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«Leiper, Tara (2012) The impact of critical reflection on a private practice singing teacher's thinking. Ed.D thesis. ...»

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Leiper, Tara (2012) The impact of critical reflection on a private practice

singing teacher's thinking. Ed.D thesis.


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The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the Author When referring to this work, full bibliographic details including the author, title, awarding institution and date of the thesis must be given Glasgow Theses Service http://theses.gla.ac.uk/ theses@gla.ac.uk The impact of critical reflection on a private practice singing teacher’s thinking Tara E Leiper MA, BEdMus Submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Education (EdD) University of Glasgow Faculty of Education Department of Educational Studies March 2012 Abstract This situated self-as-researched investigation explores the impact of critical reflection on a private practice singing teacher’s thinking. The project is based upon the use of five ‘vehicles’ through which to develop the skills of critical reflection, these being journal writing, personal writing, critical incident technique, narrative inquiry and ideology critique. Each of these vehicles is used to undertake critical reflection of singing teaching practices whereby values and assumptions are interrogated. Each of the vehicles of critical reflection used in this inquiry is evaluated for their ease of use and effectiveness in enabling critical reflection processes to be developed in the participant.

Engaging in critical reflection presents the possibility for transformative learning (Mezirow 1990) whereby frames of reference are challenged and altered as a result of the processes undertaken and examples of this in action are included in this research report. This dissertation contributes to the small but growing body of research in the area of private professional music education. The private instrumental and vocal teacher often works in an isolated environment with limited development opportunities available. This research proposes that critical reflection may be a viable tool for professional development and practice improvement.

Contents Chapter 1: Introduction 6 Context and reasons for undertaking this research

–  –  –

Acknowledgements There are many people to whom I am indebted for their help, support and patience as I have worked through this doctorate of education degree. I wish to acknowledge the tremendous support of my peer group as they provided a likeminded community of learners with whom to share the experiences of the research journey. I would also like to thank all the educators, past and present, who have worked with me and for all the hundreds of students that I have been fortunate to work with and learn from over the years. Working with people is truly inspirational. Several of my current students were kind enough to read through drafts of this dissertation and I thank them for their time and helpful comments. Finally I must thank my family, especially my husband, for all they have endured as I have worked on this project.

Chapter one: Introduction As I set out upon this research journey I am beset by many questions; why am I studying the impact of critical reflection upon my singing teaching practice?

Why this piece of research and not another? What does it mean to reflect critically? How will I assess the impact of critical reflection upon my thinking?

How do I intend to critically reflect? Will my research be relevant, and of interest, to others? I can only hope that this text, in completion, shows some attempt at responding to these issues and that it demonstrates effort to explore in some depth the possibilities that critical reflection may hold for the private practising instrumental and vocal teacher.

In order to try and make this inquiry accessible to the reader I need to clarify several things about the inquiry itself and about me and my teaching practice.

In chapter two I unravel the term ‘critical reflection’ and provide a working definition for the purpose of this inquiry, followed in chapter three by an examination of the vehicles and processes used to explore and develop critical reflection skills. The main section of the dissertation is presented in chapter four where the products of critical reflection are presented and analysed.

Discussion of their impact upon my thinking and other issues that arose during the research process will be deliberated here also. Finally, the issue of the professional relevance of critical reflection will be explored, creating some form of closure to the research document. I will also look ahead to future applications of critical reflection, considering where this research journey has taken me from, and to, and where it may continue to take me in the future.

Context and reasons for undertaking this research

So why have I chosen to study the impact of critical reflection upon my singing teaching practice? The first reason is because one of the most long-lived and penetrating influences that has been with me during the five year Doctorate of Education (DEd) journey is my concern for the quality of private instrumental and vocal teaching provision. Through my experience of working with prospective instrumental and vocal teachers in a large further education (FE) establishment for over fifteen years, I have often been shocked and dismayed by reports read and anecdotal evidence received relating to the quality of private tuition. Anecdotally I have heard fewer stories of effective teaching and learning than of uninspiring and ineffectual teaching but this may be simply due to negative experiences having a greater impact on memory than positive ones.

It remains that the driving force behind this project is one of quality improvement and an exploration of the potential that critical reflection may have to improve practice through changes in thinking.

At this stage it is worth pointing out differences in the definitions of the terms ‘instrumental’ and ‘technical’. Within music education we refer to ‘instrumental’ teachers as those who teach instruments (as opposed to voice or singing, but often the term is used to cover both instruments and voice). Music teachers teach ‘technique’ or work ‘technically’ with students. ‘Technique’ means we are working on the physical skills of sound production – anything requiring physical manipulation is technical. Technique, therefore, is integral to the development of physical skills on/with an instrument, and this ability is then applied to the creation of ‘musical’ and interpretive elements of performing.

Within educational theorising the terms ‘technical rationality’ and ‘instrumental’ often refer to specific perspectives of knowledge. They represent aspects of knowing that can be reduced to how something is done, the most efficient means used to achieve a specific end, and the manipulating of people as ‘objects’ rather than beings. I shall attempt to be clear with which of these meanings I am referring to throughout the text; it is just unfortunate that these two terms have quite different meanings in the music and educational worlds.

Before revealing further reasons for undertaking this investigation I wish to turn to a consideration of the nature of the work of a private music teacher. I will use the terms ‘instrumental’ and ‘vocal’ interchangeably to refer to those teachers who are working mostly with individuals or small groups teaching instruments and/or voice. While there is much valuable informal music learning taking place within communities this research focuses solely on the traditional formal practices of learning music. There are two main areas to be examined here; firstly an exploration of the history, traditions and culture of instrumental teaching, and secondly the more practical issues of what it means to be a freelance private teacher covering such aspects as professional and ethical matters, support mechanisms and organisations, and the role and function of the instrumental teacher.

Historical and cultural traditions of instrumental and voice teachers

This section provides the reader with some historical and cultural background to the traditions of instrumental and vocal teaching. The influence of practices that are disclosed here are still extremely pervasive in the individual music lesson today even though centuries have passed. Later in this report there will be extracts from my research journal that critically reflect upon many of my practices, some of which resonate strongly with traditions exemplified here, and so I have provided a detailed account of the early beginnings of instrumental tuition in this chapter.

In the sixteenth century, instrumental playing was to some extent kept a mystery. The town musicians in both Germany and Italy protected their interests by guild organizations which ensured them a virtual monopoly of teaching the future professional player. While it is true that the amateur learned his lute, viol or domestic keyboard from his court musicians or in his musical academy, really skilled instrumentalists were relatively scarce. (Arnold 1965 p. 72) Denis Arnold continues in his article to tell of the changes to music education during the mid-seventeenth to mid-eighteenth centuries. Previously, father taught son or apprentice who took his place among the piffari who provided a whole range of performing and entertainment services within the community.

From the 1650s, orphanages and hospitals were set up, first receiving financial support from patrons, and as this declined, the talents of the orphans became saleable. Either the children went out to the community providing the musical services required, or the audience came to them and contributed monetary donations to the upkeep of the establishment. Most of the performing work was based upon religious repertoire, but over time, the proportion of secular performances was increasing. Vivaldi is quoted as being one of the ‘officiallypaid’ teachers in Venice and he only taught the best pupils. His best pupils would be expected to teach the younger pupils too. What is clear from reports of these times is that musicians were all round musicians – composer, performer and teacher. Today, the term musician is rather loosely used, and we often have to clarify in which area someone is working – as performer, composer or teacher. These ‘conservatoires’ started to decline in the 1770s due to the lack of charitable finance, and the concentration on the production of singers. It is left unclear from Arnold’s article whether the tuition was solely individual or in groups.

Harry Hall (1981) provides a review of Moravian music education in America from the mid-eighteenth century to 1830. He describes the religious communes using music as a form of worship and vehicle for maintaining traditions, as a means of spiritual uplift, and also as a vital component of their basic education. They did not employ specialists to teach, but rather used those with apparent talents in music to direct groups and individuals in music making. Everyone sang, mostly songs of a religious nature, but many were tutored in secular instrumental music too. While not ‘music conservatoires’, these communes were using musicmaking as part of a rounded education and individuals were expected to practise and perform to high standards, so developing their musical potential so that their ‘students became sensitive to artistic excellence, regardless of the level of performance’. This aim is still prevalent today in the work of some music educators such as Isaac Stern (Blandford 2004). Hall (1981 p. 233) states that all instrumental instruction was on an individual basis and was initially free. It then became financed to an extent as part of the curriculum and from about 1785 ‘students were charged fees for musical instruction to cover increasing expenses for instruments, accessories, music, and eventual remuneration for teachers.’ There are several important points to emerge from these two reports: most tuition is individual, students practise and perform regularly as soloists and in ensembles, finance (or lack of it) is a continuing issue, specific sets of skills are expected to be learned, and most teachers are ‘musicians’ with the best of musicians working with the best of the students. Many of these practices still prevail today, or at least their impact can still be felt in the way that much instrumental teaching is perceived and delivered.

There are many class instrumental/band teaching programmes in operation today, many of which have developed in the USA during the last century (Fay 1924, Maddy 1929, Morgan 1923, Shore 1949, Smith 1932). Financial assistance is often only provided to those who are not only in financial need but who also demonstrate ‘talent’ or are considered ‘worthy’ recipients (Fay 1924, Maddy 1929, Morgan 1923). Until fairly recently there was an assumption, for example, that learning to play an instrument (or sing) was concerned with learning a set of skills such as the mastery of an instrument, the ability to read notation fluently, the increased acuity of aural skills, the performance of mostly ‘classical’ or western art repertoire, and other such ‘high-brow’, ‘elitist’ or ‘artistic’ musical skills (Sharp 1995, Shore 1949, Zhukov 2008). It is questionable that this list of skills encompasses a rounded musical education, and this issue will be dealt with indirectly throughout this research text. However, it is clear that there is much more to music making and music learning than simply following the traditions of the past but, many of these values and beliefs still penetrate practices of instrumental teachers today. This is primarily due to a perceived (and perpetuated) lack of (and uptake of) specific training for instrumental and vocal teachers (Baker 2005, Haddon 2009, Mills et al. 2007), the fact that instrumental teachers tend to teach the way they were taught (Baker 2005, Haddon 2009, Woodford 2002), and that many teachers employ the master-apprentice model (Collyer 2010, Haddon 2009, Hallam 1998, Sleith no date, Young et al. 2003).

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