My own research project

As part of the ISME Policy Commission Seminar the week before the main conference began, I had the chance to present my own research – just a short description of what I am looking at, and I how I intend to do this.

This proved to be such a valuable opportunity. It led to later conversations with far more experienced researchers who had worked in, or had interest in, similar areas, and to invitations to write and present, once I have finished my Masters. I also got steered towards some useful literature – such as a book “Image-based Research” by Prosser.

As part of my preliminary studies last year I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on my own teaching methodolology. You can read more about it here. I concluded that mine is a project-based approach, with all the learning embedded within the framework of a larger project. However, hearing presentations on the development of pedagogies for music of other cultures also showed me the way I have borrowed and learned from music pedagogies developed from other music styles.

These include:

  • My classes are inclusive and hands-on, right from the start. Technique and theoretical knowledge evolves, and is delivered organically, in context. To start with, everyone is engaged with doing. A couple of workshops I attended that focused on African music (particularly from South Africa) reminded me that this is something I have learned from their musical culture.
  • Because so many of my students have only a little English – if any – when they first arrive in the school, I try to talk as little as possible, and to set up each activity so that all can join in and work out what is going on simply by copying. (This is in fact how new students in the Language School make sense of pretty well all aspects of their environment, in the first weeks of their arrival, as I learned in my pilot study in 2007). But in fact this kind of pedagogy – that emphasises showing and copying – is the way that musics from many other cultures are taught. For example, in Indian classical music, and in the Indonesian gamelan traditions.
  • “Often in African music, the music and the movements are learned simultaneously”. This quote was from Burns’ presentation about teaching slave children’s songs to Xhosa children that I wrote about earlier. Sometimes it can be tempting to teach the layers of a performance one at a time (for example, first the song words, then the words and melody together, then the actions). However, perhaps in some cultures it makes more sense to learn them simultaneously, rather than treating them as separate elements. Perhaps the different elements actually assist students in remembering and recalling everything – movements may act as triggers for words, and vice versa. Certainly, melodies can help you recall words, and words can trigger a memory of a partially-forgotten tune.

My research project is soon to kick into a new gear – I will begin my data collection in the next few weeks. The process leading up to this point has been a frustrating one, so I will be very glad to get going on what feels like the reason I signed up to do a Master of Education in the first place.

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