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.

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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

Research reads to keep you warm on cold winter nights

Because, really, what’s more comforting in the middle of winter than curling up with a great book on quantitative research design and/or statistical analysis!

🙂

This semester I have the pleasure of teaching a course on quantitative research methods for music education. In preparation for this class, I’ve been looking at all kinds of resources that could be helpful for the students (and me) to dig into compelling issues of research design and analysis. A couple of standouts from the pile of books I was wading through are listed below. In addition to being clearly written and approachable in style, each book does a great job elaborating on issues related to quantitative research that are often difficult to digest. These books aren’t designed to be suitable as a text for a music education research methods course, but, they’re certainly excellent supplements.

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(snowflake courtesy of Lucy Miksza, 5 yrs old)

Stanovich, K. E. (2001). How to think straight about psychology (6th ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

  • This book is a terrific, down-to-Earth read about some of the most basic characteristics of scientific inquiry. I particularly enjoy the discussions of scientific inquiry as a converging process, the importance of falsification, and the challenges inherent in probabilistic thinking. Being focused on the social science of psychology, it comes across as a good introduction to issues of scientific activity that comes across in a way that I think is relevant to many of the types of questions that music ed researchers may be interested in.

Abelson, R. (1995). Statistics as principled argument. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum Associates.

  • This is a humorous and plain-spoken collection of wisdom for those who are writing about statistical findings. The first chapter, “making claims with statistics,” raises a host of simple, yet important considerations for stats folk. All of the chapters, though, will be helpful – especially when thinking about developing a writing style.

Jaeger, R. M. (1990). Statistics as a spectators sport. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

  • I’ve relied on this book for one reason or another many times since getting bitten by the music ed research bug. This book lays out basic and intermediate statistical topics in an easy-to-grasp, conceptual manner. Jaeger’s explanations could be a great help for those who find that math and formulas seem to get in the way of understanding how statistical analysis techniques could serve music ed researchers. Or, if you’re looking for a book that ties together some loose ends and fills conceptual gaps – this could really help.

Experimenting with efficient practice: Plan-Perform-Reflect

I’m happy to be reporting on a recent study that I’ve had published in the journal, Psychology of Music:

The Effect of Self-Regulation Instruction on the Performance Achievement, Musical Self-efficacy, and Practicing of Advanced Wind Players

In essence, the study was designed to assess the relative benefits of (1) instruction for practicing that included explanations and demonstrations of self-regulated approaches to learning such as planning, goal-setting, self-evaluation, strategy use, and reflection as compared to (2) instruction that dealt with explanations and demonstrations of strategies use only. The study employed an experimental design with pre- and post-test measures of each outcome and randomized assignment of individuals to treatment and control groups. The participants for the study were undergraduate brass and woodwind players. They were asked to watch contrasting video demonstrations of practice approaches across 5 days. Ultimately, the results indicate a promising, positive effect of the self-regulation training.

If you’re interested in learning more about the work and seeing the video used for the experimental instruction… …check out this Prezi with narration in the pic below:

Practice Prezi Shot copy

Ed Policy and Music Teacher Preparation

This weekend I had the opportunity of co-presenting a session on embedding educational policy issues in music teacher preparation coursework at the bi-annual Symposium on Music Teacher Education in North Carolina. It was a pleasure to work with our newest Jacobs School of Music music education colleague, Dr. Lauren Kapalka-Richerme and IU JSOM alumna, Dr. Carla Aguilar who is currently coordinator of music education at Metropolitan State University in Denver, Colorado.

This is us enjoying the day! And here is a link to our presentation slides: Aguilar, Miksza, Richerme – Policy – SMTE – 2013.

Also, check out the SMTE Policy ASPA Facebook page here: SMTE POLICY

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