29 SES 13, Music Education and Change
Research in the field of music education recognizes the need to change from the “classical conservatoire culture” that, according to Sloboda (2005), emphasises the “reproduction of musical artworks within the formal classical tradition” and, although being still relevant for a lot of its practitioners, it is no longer adequate “for the majority of our children”. Despite this awareness, most of the music education systems maintain traditional based on imitation and repetition of technical skills, instead of valuing the creative dimensions of music making (Campbell et al. 2007; Cope, 2002; Elliott, 1995; Gaunt, 2007).
Departing from the diagnosis within a Portuguese music school, recognizing that some the dimensions of its intervention where not achieving the desirable results, namely regarding the students’ motivation and implication to engage with music learning, the school decided to implement a process of change, questioning many of the dimensions of its practice.
The process of change in a traditional institution such as School is admittedly difficult. However, the school’s management and some of the teachers recognized that, as Kratus (2015:340) states, change “is not an option; it is mandatory and inevitable” because “when something ceases to change and adapt to shifting circumstances, it ceases to exist” (2015:3), referring also that “change in music education is made even more problematic, because those who would promote change are in the minority” (2015:345). Dembo & Seli (2004), researching about processes of institutional change, refer that, among other aspects, failures in change process often occur because the people involved don’t want to change, don’t know what and how to change. This can create “uncertainty, frustration or fear” [and a resistance] to change initiatives” (Yılmaz & Kılıçoğlu, 2013:18). Being aware of this internal resistance, and trying to implement a more effective and successful process, some teachers were “empowered” to explore and experiment different approaches and reflect on the possibilities to adequate alternatives to their own teaching reality.
In his role as the school’s coordinator of international projects, the author of this paper developed and implemented a teachers’ training project, financed by the Erasmus+ program, whose objective was to be the starting point of a process of change, including in this process the school’s main decision makers, regarding the pedagogical and artistic guidance, and also teachers in the field. Being aware of the limitations of the Portuguese teachers’ training programs regarding the issues to be addressed, the approval of the financing for this project allowed training possibilities in countries with know-how in this areas.
Not being identified the specific training needs of the teachers, it was assumed that in this two year project the participants should explore as many as possible different pedagogical, didactical, performative and organizational approaches to music teaching, but assuming that the intention is not to promote any radical change (risking even more resistance to change) but, as Kratus (2015:346) suggests, to “embrace small acts of subversion” and hope that, eventually, to “undermine the status quo [so that] systematic change occurs.”
This exploration and risk taking requires a different stance regarding the teachers: instead of assuming a master-apprentice posture, he will return to a learning role, engaging in areas that he does not master, implying the assumption of a critical perspective and refusing the ‘banking model’ of education criticized by Freire (1970).
The paper presented here intends to describe the process and reflect about the institutional and individual transformation occurred during the two years of the project, addressing and discussing some of the most relevant aspects. Another important and essential aspect if the identification of possibilities to implement the second phase of the change process.
The Per Formar Project assumes the need to transform the school’s reality, trying to narrow the distance between the teachers’ practices and the students’ musical interests. However, it was recognized that the teachers’ initial training has not given them skills to engage with other practices outside the “classical conservatoire culture”, creating difficulties for the definition of a clear path regarding training needs. So, it was assumed that the process of transformation was a medium/long-term plan and that the first phase should be an explorative period, involving the participants in experimental activities and enabling the contact with as many as possible different approaches. Especially relevant in this project was the need to develop a pilot project with students, forcing the teacher to engage with collaborative work with students where he needs to assume a “less competent” position but, even so, having to respond to the students’ questions and challenges. In this situation, he has to, as Sawyer (2004, 17) states, “use a wide range of degrees of structure, shifting between scripts, scaffolds, and activity formats as the material and the students seem to require”, balancing the level of structure and freedom, in what Sawyer calls disciplined improvisation, a combination between planning and improvisation. This posture from the teachers’ part is also coherent with the praxial approach defended by Elliott (1995), assuming the teacher a student (active) role that must be participatory, empowering, and involving transformative self-knowledge (Freire 1996; Rancière 2002). In this project is given a high relevance to the teachers individual perceptions, difficulties and strategies encountered to deal with challenges created in the pilot project and during the training experiences. During and after the training activities all the participants were asked to engage in an individual process of self-reflection and also to develop a pilot project where they should experiment alternative approaches with their students in “real life” contexts. This individual self-reflection, structured by an individual journal and other instruments to evaluate the training experiences, was complemented by a collective sharing of points of view by all the participants in the project, being all these individual and collective discussions the main basis for project report.
Assumed as an experimental process, the project doesn’t advance possible conclusions. The important dimension to consider is the quality of the experience enabled to the participants, assuming that a process of change, as Dent & Goldberg (1999:27), quoting Kreitner (1992), state is “like a stone tossed into a still pond [causing] ripples to radiate in all directions with unpredictable consequences”. The main goal of the project is to assume the starting point of an internal process of change, identifying four main expected outcomes: 1) The transformation of the teachers’ posture, questioning the pedagogical and didactical approaches; 2) Enable participants to be acquainted with alternative approaches to the classical tradition, not by consuming “packaged” training contents, but by engaging in real musical and performative practices, assuming themselves a learning role in some musical languages and activities such as sound exploration, improvisation or composition, given them a wide “catalog” of possibilities to engage with music making. 3) During and after the training project, teachers will be asked to share their experiences and reflect about possibilities to transfer some of their training experiences to their “real life”, in the work with students. 4) In the end of the project, the main goal is to identify possible paths for the future of music teaching and, if possible, develop a new training project in-line with that new possibility. Assuming that a change process is also that never ends, because the school context is continuously changing also, what is important for the project is the assumption of an active role from the participants’ part. An additional objective is the identification of potential partners to cooperate in the field of pedagogical practices, creative performance, collaborative artistic projects and teachers’ training.
Abrahams, Frank. 2005a. “Critical Pedagogy for Music Education: A Best Practice to Prepare Future Music Educators.” Paper presented at the meeting of the Society for Music Teacher Education, Greensboro, September. Campbell, Patricia Shehan, Claire Connell, and Amy Beegle. 2007. “Adolescents' Expressed Meanings of Music in and out of School.” Journal of Research in Music Education 55(3): 220-236. Cope, Peter. 2002. “Informal Learning of Musical Instruments: the importance of social context.” Music Education Research 4(1): 93-104. doi: 10.1080/14613800220119796 Creech, Andrea, Maria Varvarigou, Susan Hallam, Hilary McQueen, and Helena Gaunt. 2013. “Scaffolding, organizational structure and interpersonal interaction in musical activities with older people.” Psychology of Music 42(3): 430-447. doi: 10.1177/0305735613478313 Dembo, Myron H., and Helena Praks Seli. 2004. “Students’ Resistance to Change in Learning Strategies Courses.” Journal of Developmental Education 27(3): 2-9. Dent, Eric B., and Susan Galloway Goldberg. 1999. Challenging “Resistance to Change”. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 35(1): 25-41. doi: 10.1177/0021886399351003 Elliott, David, and Marissa Silverman. 2015. Music matters: A philosophy of music education (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press Elliott, David. 1995. Music matters: A new philosophy of music education. New York: Oxford University Press Freire, Paulo. 1970. Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Seabury Press. Freire, Paulo. 1996. Pedagogia da Autonomia: saberes necessários à prática educativa. Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra. Gaunt, Helena. 2007. “One-to-one tuition in a conservatoire: the perceptions of instrumental and vocal teachers.” Psychology of Music 36(2): 215-245. Hallam, Susan, and Andrea Creech (Editors). 2010. Music Education in the 21st Century in the United Kingdom: Achievements, analysis and aspirations. Bedford Way Papers. Institute of Education, University of London. Kratus, John. 2015. “The Role of Subversion in Changing Music Education” In Music Education: Navigating the Future, edited by Clint Randles, 340-346. New York: Routledge. Rancière, Jacques. 2002. O mestre ignorante – Cinco lições sobre a emancipação intelectual. Belo Horizonte: Autentica Sawyer, R. Keith. 2004. “Creative Teaching: Collaborative Discussion as Disciplined Improvisation.” Educational Researcher 33 (2): 12-20. doi: 10.3102/0013189X033002012 Sawyer, R. Keith. 2004b. “Improvised Lessons: Collaborative discussion in the constructivist classroom.” Teaching Education 15 (2): 189-201. doi: 10.1080/1047621042000213610 Sloboda, John. 2005. Exploring the musical mind: Cognition, emotion, ability, function. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Swanwick, Keith. 1999. Teaching Music Musically. London: Routledge. Yılmaz, Derya, and Gökhan Kılıçoğlu. 2013. “Resistance to change and ways of reducing resistance in educational organizations.” European Journal of Research on Education 1(1): 14-21.
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