SMiLE-ing this year and hopefully more in the future

We had our final meeting of the Science of Music in Learning and Experience (SMiLE) group last week and I’ve been reflecting a bit on the experience.

White_Smiley_Face

We began the experimental idea in the fall with an introductory meeting to get to know each other from across campus and a discussion of Susan Hallam‘s closing chapter from the Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology titled “Where now?” I thought the chapter would be a fitting way to kick off the group’s activities since it concluded by emphasizing how valuable interdisciplinary research will be for acquiring a deeper understanding of the power of musical experience in the future. I agree with Hallam’s assertion that collaborations are needed among scientists of many varieties, music educators, music therapists, ethnomusicologists, music theorists, etc. to push the field further and also find her optimistic view of the future exciting.

Fortunately, our group has benefited from a richly varied collection of faculty and graduate student participants coming from communications science, cognitive science, cognitive psychology, computer science, linguistics, music education, music theory, music performance, and musicology. The conversations were engaging and the complementary perspectives that were brought to the discussions were refreshingly enthusiastic.

Overall, I’m very grateful for the experiences had in the SMiLE meetings this year and am looking forward to seeing the potential for this to grow next year and into the future!

CODA

Here is a list of some of the topics discussed this year to give you a sense of the kinds of things brought to the table…

  • The effect of party music on risky drinking decisions
  • The effect of verbal elaboration on procedural memory for music performance
  • Underlying mechanisms of emotional response to music
  • A rationale for the therapeutic value of musical communication based on notions of entrainment and floating intentionality
  • Inferring emotional meaning of musical chords through lyrics
  • The effects of music preference on functional brain networks
  • The influence of a culture’s spoken language on the structure of its instrumental music
  • Relations between auditory experience and perception of rhythmic groupings

Lastly, here is a brief and BY NO MEANS exhaustive list of books that could be particularly valuable for thinking about the science of music in learning and experience…

  • Historically important:
    • Mursell (1937) – The Psychology of Music
    • Seashore (1938) – Psychology of Music
    • Meyer (1956) – Emotion and Meaning in Music
    • Farnsworth (1958) – The Social Psychology of Music
    • Merriam (1964) – The Anthropology of Music
  • More foundational:
    • Lerhdahl & Jackendoff (1983) – A Generative Theory of Tonal Music
    • Sloboda (1985) – The Musical Mind
    • Hargreaves (1986) – The Developmental Psychology of Music
    • Dowling & Harwood (1986) – Music Cognition
    • Sloboda (1988) – Generative Processes in Music
    • Krumhansl (1990) – Cognitive Foundations of Musical Pitch
    • Narmour (1990) – The Analysis and Cognition of Basic Melodic Structures
    • Bamberger (1991) – The Mind Behind the Musical Ear
    • Bregman (1994) – Auditory Scene Analysis: The Perceptual Organization of Sound
    • Kemp (1996) – The Musical Temperament
    • Hodges (1996) – Handbook of Music Psychology
    • Juslin & Sloboda (2001) – Music and Emotion
    • Lerhdahl (2001) – Tonal Pitch Space
    • Zatorre & Peretz (2001) – The Biological Foundations of Music
    • Wallin et al. (2001) – The Origins of Music
  • More recent:
    • Aiello (2007) – Music: Cognition and Emotions
    • Gruhn & Rauscher (2007) – Neurosciences in Music Pedagogy
    • Huron (2008) – Sweet Anticipation: Music and the Psychology of Expectation
    • Patel (2008) – Music, Language, and the Brain
    • Hallam et al. (2009) – Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology
    • Hodges & Sebald (2010) – Music in the Human Experience
    • Juslin & Sloboda (2010) – Handbook of Music and Emotion
    • Kenny (2011) – The Psychology of Music Performance Anxiety
    • Deutsch (1982, 1999, 2014) – The Psychology of Music
    • Rebuschat (2012) – Language and Music as Cognitive Systems
    • Bamberger (2013) – Discovering the Musical Mind
    • Koelsch (2013) – Brain and Music
    • Thompson et al. (2014) – Music in the Social and Behavioral Sciences: An Encyclopedia
  • More pedagogy/performance oriented:
    • Parncutt & McPherson (2002) – The Science and Psychology of Music Performance
    • Radocy & Boyle (2003) – Psychological Foundations of Musical Behavior
    • Williamon (2005) – Musical Excellence
    • Lehmann, Sloboda, & Woody (2007) – Psychology for Musicians
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Motivation: Growth, self-beliefs, and attributions, oh my…

This week I had the pleasure of giving an invited talk for the IU student chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (IU SNATS). I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to work with extremely fine singers and committed vocal pedagogues on a regular basis in my courses and very much enjoyed speaking with the students of IU SNATS.

The talk I gave was on issues related to motivation for learning. I’ve attached a pdf of the powerpoint to this post via the image below. You’re welcome to download it to see the range of topics we discussed if you’re curious. The powerpoint also includes some basic texts and resources for reading about motivation in general and motivation in music learning more specifically. There is also a slide that includes links to some interesting web-resources for exploring these ideas further.

Miksza - Motivation presentation for IU SNATS - 2015

What was particularly enjoyable for me was that the talk gave me a chance to step back and think broadly about how several theoretical perspectives could be synthesized to address the components of music learning that are often heavily impacted by student motivation. The following set of reflective questions captures some of these components:

  • What drives you to choose to engage in learning in the first place?
  • What kinds of things contribute to the “degree” of energy you invest in this learning process?
  • What kinds of things contribute to the “degree” of quality and deliberateness you will apply to your learning process? In other words, the degree to which you’ll try to approach learning situations critically, thoughtfully, creatively, etc.
  • What will help you persist when you inevitably hit roadblocks and find yourself at a learning tableau or dipping into a negative attitude state?
  • What will stop you from giving up if learning gets tough?

I framed the main part of the discussion by describing how human needs for self-growth, flow, intrinsic satisfaction, and self-determination can lead people to seek out new experiences, work for mastery, and find personal meaning in their experiences. We also spent some time thinking about how social contexts created through teachers’ behaviors, studios/classrooms/rehearsal rooms, learning environments in general, etc. can serve to either support or thwart someone as they strive to satisfy these needs. The following points are a sample of what was addressed:

Contexts can be supportive or not…

  • Balancing the amount of structure/scaffolding provided and opportunities for independent work/decision making is important
  • Providing informational instruction (clues and ways to achieve objectives) vs. controlling rules (specific ways to do things) makes a difference
  • Giving opportunities to make choices vs. emphasizing interpersonal control in general is critical
  • Communicating evaluations as opportunities for improvement vs. as how something ‘should’ have been performed

We then moved through a cyclical set of motivational beliefs that have been shown to be related to learning in compelling ways. The powerpoint linked to this post includes summary points of some of the implications for pedagogy that each theoretical perspective suggests.

  • Mindset (Dweck)
    • Beliefs that abilities can be either fixed- or growth–oriented…
  • Self-efficacy (Bandura)
    • An individual’s beliefs in their own ability to produce an intended outcome on a specific task
  • Achievement goal orientations (Elliot)
    • The reasons why people aim to be competent and how they frame their own goals
  • Attributions (Weiner)
    • How the reasons people give for their successes and failures can impact their motivation and achievement in the future

We then ended the discussion by talking about some common motivational problems students experience and some general ideas for how to help them.

If a student’s needs are not met

  • The environment must feel like a safe place – physically and psychologically – this clearly has much larger ramifications for situations involving poverty, violent crime, discrimination, and/or harassment, etc.
  • Employ active approaches to help students develop positive feelings of competence and autonomy for the sake of esteem and self-determination
  • Employ active approaches to help students form productive relationships with each other
  • Provide preparation for students for how to interact with civility in a community
  • Employ active approaches to reducing the stressfulness of potentially competitive and high-stakes environment

If students are amotivated or lacking in apparent intrinsic motivation

  • Interventions can require altering the social context to help students integrate values of the environment to their own self
  • Make connections between activities and the students’ life goals and values
  • Make connections between activities and the values the students’ peer group recognize
  • Make connections to the values of the students’ significant others e.g., those they regard highly as role models
  • Provide opportunities for choice and for the student to feel in control of the environment
  • Give a secure foundation for building a sense of readiness – do not “throw into the fire”
  • Steer students away from performance-based goal orientations and towards mastery-oriented ideals (i.e., self-improvement)

If students demonstrate learned helplessness or self-handicapping

  • Vary goals according to individual students’ needs
  • Structure learning with an emphasis on short-term goals and develop them with the students
  • Provide frequent opportunity to acquire mastery and frequently document and display evidence of their growth (to them, not the class)
  • Teach students to avoid comparisons with others and encourage mastery goal orientations
  • Make it safe to ask for help by building it into the learning process as a required step
  • Do not over-assist and inadvertently communicate your belief in their lack of ability
  • Consider cooperative learning approaches

A SMiLE-ing experiment

I wanted to write a quick post to share my excitement about a new research group starting up at IU called: SMiLE: Science of Music in Learning and Experience.

The purpose of the group is to cultivate conversations about music research among students and faculty across departments in the school of music and across units on campus. So far, interest in the group has been expressed by grad students and faculty from… …Music (education, theory, conducting), Cognitive Science, Psychological and Brain Sciences, Telecommunications, Speech and Hearing, Informatics, Computer Science, Linguistics, and Second Language Studies. This image is a wordle of the groups’ collective interests from our first meeting.

Topics of interests

Our first two meetings were interdisciplinary, collegial, energetic, and overall – lots of fun. Many thanks to the colleagues and friends I spoke to who encouraged doing something like this and gave such great advice about how to do it. Many thanks too, to the wonderful colleagues and students taking time out of their busy days to join in the fun!

It’s sure to be a fun adventure and I’m excited for what the Spring may bring!

Artistry and Music Education

Some quick background…

What follows is a brief personal statement I shared at our first departmental music education research colloquium at IU this Fall. Each faculty member had an opportunity to share their thoughts about the intersections between artistry and various aspects of music education. It was terrific fun to hear everyone’s perspective and an energizing start to the year. I enjoyed thinking on the topic so much I thought I’d share my own excerpt here…

Artistry and music education in higher education: A personal view on the topic as a developing scholar of music teaching and learning

I truly enjoy thinking about intersections between artistry and music education. The tensions surrounding issues of identity that I and I am sure many others have experienced while going down the path of becoming a music teacher were profound and the personal growth and development that occurred was equally so. Embracing a multi-dimensional perspective of one’s identity and the professional roles one can play in the world is a notion I challenge all of the undergraduate music students I work with to grapple with. Considering how one’s artful musicianship can inform one’s music teaching is an important part of that challenge. Similarly, I believe that puzzling about how one could be artistic in their approach and application of pedagogy is valuable for all teachers who would like to make a positive and lasting impact on their students. Ultimately, an inclusive and flexible view of self seems likely to be a more productive perspective than a fixed and rigid view when it comes to doing good and personally fulfilling work in music education.

More recently, I’ve been thinking about the possible paths that might lead to stretching and reconceptualizing music teacher identity to incorporate that of a scholar. In my experience, it appears that the profound tensions and shifts in identity that pre-service music teachers experience as they ponder their roles as musicians and teachers are likely similar to those that an emerging scholar encounters as they begin to imagine themselves as researchers and music teachers in higher education throughout their time in graduate school. If a similar assumption holds here – that a more flexible and inclusive view of self could ultimately be more valuable than a fixed and rigid view – then I find myself wondering what it would mean to merge an artistic worldview of music education with a scholarly one and vice versa?

My goal in this informal talk of our introductory research colloquium is to try and explain how I’m beginning to see properties of artistry embodied in scholarship and the pursuit of research, given the role of scholarly activity in the functions of a music educator in higher education. More simply, I have been thinking about the questions: What might it mean to pursue scholarly work in music education with a sense of artistry? What if some of the most prominent virtues of artistic activity were mapped onto scholarly activity? I’ve tried to answer these questions by imagining ideas I might give my “13-year-ago” self… …someone starting out down the path of growing a scholarly identity around fairly well-established musical and pedagogical dimensions of self.

A quick side-note on artistry…

Whether it’s in regard to being a musician, a teacher, or a scholar, for me, artistry most often implies something extra-ordinary — a type of activity that is clearly beyond the mundane and everyday – it’s something special – something heavily soaked in personal meaning, activities with intense levels of engagement, and a mode of doing that can lead to transcendent experiences.

With that, some thoughts on artistry and scholarship…

Imbue the goals of your work with your unique perspective. An artist scholar seeks to make a contribution to the field that is both personally rewarding and enriching for the broader profession. An artist scholar aims to develop a personal voice. They work to develop a style of writing and communication in general that is their own. Moreover, an artist scholar either chooses work that is intrinsically meaningful or finds a way to inject intrinsic value in the work they are confronted with. Ultimately, their scholarly goals reflect their personal values and view of the world.

Embrace the same things an artist needs to embrace in order to carry out their best work. An artist scholar has very high regard for craft and skill in methods and techniques. They dedicate the time and energy necessary to refine their craft and strive for elegance in execution. An artistic approach to scholarship involves periods of immersion in their work and high levels of focus and concentration on the task at hand. It involves the deliberate practice of the skills necessary for conducting their research as well as the deliberate play necessary for energizing their approach. An artist scholar seeks inspiration from a wide variety of resources and muses and keeps an open mind.

Reward yourself for incremental successes and learn from your mistakes, but have high expectations, as any artist would – in other words, seek to transcend. An artist scholar respects the past but does not settle for stagnation or the status quo. They work to induce transformation and progress through their work – of themselves, of others, and of their field. Artist scholars will push themselves to learn, to grow, and to be more. Artist scholars push their field to consider new evidence, perspectives, and ideas.

In sum, what could I tell my “13-year-ago” self? I’d say to approach the goals, work, and expectations of scholarship as an artist would. I would challenge myself to be more than I was before. I would encourage myself to ask the following questions: “Are you an artist musician? Are you an artist teacher? Are you an artist scholar?” Perhaps, some of us here might consider asking yourselves… When I leave my music education experience at IU, will I be something I wasn’t before? You might aim to be a different musician, a different teacher, and also a scholar — and above all, to imbue each with artistry.

Parenting and teaching —- a personal summer reflection

There’s no greater luxury in the world than the knowledge that your children are cared for by warm, intelligent, humorous, and kind teachers.

Each start of a new school year the privileges and good fortune our family enjoys by being able to send our children to work with incredible teachers who are dedicated to nurturing young people as well as our community becomes more and more clear. Similarly, the meaning of schooling and the value of it continue to shift profoundly as what is your life’s most important priority is taken into the care of others.

Parenting and teaching copy

Of course, this sort of personal realization is not an entirely new or unique concept for any who work in education. Being both a teacher and a parent affects my views and undoubtedly all parents recognize a shift in their perspective on schooling as their children move from grade to grade. Surely all who care for children parents or otherwise, recognize new insights and meanings of school as life moves through its various stages.

That said – for me…

…being a parent of young children continues to open up new perspectives on schooling that are at the same time heart-felt, visceral, and intellectually fresh. For example, watching my children go through school is:

  • Heartfelt = It’s a bittersweet feeling watching as they find new degrees of independence and stretch themselves further out into the world
  • Visceral = I learn what it means to literally “swell with pride” as they take courageous new steps towards new experiences and overcome challenges and obstacles in their path towards being functional members of a new community
  • Intellectual = I am constantly fascinated by the growth in information processing ability and new schema they acquire as they demonstrate more sophisticated skills, knowledge, and conceptual understanding

This perspective brings vividness to…

…the consequences of policy decisions that impact the atmosphere of a school from the macro-structures of community embeddedness and curricular design to the micro-details of daily routines and classroom activities.

This fluctuating and evolving worldview is especially interesting to me given the apparent disconnect between such meanings and values of schooling and the perspectives often present in national discussions of school reform. Most discussions of policy and systemic change seem to only rarely be cast from a point of view of care or stewardship of any sort. In contrast, our discussions seem most often drenched in political hyperbole that emphasize insufficient standardized outcomes and are bereft of local community values.

My guess is that the condition of schooling would be better off if reforms were considered from heartfelt, visceral, and intellectual perspectives that come with the sorts of priorities described here rather than from the detached and politicized ideological rhetoric of many publicized reformers. I am grateful and reassured that many of my colleagues in music education and others in the arts in particular embrace a similar perspective and only hope that such perspectives continue to become more prominently communicated to stakeholders and the public-at-large.

Here’s to a heartfelt, visceral, and intellectually stimulating start to the school year for all.

 

What if elementary general music programs were cut from the public schools?

This question was one of the prime motivations for a recent exploratory research study IU colleague and co-author Dr. Brent Gault and I conducted. Resources for elementary music programs as pertains to specialist faculty, time for instruction, and space and materials are perhaps especially vulnerable to cutbacks and fiscal instability. This is perhaps partly due to the relative lack of community visibility that elementary music programs enjoy in comparison to secondary school music programs.

We were curious as to what types of experiences might be left over for students should elementary music specialist-led programs be cut – and how those experiences might vary for students from different demographic segments of the nation?

ECLS wordle copy 

The background:

We analyzed publicly available data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS) conducted by the National Department of Education, Institute for Education Sciences, and the National Center for Educational Statistics. The ECLS collected data about a nationally representative cohort of approximately 3.8 million kindergarten children (K class of 1999) as they progressed through elementary and middle school.

Regarding music, the ECLS collected information about the nature of the musical experiences the children received in their academic classroom setting as opposed to their music class-specific experiences. As such, the data allow for a rough estimate of the kinds and amounts of musical experiences students receive from their academic classroom teachers apart from those that may be delivered from an elementary music specialist.

Drawing from the data that were available, our analyses were conducted to determine:

  • The frequency and duration with which children received music instruction in their academic classroom setting
  • The frequency that music was used to teach math in the academic classroom setting
  • The percentage of children receiving formal/private music instruction outside of school
    • We also examined each these types of experiences according to student urbanicity (i.e., rural, suburban, urban location), socioeconomic status, and race.

Classroom teachers most frequently reported engaging children in some sort of music activity once or twice a week for 30 minutes or less. This excerpt serves as a summary of our most compelling findings regarding access to such classroom experiences:

Music instruction (in the academic classroom setting) appears to be… …less available for students of color from urban and rural settings and of lower socioeconomic status. In addition, access to privatized formal instruction seems readily available for those children who are arguably the least in need and significantly lacking for those with the greatest need.” (Miksza & Gault, Online First, 2014, p. 11)

We’re happy to report that the article is now available as an “online first” offering in the Journal of Research in Music Education.

Miksza, P., & Gault, B. (online first, 2014). Classroom music experiences of US elementary school children: An analysis of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study of 1998-99 (ECLS-K). Journal of Research in Music Education, 62, 4-17. 

Strategies and considerations for assessment in music education

I am fortunate to have had the distinct pleasure of moderating a panel on assessment practices in music education this morning at the Indiana Music Educators Professional Development Conference.

The panel consisted of three terrifically dedicated and incredibly intelligent teachers:

  • Lisa Sullivan, Mohawk Trails Elementary School
  • Laura E Helms, Bloomfield JR/SR High School (choral emphasis)
  • Soo Han, Carmel HS (instrumental emphasis)

They each shared their insights regarding the value and purpose of assessment in music and how to approach designing an assessment system that was also practical and pragmatic in its execution.

Resources from the panel presenters can be found at the links below (posted with permission). Thanks to all who were in attendance at today’s session and thanks again to the terrific presenters!

Powerpoint Slides

Handout

Pete, Lisa, Laura, Soo - IMEA 2014