Archive for the ‘language acquisition’ Tag

Finish line in sight

I finished my Lit Review chapter last night. I now have just my Discussion/Conclusions chapter (or chapters – not sure how it will pan out) to write, and my Introduction. It’s quite a relief to get this close!

The Discussion points are interesting. Here are some of the things I think I’ll be writing about:


The instruments are clearly a point of focus for the students. They nominate them without hesitation as the thing they like best about music. One child uses the words ‘music’ and ‘instruments’ interchangeably – which might be an issue of language (perhaps the two words are the same in her language) or it might suggest something about what she thinks ‘music’ (the subject at school) means and entails.

Why are the instruments such an obvious highlight? Is it because they are tangible, physical things (we don’t use books or much other equipment in music)? Is it because they allow a tactile experience, and require use of kinetic energy? Is it the sound of certain instruments that attracts the students (they each nominate they same two instruments as their favourites)? Do the sounds comfort and nurture the players, or offer an important emotional release? Is it something to do with their novelty – perhaps these students haven’t seen instruments like these in their countries of origin? Does that novelty suggest a quality of abundance, richness and luxury in Australia that was not present in their countries of origin? Is it to do with the suggestibility of the instruments – that you can see straight away how to play them? Their accessibility? Is it because everyone in the class always has something to play, and that there is a wide range of sounds, from all around the world, to choose from?

To answer this I’ll be looking at some music therapy sources, to see what they have to say about the qualities and appropriateness of different instruments.

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Emergent themes…

Yesterday I finished transcribing the last of my research interviews. Transcribing is a slow task, but I have to say I found it very interesting. I felt like the period of time in which I did all of my interviews was somewhat rushed. I’d like to have had a bit more time between each interview to consider the children’s responses, and adjust my next set of questions accordingly. However, the end of term was approaching, the delays on ethics approval had eaten away much of my time, and I needed to get them done within a short window of opportunity.

Therefore, it is during these transcription tasks that I get to reflect more thoroughly on the kinds of themes that are emerging.

(A quick summary – my research is a set of case studies of three newly-arrived students at the English Language School where I am the resident workshop artist, and their perceptions of the music program. I am interested in what they make of the program, what they feel they get from their participation in it, and why they think it is part of the school program. I am also curious to draw some conclusions as to how their experience of transition (between schools, cultures, and languages) may impact on their perceptions of learning music.)

I haven’t yet started a more formal analysis yet, but just in these early days of considering their responses, I am finding that:

  • The three students were all very aware of the kinds of tasks we did in music, and the demands these tasks placed upon them, in terms of what they had to focus on, and where the challenges were;
  • Music held a lot of pleasure for them – it is something they look forward to each week. They each talked about playing instruments, writing music, having fun and relaxing. One girl said, “Music brings people together”.
  • The participatory nature of the music classes is new for them, and they appreciate this. For many of the students, their prior experiences of school have been more teacher-directed.
  • The quality and seriousness of what they are learning, and what they are composing, is evident to them, and they feel proud of this.

I am also developing new questions, which are broader in scope, looking at the whole issue of transition for children of this age (10-14 years) – how appropriate is the question that I am asking? How much do children – of any background, and even stable schooling situations – question and/or articulate perceptions of what happens in school? How can you elicit responses from students, even with the help of an interpreter, who are in such a time of tumultuous, unpredictable change? If we were to wait a few years, to give their language and cognitive skills time to develop further, how much detail would they be able to recall about this particular time in their lives, and what they thought about things?

I am finding this larger questions equally interesting. It is something about the effect of transition on how we perceive everything. I think. I have a strong sense that these students have landed in such an alien, foreign place that their first big learning step is just to be open to all these new experiences, to make sense of them as best they can, and accept them for what they are. I don’t think they often feel very confident that what they are making of something is actually what is going on. Their way of figuring it out is more like survival skills – to work out what they know, and leave the rest to later.

Therefore, in trying to work out what they perceive of the music program, I have to place everything that they tell me in that context of them not really feeling like they know anything. Not yet.

Does this make sense to anyone reading it? Can you recommend further reading that describes this kind of transition mindset? I need to dig in further… these are my earliest thoughts.