Current writing and thinking

I’ve been writing papers this week – one that I’m submitting to the next ISME conference in Beijing (ISME being the International Society for Music Education) and one for the CDIME (Cultural Diversity in Music Education) conference, taking place in Sydney in January 2010. Both papers are drawn from my Masters research and thesis.

For ISME, I’ve written about the pedagogical approach I have developed for work with children who understand very little English. I have drawn a lot on my blog posts over the years in writing about my approach – this blog is often the place where I first start to try and describe things that I am trying, or revelations I am having. In the paper I describe the kind of teaching language I use (very pared-back and minimal), the importance of visual cues and other environmental scaffolds, and the way the project-based approach supports student learning and understanding.

For CDIME my paper looks at some of the methodological issues that arise when doing research with children from non-English-speaking backgrounds. It was quite a surprise to me that there was so little published guidance on conducting interviews with children via interpreters, for example. First there are the issues in the way the interpreters understand the research, and the questions you are asking. For example, I wanted some of my questions to be fairly ambiguous in the language they used, in order to elicit ‘pure’ or uncontaminated responses from the children. How easy were these ambiguous questions to translate? How easy is it to talk about music if you are not used to talking about music? (I think musicians learn to talk about music over many years. This is not a debate about music-specific terminology, rather, a discussion about the intangible nature ofmusic that means we can’t point towards things that are difficult to label).

Other things arose too, such as the additional interpretive layers that arose through the additional voices; also, questions about social and cultural conditioning were present. Interactions between adults and children vary between different cultures. How much were these expectations a source of confusion for the children being interviewed? In some cultures children would rarely be asked by an adult for their opinion. Was it therefore awkward for them to respond to my more personal or hypothetical questions?

And so on. Very interesting stuff for me. Anyway, I got both papers finished last night, in time for the deadline. I have one more to write, which will be more concerned with the children’s perceptions of what they are learning and doing in music lessons at the Language School. In particular, do they know they’re composing and inventing material? Who knows, if so? And for those that are still trying to make sense of the whole school environment, what do they think is going on?

That final paper is due at the end of October.

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