers want to know?

What are the reported self-care practices of K-12 music teachers, and do they vary by teaching experience, age, gender, or level of instruction?

What did the researchers do?

Kelley et al. surveyed 337 K-12 music teachers in a southwestern U.S. state on their personal and professional self-care practices. Personal self-care includes behaviors that promote well-being, interpersonal connections, physical wellness, and leisure while professional self-care includes work-related behaviors like building professional knowledge, developing professional support systems, and work-life balance. (See table below for a full list of survey items.) Participants rated their agreement for each item on a 5-point scale (5 = strongly agree, 1 = strongly disagree) to indicate the degree to which they do or do not engage in each self-care behavior. (In other words, the closer the rating was to “5”, the more the teacher reported engaging in that behavior).

What did the researchers find?

In terms of personal self-care behaviors, the most highly-rated items were “I spend time with family or friends” (average rating= 4.34) and “I spend time with people whose company I enjoy” (average rating= 4.31). The lowest-rated personal self-care item was “I take time off when I am not feeling well” (average rating = 2.70). Participants also rated other physical and health-related items similarly low.

The most highly-rated items for professional self-care behaviors were “I participate in activities that promote my professional development” (average rating = 4.26) and “I find ways to stay current in professional knowledge” (average rating = 4.26). The lowest rated item was “I avoid over-commitment to work responsibilities” (average rating 2.79).

Kelley et al. also calculated composite scores for personal self-care, professional self-care, and total self-care by adding up the scores for the items in each category. Out of a total of 140 possible points, the average score for total self-care was 104.16. Overall, teachers reported engaging in more professional self-care than they did personal self-care. Specifically, “participants indicated the lowest levels of engagement in common self-care practices within the physical subcategory. Most participants indicated they continue to work when they do not feel well, do not maintain a physical activity routine or a healthy diet, do not take regular breaks during the workday, and over-commit to work responsibilities” (p. 8).

The researchers also conducted statistical analysis to see whether self-care differed by age, years of teaching experience, gender, or level of instruction (elementary vs. secondary). They found weak correlations between age and self-care and between years of experience and self-care, meaning that older teachers and/or teachers with more experience were slightly more likely to practice more self-care than younger teachers and/or those with less experience. There were no significant differences in self-care between male and female teachers or between elementary and secondary teachers.

What does this mean for my classroom?

Particularly in times of extreme stress, it is important that teachers engage in personal self-care behaviors. Given that Kelley et al. found teachers are more likely to engage in professional self-care behaviors than personal, it is important for teachers to consciously choose to commit time to taking care of themselves, both physically and emotionally. Most teachers are extremely passionate about what they do and are constantly striving to improve the learning experiences they provide for their students. However, given the extreme and prolonged stress of teaching during the Covid-19 pandemic, teachers must prioritize their own health and well-being. If this means temporarily dialing down efforts to advance their professional expertise, so be it! As the researchers clearly state, “we do not advocate for an additive solution to promote self-care” (p. 9). School districts should not add requirements for teachers to complete training on self-care. Instead, music teachers and music teacher educators should be encouraged and empowered to model “purposeful self-care, to promote healthy boundaries and work-life balance, and to embrace values of self-care over self-sacrifice” (p. 9).

PERSONAL SELF-CARE BEHAVIORSAVERAGE
RATING
I spend time with family or friends. (social)4.34
I spend time with people whose company I enjoy. (recreation)4.31
I make a conscious effort to appreciate positive things in my life. (psychological)4.31
I seek out activities or people that encourage and/or comfort me. (social)4.04
I find ways to cultivate a sense of social connection in my life. (social)3.84
I share my feelings with others during stressful times in my life. (psychological)3.79
I seek guidance or counseling when necessary. (psychological)3.45
I see a doctor or other medical professional when I have health concerns. (physical)3.43
I participate in physical exercise (physical)3.38
I make an effort to get enough sleep each night. (physical)3.37
I take some time for relaxation each day. (psychological)3.33
I eat a balanced and healthy diet. (physical)3.17
I make physical activity part of my regular routine. (physical)3.14
I take time off when I am not feeling well. (physical)2.70
PROFESSIONAL SELF-CARE BEHAVIORSAVERAGE
RATING
I find ways to stay current in professional knowledge. (professional development)4.26
I participate in activities that promote my professional development. (professional development)4.26
I monitor my feelings and reactions to students and colleagues. (professional psychological)4.16
I cultivate professional relationships with my colleagues. (professional social)4.15
I confide in a trusted colleague regarding work-related stressors. (professional social)4.08
I try to reduce stress by proactively navigating challenging situations in my professional work. (professional psychological)3.99
I anticipate situations which may cause me stress at work. (professional psychological)3.98
I tell colleagues about positive workplace experiences. (professional social)3.96
I maintain a professional support system. (professional social)3.89
I make personal connections on campus to avoid feeling isolated. (professional social)3.70
I connect with organizations in my professional community that are important to me. (professional development)3.66
I choose to participate in school-related social and community events. (professional social)3.52
I take breaks throughout the workday. (work-life balance)3.14
I avoid over-commitment to work responsibilities. (work-life balance)2.79
Table 1: Survey Items and Average Responses

E01.38: New Year’s Intentions

In this episode, I talk about setting intentions for our teaching in the New Year.

E01.38: New Year’s Intentions

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E01.37: Bridging to Creativity/Improvisation from Aural/Oral

In this episode, we focus on bridging to the Creativity/Improvisation level of inference learning from the Aural/Oral level of the Skill Learning Sequence.

E01.37: Bridging to Creativity/Improvisation from Aural/Oral

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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!

RTRL.64: Required Choral Repertoire in Performance Assessment Events (Kramer & Floyd, 2019)

Source:

Kramer, M. K., & Floyd, E. G. (2019). Required choral repertoire in state music education performance events. Contributions to Music Education, 44, 39-54.

What did the researchers want to know?

What types of literature are included in required choral repertoire lists, and do the lists reflect the National Core Arts Standards for ensembles?

What did the researchers do?

Kramer and Floyd acquired the required repertoire lists for seven states (Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin) within the North Central division of the National Association for Music Education. They analyzed the lists according to text type (sacred or secular), text language, historic time period, style (Western art music or Non-Western, including spirituals/gospel, world music, and folk music), accompanied or a cappella, and whether it was a stand-alone piece or part of a larger work.

What did the researchers find?

Of the total 2,714 pieces included on the seven lists, 75% were Western art music. The most commonly included time period within Western art music was late 20th century, while the most commonly included type of non-Western music was international folk. More details can be found in the tables below. The most frequently represented geographic areas among folk and world music were North American (5.7%), English/Irish/Scottish (3.8%), and South American/Latin American (2%).

Among the individual states, Iowa’s list had the highest percentage of Western art music (81.7%) while Wisconsin had the lowest (63.8%). The most frequent language was English, which ranged from 59% in Michigan to 72% in Ohio, and the second most frequent was Latin, ranging from 17% in Ohio to 24% in Indiana. 

What does this mean for my classroom?

The National Core Arts Standards stress that students should experience varied repertoire representing diverse cultures, styles, genres, and historic periods. However, if repertoire choice is dictated by required lists for state performance assessments, “it is likely that a choral singer will receive an unbalanced choral music education, focusing mostly on 20th Century and contemporary Western art music” (p. 49). “Choral music educators should be challenged to look at their state’s required repertoire list with open eyes, focusing on the unequal proportions of historic time periods and musical styles” (p. 49). Choral directors should also consider playing a role “in influencing the process of repertoire selection in their state” (p. 50) because, “if music educators believe it is important to balance singers[‘] exposure to music from various Western time periods and Non-Western music traditions[,] then balance should be reflected in the required repertoire lists” (p. 49).

E01.36: Bridging to Generalization from Aural/Oral

In this episode, we focus on bridging to the Generalization level of inference learning from the Aural/Oral level of the Skill Learning Sequence.

E01.36: Bridging to Generalization from Aural/Oral

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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!

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:

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

Source:

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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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:

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:

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:

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?

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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:

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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Host: Heather Nelson Shouldice


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Podcast Cover Art: Tyler Nordstrom


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

Source:

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:

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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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.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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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


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

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

Source:

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 did the researcher want to know?

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).

What did the researcher find?

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:

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.

What did the researcher want to know?

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.

What did the researcher find?

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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Host: Heather Nelson Shouldice


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