Research Gallery Abstracts 2009

Research Abstracts from the NYSSMA Winter Conference 2009

Saturday Dec. 5, 2009 was Research Day at the NYSSMA Winter Conference. The research presentations included the Research Gallery in the Riverside Lobby of the Convention Center. For people who were unable to attend the conference, this month’s research column will consist of here are the abstracts from the Gallery presentations.  For further information about the study, the findings or the citations for the references, you can contact the researcher at the email addressees included.

A Collection of Action Research Projects

Edited by Caron Collins, Researcher, Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam

These five abstracts are a collection of research projects submitted by current undergraduate and graduate music education majors following their student teaching experience, while enrolled in an upper division college action research course. The individual researchers can be contacted through the head researcher.

Motivation as a Tool to Bolster Personal Fulfillment in the High School Choir Settiing

by Brian Cook

Lack of motivation in high school choirs and its negative effect on discipline and personal fulfillment can be a problem in urban and inner city schools where I wish to teach. This action research project investigates factors such as enrollment, social behaviors, use of extrinsic or intrinsic rewards, and class activities that contribute to motivation. College music majors and members of a high school performing arts academy were surveyed. Results illustrated a connection between student motivation (M=80%), the use of extrinsic and intrinsic rewards (M=88%), and the overall enjoyment and personal fulfillment in the choral experience (M=100%). An action plan describing various intrinsic and extrinsic rewards for high school choirs was designed.

Using Popular Music to Increase Student Retention

by Shawn DePalma

Retention of musical skills and concepts can be a problem with my music students. Do students retain more information when using popular music or classical music? The purpose of this action research project is to find the answer using an experimental approach, post test, and follow up survey methods. Identical music lessons for two groups of college liberal arts students were taught using classical music in the control group and popular music in the experimental group. Results indicated a positive connection between use of popular music and retention of musical concepts of form, dynamics, articulation and meter. Test results showed the experimental group scored 17.5 out of 20 and the control group scored 16 out of 20. An action plan of a music curriculum drawing connections of musical concepts to both styles of music was designed.

Practice Motivation and Middle School Band Students

by Emma Keller

Motivating young band students to practice is one of the toughest challenges I have faced. The purpose of this action research project is to investigate what motivates middle school instrumental students to practice. Three different factors were studied: extrinsic motivation, upcoming performances, and practice guides for students. Triangulation data procedures included teacher surveys, interviews with students and a discussion with a college music professor. Extrinsic rewards (n=8) proved to be the most influential motivator for practicing in this age group of music students over an upcoming performance (n=4) or practice guides (n=2). An action plan was developed to incorporate use of positive rewards for middle school band students.

Teaching Methods to Help Students Retain Information in the Music Classroom

by Cortney Peters

With many classes being added to my school’s schedule, music classes were reduced in total class time and frequency causing difficulty in students’ retention of musical concepts. This action research project studies two teaching approaches for musical retention: rote teaching and use of visuals or images to teach children songs. Triangulation data collection methods included 4th and 5th grade student surveys, teacher surveys, and video observations. Survey results indicated students preferred rote learning (M=36%) to visual methods (M=21%), a combined approach (M=29%) or neither (M=14%). However results from video observations concluded that using a combined approach using both rote and imagery teaching methods produced better overall retention of musical concepts. An action plan was developed to design music lessons to include rote, visual and kinesthetic teaching methods.

Increasing English Language Arts Test Scores Through the Use of Music

by Lauren Zona

Students in my school are often kept from attending music class in order to prepare for state mandated language arts testing. Does participation in general music class help or hinder language arts test scores? Would integration of literature and music increase these test scores? This action research project involved a second grade language arts lesson using an experimental approach, post test and student interviews. The class was divided into a control group (traditional language arts lesson) and experimental group (lesson linked with a song). Results indicated higher average test scores (M=76.8%) in the experimental group than the control group

(M=50%). An action plan was devised to create cooperation between music and classroom teachers by designing a co-curriculum and integrated lesson plans.

Points of Affirmation or Negation During Music Education Internship:

Student Perceptions of Experiences

By Keith Kaiser, Researcher, Ithaca College

The internship (student teaching) frequently serves as a capstone experience at or near the conclusion of a student’s professional academic preparation. This ongoing longitudinal study has presented the opportunity for undergraduate students to describe specific occurrences of their choosing from the internship, indicating either affirming or negating implications of their cited experiences on the choice of pursuing academic (career) training in music education.

Student data have been collected over a period of 7 years from undergraduate students (n= 76) enrolled at a comprehensive university in the southeast United States.  A smaller number of responses have also been included from students at a comprehensive institution in the northeast. Responses have been gathered using a basic “cued” student response form that addresses areas of concern and on which students have been encouraged to write as much or as little as they wished in open response.

All participants had recently completed various elementary and secondary internship periods ranging from 4 weeks to 16 weeks.  An additional data point was taken in the middle of the internship, at approximately 8 weeks. Participants provided descriptions of isolated as well as repeated or multiple incidents. Early tabulation of responses indicated approximately 80% of responses were positive and/or affirming, with most of those data suggesting incidents described as teacher-centered rather than student-centered.  Responses were analyzed and categorized according to predetermined categories, with further quantitative and qualitative analyses focusing on internal or external affirmation, as well as a global positive or negative perception of circumstances.

Student seemed to place a high emphasis on issues of confidence (example: “A student told me I was doing a really good job”).  Other response data suggest experiences during the internship provide the opportunity to pinpoint and discuss common issues of emphases at various grade levels or disciplinary specialties (general music as compared to instrumental and/or choral), as well as the affirmation or negation of the internship experience(s) in general, with implications for career choices. 

One implication of this line of research is that university supervisors could try to make interns more aware of the commonalities facing all pre-service and early in-service teachers, as internships typically evidence a series of “highs and lows” on the part of the student(s) as they work through the somewhat predictable expected academic and perhaps less predictable management tasks. Many of the student responses could be considered “global,” and interns would perhaps gain a sense of patience and perspective in their recognition of the universal nature of these issues.

The Role of Performance Based Criterion Measures in Early Childhood Music Research: Comparative Value of an Original Criterion Song vs. a Familiar Criterion Song

By Jennifer McDonel, Researcher, State University at Buffalo

The purpose of this study was to investigate the comparative effectiveness of an original criterion song over a familiar criterion song as a partial measure of preschool children’s audiation achievement.  The problem of this study was to answer – “Is a criterion song, taught to the research objective, more effective than a familiar song in measuring preschoolers’ early audiation achievement?

Students from three preschool classes at a local elementary school were taught a criterion song and rehearsed on a familiar song.  All student participants sang both the criterion song and the familiar song; the order of performances was random to control for possible order and effect. Further, participants were administered Audie, a test of developmental music aptitude, to investigate the potential relationship between aptitude and singing a song.  Independent raters adjudicated the children’s performances of the criterion song and the familiar song with the rubric for item two of T-EAA (Test of Early Audiation Achievement), “Singing a Song”.  Ratings were compared to determine which activity more accurately measures children’s audiation.

KR-20 reliabilities were performed on Audie; when compared to those in the Audie Manual, the sample reliabilities were somewhat lower.  Intra-rater and inter-rater reliabilities were performed and found to be within acceptable limits. Pearson product-moment correlations were performed; significant correlation coefficients were found between the indices of Audie-melody and T-EAA-tonal for both songs, and between Audie-composite and T-EAA-composite for both songs. A repeated measures of covariance analysis was performed; no significant differences were found between the criterion song and the familiar song for (1) tonal achievement or (2) rhythm achievement.

From these results, it is suggested that: (1) in developing criterion songs for young children, the following properties are important to consider: (a) appropriate singing range; (b) familiar tonal and rhythm content and (c) simple harmonic progressions; (2) for purposes of research, students must become familiar with the criterion song before assessment occurs and (3) even though rubrics are typically developed for specific performance tasks and events, the T-EAA song rubrics were effective in assessing student performance of both songs; thus, researchers might find the rubrics useful for other criterion songs.

Characteristics of effective instrumental music teachers: Novice and experienced teachers’ perceptions of where the most important characteristics are acquired.

By Emily Moss, Researcher, Brooklyn College, CUNY

The field of music education has attempted for decades to identify what makes music teachers effective.  Many researchers have created lists of characteristics which they believe effective music teachers possess.  However, the question of where music teachers acquire those characteristics is rarely discussed.  The purpose of this study was to take a particular list of the characteristics of effective music teachers and ask instrumental music teachers in the state of Washington to give their perceptions about the importance of each item and where they believe those characteristics are acquired.

The subjects were 30 Novice Teachers (1-5 years experience) and 236 Experienced Teachers (6-43 years experience).  Each subject was invited to participate in the study via electronic mail and respondents completed an online survey containing six questions. Descriptive statistics were used to determine rank order for the most important characteristics and percentages were calculated to determine the most frequently chosen place of acquisition for each characteristic.   As an ex post facto measure, places of acquisition were put into three broad categories and a chi-square test was performed to determine if there were any statistically significant differences between teachers’ perceptions of where characteristics are acquired.

Data analysis indicated that 8 of the 10 top-ranked characteristics were common to both teacher groups.  This suggests a broad understanding among instrumental music teachers of what the most important characteristics of effective music teaching are, regardless of years of teaching experience.  The data also revealed wide agreement about where the most important characteristics are acquired.  Although no statistically significant differences occurred between Novice and Experienced Teachers’ perceptions of where characteristics are acquired, some differences were apparent when looking at where teachers believed the characteristics labeled “teaching skills” were acquired. 

Findings showed that both groups of teachers indicated Personal Growth (the combination of personal development and influence from family and friends) most frequently as the place of acquisition for 16 of the 40 characteristics (4 of the 10 top-ranked characteristics common to both groups).  This suggests that some teachers believe personal development is an important contributor to the success of effective instrumental music teachers.

An Investigation of Relationships Between Gender, Timbre Preference, and Music Instrument Choice for Public School Band Students

By Phillip Payne, Researcher, University of Oklahoma

The purpose of this study was to determine if relationships existed between timbre preference, instrument selection, and gender among public school music students performing in secondary school instrumental music ensembles (grades 5-12). Participants (N = 624) were band students categorically selected from four school districts in a southwestern state. Data were collected by employing a demographics questionnaire, which produced a descriptive profile of the participants, and Gordon’s (1984) Instrument Timbre Preference Test (ITPT), which assessed timbre preference.

A chi-square analysis revealed that gender was significantly associated with instrument choice in the current sample indicating the two variables were not independent (c2 (24, N = 624) = 5.08, p < .001). Flute and clarinet were associated with females while trumpet, trombone, baritone, and tuba were affiliated with males. Saxophone, horn, bass clarinet, and percussion were gender neutral. Considering these results, a chi-square analysis of gender and timbre preference, assessed utilizing Gordon’s ITPT, revealed that gender and timbre preference were not independent regarding Timbres A (flute), B (clarinet), and G (tuba) (c2 (7, N = 620) = 56.54,  p < .001). Therefore, on the basis of these findings, a battery of multiple regression analyses was computed to determine whether a predictive relationship existed between gender and timbre preference. Significant predictive relationships were found to exist between gender and Timbres A (flute), B (clarinet), F (trombone, baritone, and horn), and G (tuba) (p < .05).

Among possible influences affecting these results are band director bias, current instrumentation and ensemble needs, recruiting strategies, and traditional student/instrument matching practices. Results from the current study are congruent with the gender stereotyping findings of Abeles and Porter (1978) and Byo (1991) and contradicted the results of Rideout (1988) the latter revealing no significant relationship between gender and timbre preference. In the current study, 78% of the participants who chose timbre A were females and 64% of the participants who chose Timbre B were also female; whereas, 73% of the participants who chose Timbre G were male. All other timbres (Timbres C, D, E, and F) were considered gender neutral, and these results were consistent with Hallam, Rogers, and Creech (2008). Knowledge of the relationships between gender and instrument choice as well as between gender and timbre preference may be useful to band directors when assisting undecided, beginning band students regarding the choices of their first music instruments.

Preservice Music Education through Partnerships: A Desired Collaboration

By Emma Rodriguez-Suarez, Researcher, Syracuse University          

University music education programs’ quality varies in scope and breath. One of the distinguishing factors is the pre-service teacher education that is offered. Pre-service education, teacher colleges and universities across the country aim to prepare students for the world outside their walls. The type of collaboration, grade level, preparation of students and teachers, and perception of university student’s attitudes affect the outcome of such experiences. Most programs that bridge the gap between the arts and public schools do not address early childhood. The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of field experience on pre-service music education teachers in an early childhood teaching environment.

Empowered for Practice: The Role of Perceived Competence and Autonomy Support during Undergraduate Applied Music Study

By Julie Troum, Researcher, University of South Florida

The purpose of this study was to examine undergraduate applied music student perceptions of autonomy support, competence and persistence to determine whether an applied studio setting that is higher in autonomy-support was associated with a higher level of competence and persistence in practice as hypothesized in the self-determination theory (Ryan, Connell, & Deci, 1985; Deci & Ryan, 2000; Ryan & Deci, 2000). The musical self-concept of undergraduate applied music students is shaped on a one-to-one basis with their applied studio teachers within a collaborative social setting of the applied music studio. Individual competence is derived from the joint social interactions that occur within this learning environment, which may have a continued impact on commitment towards music practice, and ultimately, level of expertise (Hallam, 2002).  Applied studio teachers may contribute towards perceived competence by establishing a systematic structure for self-directed independent practice so that learners can direct, regulate and monitor the practice session (e.g., Bandura, 1977; 2003; Maehr, Pintrich, & Linnenbrink, 2003). A sequential cognitive-motivational model for self-directed practice is presented towards this aim.

An electronic survey instrument included three measures: (1) perceived autonomy support, (2) perceived competence and (3) task persistence in practice. Questionnaires were completed by 369 undergraduate applied music students at six Florida universities. Examination of the data revealed that individual competence is positively affected by an applied studio setting that is high in autonomy support. It is hoped that this study may promote further understanding of the optimal conditions in higher education that may influence the persistence of practice during applied music study (Fazey & Fazey, 2001), address important omissions in the literature and influence the required curriculum of applied studio teachers.

This poster describes a motivational-cognitive framework to promote sustained musical motivation in undergraduate applied music students by assessing the learning environment in which they function and how it may be related to musical competence and persistence in practice.

Performance Ability and Levels of Musicality

By David Williams, Researcher, University of South Florida

The music education profession has been so dominated by performance experiences that it would seem musicality and performance ability are the same. Many music educators assume that performance skill is equitable to musicality, and without the former, the later cannot be achieved. The purpose of this study was to investigate the levels of musicality displayed by Florida All-State Band students and non-All-State Band students, in an effort to better understand how performance ability interacts with musicality.

It was hypothesized that this interaction will not be as strong as is normally assumed by music educators. Such evidence could call into question the assumption that training students as technicians on instruments positively effects their musicality, which drives the current model of music education in the United States, and might provide support for the growing call to re-design this model. All-State students, this assumption suggests, would exhibit the greatest level of musicality due to their extremely high performance ability.

This study comes at an important time for the music education profession as several music educators (Bartel, 2004; Frankel, 2009; Kratus, 2007; Williams, 2007) have recently questioned the validity of the current paradigm, suggesting that the profession’s devotion to performance skills has not adequately serviced the musical needs of most students. The study involved a total of 60 subjects, divided into three groups of 20. The first group included students who were members of the 2008-09 Florida All-State Bands. These subjects were randomly selected from the rosters of the All-State Band ensembles, with no more than one student from any one high school being selected. Subjects for the second and third groups were randomly selected from each high school band program represented by the members of the first group, resulting in three subjects from 20 different high schools. The second group of subjects were students that did not participate in an All- State band, but were involved in private study on their instrument, while the third group of students did not participate in an All-State band, nor were they involved in private study.

Subjects were given two melodies composed specifically for this study and asked to perform them as musically as possible. Practice time, performance and follow-up questions were all recorded. Both qualitative and quantitative data were collected. Results and conclusions were reported during the Research Gallery. Contact the researcher for further information.

Work from Two Researchers Accepted But Unable to Attend Troubling the Magic: Musical Engagement of Children with Sensory Processing Disorder.

By Sarah Perry, Researcher, Teachers College Columbia University

“Troubling the magic” – are there mystical wonders in the power of music? Is the music classroom a place where “magical” things happen to children with special needs? Not necessarily, however, the music classroom can be a place where a child with special needs may display more typical or expected responses in class such as making eye contact, staying on-task, interacting positively with peers and teachers, and being more fully engaged in classroom activities (Jellison & Flowers, 1991). Music has been shown to help children with special needs focus, be more calm and relaxed, and improves spatiotemporal reasoning skills (Croncec et al, 2006). 

The magic I am talking about actually refers to “1-2-3 Magic,” a child discipline program designed by a clinical psychologist or parents that has been adapted for school settings (Phelan & Shonour, 2004). Classroom and specialty teachers in the special education elementary school setting where this study takes place use this behavioral program. While 1-2-3 Magic is not the primary focus or tool for evaluation in this study, the children do often mark their success in music based on how they do within this system. Specifically, I am interested in exploring the experiences of four 8-year-old children with sensory processing disorder in the music classroom.

A collective case study model (Stake, 1995) will be used to examine the children’s experiences, engagement, and self-regulation in music through their own descriptions, teachers/researcher observations and reflections, as well as through interviews of influential adults in their lives. A pilot study on two children was completed in the 2006-07 school year and data collection for this research project will begin September 2009. Data will be coded using event sampling method applies by deVries with special populations (1992) and analyzed on three levels; experience or content of the class, engagement using observable indictors of flow in music (Custodero, 2005) and self-regulation characteristics as detailed in the sensory processing profile (Dunn, 2007, 1997).

The findings of this study will help to give voice to children with special needs as well as to reveal ways in which children with sensory processing disorder are most engaged and available for learning. An additional goal of this research is to develop and strengthen connections between the practices of music therapy and music education so as to provide optimal experiences in music for our children.  

Hegemony On Its Head:  An Intergenerational Project and Research Study Inviting Faculty and Staff into the Elementary Band Program.

By Abby E. Schiabor, Researcher, Teachers College Columbia University

This was an intergenerational project and research study inviting and teaching learners of all ages how to play the instrument of their choice in small group instrumental music lessons where adults were learning alongside of the students they instructed.  This project took place through my current beginning band and string programs at two elementary schools where faculty and staff members were invited and recruited to participate in beginning instrumental music lessons.  The instruments chosen by the adults included violin, flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, and drums.  The interested parties included a wide range of our school population:  the principal, a guidance counselor, three special education teachers, two physical education teachers, the Excel teacher, and a fellow music teacher.  Faculty and staff members who enrolled joined small group lessons of students as they learned their chosen instruments from the very beginning.  In culmination, they joined us on stage for our Winter and Spring concert performances.             

There has been a limited amount of research on music in a multi-generational learning context.  Throughout the small group lesson process, an observation journal was kept for every lesson containing an adult learner.  All adult and student participants were interviewed about their experience, which is still ongoing.  This project outlines their journey of learning as a student with their students, including both the moments of greatness and pitfalls in the road. 

The main purpose of this project was to promote a sense of school community through active music making.  Yes, all teachers and staff enjoy listening to the concerts given by both the Band and Chorus each year.  However, after the invention of the record player, most people began to enjoy music solely through listening.  By involving the teachers and staff of my school directly with the instrumental music program, I hoped to strengthen the ties between them through active learning in music.  Meanwhile, I believed it would create a greater sense of awareness of the Instrumental music program, and support the advocacy of music in our schools and life.