«INDIVIDUALIZING ELEMENTARY GENERAL MUSIC INSTRUCTION: CASE STUDIES OF ASSESSMENT AND DIFFERENTIATION By Karen Salvador A DISSERTATION Submitted to ...»
I didn’t want to put recorders in her hands. I wanted to have her play handbells with Zack. I had this all planned out. She was going to be his special helper, so it wouldn’t look like she was not able to do recorders… but that she could follow. I want her to feel successful so she’ll keep trying. But her parents [said] “She needs to play recorder, and I don’t care if... [she is not ready]” Well, OK. That is not what I feel is best for your child, but… Even with a ton of extra [help]… she’d come down at lunch, “I want help on my recorder.” We… this is about as far as she has progressed. [CD plays example—fingers moving, but not on the holes, no tonguing, just puffing air with some squeaks]
Ms. Davis wanted to differentiate instruction for her students with special needs and even had ideas for how that could be accomplished, but she was not allowed to implement her ideas with all students. Zack seemed to be thriving musically while learning to play melody or chord roots on bells with alternate notation. “[We started] with the first note of every phrase… and then with “Hot Cross Buns” he started to fill in some of the other pitches himself, and they were correct” (CD Think Aloud, p. 17). He played “his part” on bells for his CI class and was glowing with apparent pride (CD Field Notes 5/17, p. 6). A few times, Ms. Davis gave Zack the bells for chord roots to a new song without his color-coded notation and asked his paraprofessional not to intercede, to see if he could hear where he needed to change pitches. He was inconsistent—sometimes it seemed that he heard, and other times, his playing seemed random (e.g., CD Field Notes 4/19, p. 1).
Observing Zack and Katie in music with their fourth grade class and in their selfcontained CI class invited comparisons of their musicking in these settings.
[Katie]’s not singing as much with this class as she does with the CI class. This is musically beyond her readiness, but her lack of vocal effort might be evidence that she is definitely aware that the sounds she produces are not the same as those around her” (CD
With Katie especially… [in fourth grade music] she has had a lot of shut down behaviors before… Where she just… she seems to just need to shut down, but she is still watching.
She just absorbs for… depending on the activity two classes to two whole months. And then she jumps right in as if she has been doing it all along, which is fine. But, with the CI class, she now has the role of mama hen. She is one of the older ones, and especially at the beginning of the year, it was so fun. “Now, you sit here, and do this…” (CD Think
This difference in Katie’s behavior in the two settings is corroborated by my field notes. For example: “…in this class [CI], rather than being disengaged, Katie participates and smiles. It seems fun for her to operate at this level” (CD Field Notes 5/17, p. 5). Katie’s social and musical behavior was withdrawn and off-task in fourth grade music, where she often engaged in behavior such as playing with her recorder, asking for tissues, and going to the bathroom (e.g., CD Field Notes 4/28, p. 2).
Zack was essentially nonverbal, and his participation levels in his self-contained and mainstreamed settings did not differ according to my observations. Ms. Davis commented, His participation is more group-oriented during CI. More…. Almost oblivious of what else is going on half the time with the fourth graders. Yet, at the same time the other half of the time, he knows he has a captive audience with them [the fourth grade class] and they are so loving and encouraging… He will do something again and again to hear that applause, or to get that “Good job, Zack!” (CD Think Aloud, p. 16).
Inclusion in music class may be more beneficial to students with moderate to severe cognitive impairments than social mainstreaming. Katie took a leadership role in CI and withdrew in fourth grade music, while Zack’s behavior was similar in both settings. These differences could have been the result of personality or other factors. However, Katie was physically and academically incapable of many of the tasks she was asked to achieve in fourth grade music, and her off-task or withdrawn behavior may be a response to that. Because Zack’s curriculum was modified in fourth grade music, the musical challenge was appropriate in both mainstreamed and self-contained settings, and he seemed to be learning, achieving, and comfortable both with his age peers and in his self-contained class.
Summary. In today’s diverse school environments, music teachers are expected to serve students with an increasingly broad spectrum of learning needs (Adamek and Darrow, 2005).
Ms. Davis, like many elementary music teachers, did not feel prepared by her undergraduate coursework to meet the music learning needs of students with moderate to severe cognitive impairments (Hourigan, 2007; Linsenmeier, 2004; Salvador, 2010). After struggling and experimenting, she adopted an informal approach based on MLT techniques for teaching selfcontained CI classes, which seemed to offer appropriate musical challenges and to elicit musical responses and behaviors. The musical modeling, teaching skill, and expertise of the CI paraprofessionals contributed to Ms. Davis’s success in working with these students.
Differentiation of instruction for students with cognitive impairments might involve modification of curriculum when they are mainstreamed for music with their age peers. Ms. Davis’s experience seems to indicate that, if parents allow this differentiation, it may be beneficial to individual students’ music learning.
Constructivism and Differentiation Much of the differentiated instruction that occurred in Carrie’s classroom may have been due to a constructivist approach, in which she functioned as a facilitator. Because it is a continually evolving, broad and diverse philosophical construct, an extended discussion of constructivism is outside the scope of the current study. However, I will briefly describe a few of the main theorists and tenets of constructivism. Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, John Dewey, and Jerome Bruner laid the philosophical foundations for current constructivist thinking, and different subgroups within constructivism (i.e., radical constructivists, social constructivists, etc.) emphasize each of these theorists more or less depending on their assertions. The essential underlying principal of constructivism is that new information cannot simply be given out. The learner must actively receive it; “constructing” this new information within. Because of this philosophical principle, classroom applications of the various iterations of constructivism tend to focus on the following: the learner as an active participant, purposive and interactive with the environment; concepts as best learned whole, rather than in isolated parts; a teacher who facilitates learning by listening to students and offering meaningful problems to solve; and a cooperative, Socratic, interactive teaching and learning style which values multiple perspectives (list condensed from Chen, 2000). Although she did not explicitly use the term “constructivism,” Eunice Boardman’s Generative Approach to music learning (Boardman, 1988a, 1988b, 1988c, 1998d) is one application of constructivism in music education.
Ms. Davis also never used the word constructivism, but this approach was evident in how she taught and how she described her teaching.
You could sum up my philosophy, what they need to get out of music… I want my students to leave feeling like they can make music. They can worry about all the technicalities and the labels and things later on in life. At this stage, I want them to feel like they are musicians. If they are not feeling that, they are going to close off… They won’t be as open to further musical experiences (CD Initial Interview, p. 6).
In her classroom applications of this “philosophy,” Ms. Davis utilized constructivist approaches such as presenting music as holistic activities to be facilitated, rather than as sequential lessons to be taught. Perhaps as a part of her philosophical stance, Carrie also viewed the degree to which a
student chose to participate in music education as elective:
I know a lot of people who appreciate music, but who have no clue about anything musical... Because I have students who don’t get to choose to come to my class, that have to come whether they like it or not… I am happy if they leave feeling they have enough tools to make music. Yet, you know, I don’t necessarily need them being able to identify subdominant function in music by the time they leave fourth grade (CD Initial
Carrie allowed students’ individual interest to motivate not only their participation but also the amount and trajectory of music learning that occurred. Ms. Davis’s constructivism seemed to have a direct effect on differentiation of instruction in her classroom.
Teacher as facilitator. Carrie acted as a facilitator in her classroom. She relied on questioning, offering strategies, student leadership, and enabling a problem-solving approach to encourage students to think and figure things out for themselves.
One of the boys takes private drum lessons and has brought in a drumset to help figure out how to accompany the “Glam-in-a-can” jingle. He demonstrates his “punk rock” drumbeat and “jazz” drumbeat. Students in the class try singing the can-can theme with each option. A vote between the two is a virtual tie, and the drummer suggests they use both and trade back and forth between the patterns. They try this and the class agrees this is a good solution. Ms. Davis’s role in this process was minimal—she asked the boy to bring in his drums, allowed time for the process, suggested an introduction on drums to set tempo before the singing started, and oversaw the voting process (CD Field Notes
Rather than simply telling students what she wanted them to know, Ms. Davis taught indirectly, using questions and requiring the students to problem-solve. She rarely asked right/wrong questions, instead asking for pros/cons, strategies, input, ideas or other conceptual feedback.
I found as a student, when I was growing up… and the teacher said, “No, this is wrong,” or, “oh that’s right,” that was it. But there is always more. So for the kids who are ready to go on to more, you can challenge them to create more with whatever they are doing.
And, for those who need more help, you can phrase it in a way that empowers them to keep trying, as opposed shutting down and saying “well, I can’t do it, so why try?” (CD
Ms. Davis’s teaching style incorporated offering strategies but did not require that students use them. Students were told to use the ideas that worked for them. For example, in fourth grade recorders, Carrie told the students to “look for one thing and fix it” (CD Field Notes 4/28, p. 3).
They played the song, she chanted: “Plan your fix, do not speak, ready again” and they played again. In between “planning fixes” Ms. Davis had students rocking to macrobeats, using solfege, singing and fingering, and singing note names. Different students chose to just play or to try the suggested strategy. The accuracy of the whole group’s performance improved markedly as a result of this exercise.
However, just as when teachers use a direct instructional model, the impact of this approach on individual learning seemed to vary according to the learner. I could see some students who did not try any of the suggested “fixes” (p. 4). This may have been because they were already playing accurately or because they did not want to improve their performance. I saw some students who tried all of the suggested strategies, even though it looked as though they were already able to play accurately. Other students, despite trying some or all of the strategies, still did not appear to play accurately. A few students (including Abigail and Katie as well as one or two others) simply did not play. Without hearing individuals, it was impossible to ascertain the relative progress of individual students, although some progress must have been made, since the sound of the group improved.
Ms. Davis used a similar approach when teaching students to read notation. She presented notation to students and asked them to listen to the song while looking at the music to find patterns. As a class, they found places where the notation was the same as other places.
Carrie asked them to think about patterns they knew from playing other songs, echoing patterns, and rhythm pattern reading. They then used this previous knowledge and the patterns in the notation to “figure it out” (CD Field Notes 5/3, p. 2). I noticed that the students who took private piano lessons or had other music instruction outside of school could typically be relied upon to provide information, if needed, and students seemed accustomed to working with each other—asking one another questions and offering each other help. As an observer, I was continually impressed by Carrie’s ability to gently rebuff students who were seeking more direction, her polite refusal to coach students toward an answer, and how she declined to give ideas to students who were struggling. Eventually, most students either worked out a solution on their own or took advantage of the expertise of another student, although a few students seemed to disengage.
I have a lot of bite marks in my tongue! [we both laugh] I guess I kind of stumbled across that maybe 5, 6, 7 years ago at some point… We were doing a class composition, and at the end of class, I stopped and said [to myself], “Wait a minute, those were all my ideas!” …I was letting them come up to the piano and play a few notes, and try to find a melodic up or down that they liked. And they would get something that wouldn’t quite fit into the tonality. So then I’d modify it, and the kids would go, “Oh, yeah, that!!!” And I was thinking, “Oh, I’m using their ideas, I’m just making it better.” But, it was MY composition and not the kids’. They were still proud of it and felt like it was their own,