AIDANPEPPERAssignment1 – Reflecting on Professional Practice EDU7146 Reflect on up to threedifferent workplace experiences and/or critical incidents, where appropriateincluding a portfolio of evidence, with a description of each.What were the experiences/incidents? · Why were theseexperiences/incidents significant to you? · What evidence isthere about your performance in relation to the experiences/incidents? · What evidence isthere about the performance of your workplace in relation to these experiences/incidents? Each of the steps in my teaching career has helped to megain particular insights, and indeed prejudices, regarding music education and differingapproaches to teaching and learning. It is my intention to step back and question some of my decision making overthe past ten years. Hopefully the examination and scrutiny of my own practiceswill highlight issues that could benefit from research-led input. Much of whatI do is steered by the confines of institutional regulation and stipulation.Within those strict frameworks however there is scope for my professionalteaching to be influenced by the research outcomes of others.
To begin thisprocess I have highlighted three moments within my teaching history that couldpotentially be improved by reflection and consequent adjustment. There are of course myriad occasions that would benefit fromreflection, self-doubt, and improvement. In order to structure my thoughts andaim more purposefully I have tried to choose incidents from three categories, startingbroadly and becoming more tightly focused. The three categories are curriculum;whole class groups; and individual students.
CriticalReflection 1 – Focus on CurriculumThe first incident chosen for critical reflection here occurredduring a time of departmental reconstruction and staffing reductions. When Ifirst started teaching at my current school, students at key-stage 3 were luckyenough to receive one hour per week of each discipline within the performingarts faculty. With this structure, teaching and assessment could reasonably beconsidered to be regular and linear – at least as far as any weekly lesson canbe considered so.
Following the removal of specialist status funding, and theincreased predominance of English Baccalaureate subjects, performing artsprovision was significantly reduced. Since then, Music and Drama has shared aone hour lesson per week. This has been split termly. One term, Drama; twoterms, Music.
Our current curriculum model is structured as a carousel with everystudent experiencing distinct lessons in Music Performance, Music Compositionand Drama as illustrated in the table below. Term 1 Term 2 Term 3 Music – Performance Class A Class B Class C Music – Composition Class C Class A Class B Drama Skills Class B Class C Class A Illustration 1: Rotational model for deliveryof KS3 Performing ArtsWhilst I must acknowledge that this model has some merits,they seem to be largely outweighed by the disadvantages. It is thedisadvantages I would like to concentrate on here. The most significant issue arises when considering studentprogression. For a moment, as an example let us consider Year 7 students inClass C. They receive composition lessons in Term 1. They are then notscheduled to study it again until the same calendar point in Year 8.
Also,depending on term length, this could mean that they only get the opportunity toexperience composition for approximately 15 hours per year (basedoptimistically on half terms of 7 weeks and 8 weeks respectively). Thisextrapolates to 30 hours at the end of Y8 at which point they are expected tomake options choices. By contrast, Maths provision achieves this level ofcontact within 6 weeks, or less than half a term.The other implication of this system is that assessment withinthis model is currently meaningless.
Rotating termly does not fit neatly withthe school’s timetable for collecting data. Often we are required to submitdata just before, or just after a group has rotated. This of course makes itimpossible to either act on the data or implement necessary interventions.Questions also arise about what to do with the data has been collected.
15hours is not very long to collect data, action anything in response to the data,and measure its impact. Equally, what data can you collect that will be relevantto another teacher once the group has rotated?This was a conundrum with which I wanted to engage when Ifirst became Head of Department. I don’t believe in collecting data for the sake of it, but I also feltuncomfortable collecting no data. I investigated a number of assessment models and engaged with the assessmentconversations taking place on Twitter.
I trialled a range of assessment trackingmodels to see which might fit our own circumstances. Ultimately I created myown assessment system that I felt could work within our school. Chronologicaldevelopment of these ideas are pictured below: Illustration 2: Early assessment model for KS3Performing Arts Illustration 3: First attempt at KS3 PerformingArts progress tracker Illustration 3: Refined 2nd attemptat KS3 Performing Arts progress tracker My initial response to the challenge was largely positive.
Ifelt that I could make something work that would not only satisfy the need toshow progression but also serve to track the skills of students as they movedaround the rotation. Over time it has become clearer that this is not necessarilythe case. Tracking this sort of information for each student does not takelong. It is clear.
Progress can be shown. However, the data is not very usefulfor the teacher in the next bit of the rotation. Knowing how a student has donein a drama performance is of limited value when they are embarking upon a compositionaljourney for the first time in music.What I did find however, was that the information was usefulfor the student. And, upon reflection, perhaps this is enough.
The grid servedas a map for the student to help them see their progress through performingarts across the year. They knew what projects would be assessed in the futureand they knew (albeit broadly) how they had achieved in previous projects. Whilst I am not fully happy with this assessment tracker, itis the closest I have got to a satisfactory system so far.
I am keen to developthis further and see how much it can be refined.If I were to look further into this assessment model I wouldwant to know the following: Does research into cognition, suggest that it wouldbe better for the understanding and practice of composition to spread learningout over the year, or in condensed termly chunks? Can research into assessmentof music shed any light on successful approaches to collecting meaningful data? CriticalReflection 2 – Whole-Class GroupsI would also consider examining critically my pedagogicalapproach to introducing composition to key stage three classes. Looking at mycurrent methods for teaching compositional skills I feel that there is room fora more purposeful approach grounded in researched and proven methodologies. For a long time I have relied on computer technology andsequencing software to deliver composition schemes of work. I have mostly usedfilm soundtracks as the foundation upon which I have taught students to becreative with the elements of music and introduced them weekly to new compositionaltechniques. Again, merits are to be found but there is often the sense thatrelying on the technology is “taking the easy way out”, and not playing to thestrengths/experiences of all students in the group. Also, upon reflection, it has been apparent for a while tome that working with a film clip is not as inspiring as it seems. Whilst it isvery engaging and perhaps “current” for a student to work with a familiar andenjoyable film clip, it is also quite prescriptive in the options it allows themto work with.
It essentially corals the creativity and imagination of thestudent towards the successful completion of a very narrow brief. If, forexample, the clip has a spooky feel, then a particular range of techniques immediatelylend themselves to this and a student is steered towards those. I think my concern is that this approach misses out a vitalstep in the creative process and ignores a range of instrumental/vocal skillsthat the students may possess. It avoids the student having to find a source ofinspiration and interpret it in a musical way. Rather, it encourages a”paint-by-numbers” approach; a checklist of techniques to be applied.
Admittedly this is a criticism of the pedagogical approach rather than theusefulness of film clips themselves. I think that my own misconception of thefilm clip/technology process was that it provided a level playing field forstudents with very varied musical histories. That is to say, very few key stage3 students have meaningful experience of sequencing and composing to film.However, it is a process that strongly favours the student with keyboardskills.
I’m confident that a more encompassing and holistic experience ofcomposition can be achieved, despite the time constraints, that fostersimaginative responses from students regardless of previous experience. Again, Ifind myself wondering if a more traditional pedagogical approach has been shownto yield better results for more students. Or, is it the way that technology isemployed that makes the biggest difference. Should technology be used tofacilitate the composition – through aiding exploration, and assisting withrecording etc – rather than being the sole medium with which a composition iscreated? Being a keyboard player I am fully aware of the usefulnessof technology when composing, and its potential to encourage creativity. But,can the use of it during the early stages of composition instruction be ahindrance to creativity rather than a spur?CriticalReflection 3 – Individual StudentsAs my third focus for reflection I would like to turnattention to the experiences of an individual student. The majority of my timeis focused on key stage 5 students however this year I have some input with theGCSE groups. I teach a student in year 10 who struggles to balance therequirements of the course with his own very specific musical tastes. He is areasonably accomplished guitarist with a penchant for artists such as TheSmiths and David Bowie.
Outside of thisnarrow field of experience he finds very little merit in other styles andgenres. Whilst he is aware of the requirements of the course to be aware of awide range of genres he is in no way inclined to spend time with them. It isworth being clear that he is a musically astute student who is motivated toimprove on his instrument – by playing the music he likes.
He will volunteeranswers during lessons and is happy to share his opinions. In other subjects heis a challenging student for staff whereas in music he is not. There is clearlya passion there for the subject but it is stylistically tethered. He iscertainly not the first student to exhibit strong musical preferences. Indeedhaving preferences is not remarkable in the slightest. Many students struggleto find beauty or purpose in a musical style with which they are not familiar. This proclivity for contemporary alternative music has madecomposition particularly inaccessible for this student.
He finds it difficultto be inspired by other genres and eras. I also think that he leaves himselfopen to disappointment because it is nearly impossible for him to achieve the sonicresults of his idols. If he constantly compares his work to that of Bowie forexample then he has a long road of discontentment ahead of him! The flipside ofthis is that create something simple, like a percussive motif conveying theweather, seems banal by comparison and not worthy of effort. Moving forward fromcritical reflectionIn sincerity all three areas detailed above require furtherreflection and contemplation in order to improve my own classroom practice andthe wider practices of my department.It is the most current of these issues that I would like toinvestigate further. That issue is the latter one – the individual student withgenre tunnel vision.
The issue of stylistic dominance is echoed throughout yeargroups. It is certainly not limited to one student. I wonder if this has any measurable effect on creativethinking. There is a populist theory within education that subjectsshould be bastions of the best that has been thought or written. This canpresent issues when encouraging student creativity.
Society often leans towardsthe classical painters, sculptors, writers and musicians when populating the ‘bestof’ category. This can cause us to focus on the quality of the content ratherthan the quality of the creative process. It is, I believe the quality of theprocess of creativity that needs to be examined, unpicked, and presented tostudents because “…although the work of’the masters’ is a source of inspiration and is often studied in educationalinstitutions, such exceptional standards of quality are difficult to reproduce.”(Odena & Welch, 2009)Some understanding of creativity is necessary to discernthis further. Margaret Boden (1990) explains that human creativity issomething of a mystery, not to say a paradox. She goes on to consider a useful distinctionbetween p-creativity (‘psychological creativity’) and h-creativity (‘historical’creativity). Whilst I see the merit in considering how original a creative ideatruly is, I’m not sure that this distinction is particularly helpful to me justyet.
Furthermore, a distinction between teaching creatively and teachingfor creativity was identified and discussed in a National AdvisoryCommittee on Creative and Cultural Education (NACCCE, 1999) report. Theexamination in the NACCCE report details four characteristics of creativity andteaching methods as identified by Peter Woods, (1990): relevance, ownership,control, and innovation. They use these characteristics to show how the twodistinctions – teaching creativelyand teaching for creativity areclosely related, but crucially, how interdependent they are.Bob Jeffrey and Ana Craft (2001) have subtly amended thisdescription.
They considered that the distinction between teaching creativelyand teaching for creativity was unintentionally dichotomous. Their concern isthat an unfortunate separation may occur that divides teaching from learning inan unhelpful way. Whilst this possibly the case if not acknowledged, NACCCEappear to have pre-empted the concern with a clarification that theyappreciation the ‘closeness’ between the two terms. They go on to say, ‘Youngpeople’s creative abilities are most likely to be developed in an atmosphere inwhich the teacher’s creative abilities are properly engaged’. A viewpoint thathas possibly not been fully explored through action research.
Particularly, iftrying to determine its effect upon pedagogical practice in the composingclassroom.So, in order to effectively develop young people’screativity, research points towards a possible routine or process to follow.Savage and Fautley (2007) reference an early research piece from the 1920s byWallas which provides a helpful framework.Wallas’ four stages are: Preparation; Incubation;Illumination; Verification. (Wallas, 1929)Savage and Fautley consider this model to have maintainedintegrity over the years and find it to be a useful addition to classroompractice. Reading into Wallas’ four stages I feel that this structured approachcould be enlightening as part of a response to my original concern. The concept that the student will be dissatisfied with hiswork when compared to that of his idols is addressed by numerous scholars. Iwas interested to learn that it was referred to as ‘big C’ creativity (Craft2001; Gardner, 1993).
In contrast, the ‘new’ concept (in the sense of beingcontrasted to the ‘traditional’) is related to a psychological notion of’imaginative thinking’ and has broad applications in the school context(NACCCE, 1999; Savage & Fautley, 2007). Within this latter concept,creativity is defined as imagination successfully manifested in any valuedpursuit. Confusion arises when accounts of the new concept are presented as ifthey were characterizations of the traditional one, as for example when we tryto assess young people’s musical products using ‘historical creativity’criteria. Taking this situation into account, there are issues that needfurther consideration. For instance, the term ‘creativity’ and how creativitymight be identified in music classrooms are rarely examined in the literature.A few studies indicate that teachers of arts subjects usually interpretcreativity and its teaching in personal terms (Fryer, 1996; Fryer &Collings, 1991), whilst the English National Curriculum devotes a fourth of itsrequirements for music to developing ‘creative skills’ in the guise ofcomposition and improvisation (QCA, 2006b). As such, having a statutorycurriculum does not appear to guarantee a harmonized perception of theseactivities in their implementation in schools. Concerns have been raised aboutthe standards of composition in generalist schools (Odam, 2000) and about theneed for teachers to have more composition and improvisation knowledge if theyare to engage fully with the students’ composing processes (Berkley, 2001;Pilsbury & Alston, 1996).
Other recent research has suggested that themusical value of improvisation is context and genre sensitive in the lives ofmusic teachers and musicians. For example, an Economic and Social ResearchCouncil (ESRC) study of postgraduate musicians undertaking a one-yearspecialist full-time course to become secondary education music teachers inEngland found that they rated the ability to improvise much more highly thanfinal year undergraduate music students (Hargreaves & Welch, 2003; Welch,2006). In another example, a recently completed investigation into the natureof teaching and learning in higher education music studies (the ESRC Teachingand Learning Research Programme ‘IMP Project’1) has reported differences between classical andnon-classical musicians in their atti-tudes to improvisation, with the latter(folk, jazz, rock musicians) rating the ability to improvise on theirinstrument significantly higher (Creech et al., 2008; Papageorgi & Creech,2006), not least because of differences in expected performance traditions.Inaddition, the term ‘creativity’ is often used in music education statutoryguide-lines in two different ways: (1) describing composition/improvisationactivities andat FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIV on March 26,2013pom.
sagepub.comDownloaded from 418 Psychology of Music37(4)(2) highlighting the value of creativity as a desirable’thinking style’. Examples of this duality are evident in the Curriculum forNorthern Ireland (Department of Education Northern Ireland, 2006), the NationalCurriculum for England and Wales (Department for Education and Employment andQCA, 1999a, 1999b), and the curriculum in Catalonia, Spain (Generalitat deCatalunya, 1992). In England, it is proposed in theNational Curriculum: Handbook for secondary teachers (DfEE and QCA, 1999a,p. 172) that the teaching of music ‘increases self-discipline and creativ-ity’.
Consequently one of the strands of the curriculum’s programmes of study withinall key stages is ‘Creating and developing musical ideas – composing skills’.Furthermore, the bookletMusic: The National Curriculum for England (DfEE and QCA, 1999b,p. 9) provides specific ways in which the teaching of music is believed tocontribute to learning skills across the curriculum, through analysis andevaluation ‘working creatively, reflectively and spontaneously’. Hence, theterm creativity is sometimes conveyed to mean a thinking style and at othertimes to imply activities in composition and/or improvisation. ReferencesBurnard, P. (2012) RethinkingCreative Teaching and Teaching as Research: Mapping the Critical Phases ThatMark Times of Change and Choosing as Learners and Teachers of Music, Theory intoPractice, 51:3, 167-178, Psychology of MusicCraft, A.
(2001) ‘Little c creativity’, in: Craft, A.Jeffrey, B. and Leibling, M. (eds.) Creativity in education, pp. 45-61(Continuum, London)Fautley, M.
and Savage, J. (2010). Creativity in Secondary Education. Exeter: Learning Matters Ltd.Gardner, H. (1993). CreatingMinds: An Anatomy of Creativity Seen Through the Lives of Freud, Einstein,Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Gandhi. New York: Basic Books.
Jeffrey, B. and Craft, A. (2003) Creative teaching and teaching for creativity: distinctions andrelationships. Paper given at the British Educational Research AssociationSpecial Interest Group in Creativity in Education Conference. 3rd February (MiltonKeynes, The Open University)Odena, O. and Welch, G. (2009) A generative model of teachers’ thinking on musical creativity.
Psychologyof Music, 37: 416 originally published online 26 June 2009Wallas, G. (1926) The art of thought. London: WattsWoods, P. (1990) Teacherskills and strategies (London, Falmer)