Research Gallery Abstracts 2011 Part One

The Alumni Cohort Project (ACP):   Utilizing Alumni Cohorts to  Provide Multiple Data Sets for Program Evaluation   

By Susan Avery and Keith Kaiser   

Ithaca College   

Undergraduate  program assessment is difficult for many reasons, some of which may be ongoing  communication with graduates, unbiased evaluation from reliable sources, and  commitment to the activity. Furthermore, institutional accreditations have  begun to place greater and far-reaching emphasis on program assessment in the  area of graduate success in the professional field.   

In  order to secure multi-point data regarding our graduates’ success, the Music  Education Department of Ithaca College has instituted an ongoing Alumni Cohort  Project (ACP). This alumni cohort consists of approximately 6-10 graduates of  our program who are 1-5 years out from the completion of their bachelor’s  degree. This cohort will change personnel as the project progresses; it is  hoped each alumni will be a part of the project for two years. Participants  will provide data indicating their level of preparedness resulting from their  college education. This alumni cohort graduate preparedness data will provide important  additional data beyond the traditional program evaluation data sets  (course-based data, candidate evaluations, including fieldwork, proficiency  evaluation, and alumni survey and program review survey with data provided by  cooperating teachers, colleagues, and employers/administrators of our  graduates, etc.). The ACP will result in an annual analysis designed both to  provide guidance for program assessment and to drive program and curriculum  planning and development.       

Teaching for Transfer: Critical Thinking in  the Choral Rehearsal   

By Sandra Babb   

Aaron Copland School of Music Queens College CUNY   

Co-authors: Jessica Napoles, University of Utah; Matthew Garrett,  Case Western Reserve University; Judy Bowers, Florida State University; Angel  Vazquez-Ramos, Chapman University    

The  purpose of this study was to examine whether undergraduate music education  students (N = 54) could increase their time spent incorporating critical  thinking skills in choral rehearsals. Participants led one choral rehearsal  (pre-test) then received instruction in Bloom’s taxonomy, with appropriate  terminology and defining of categories. The experimental group also received  instruction in the revised Bloom’s taxonomy, including musical transfers for  each of the subcategories and an instructor-led simulated rehearsal  incorporating critical thinking skills. Both groups then led a second rehearsal  (post-test) and were asked to incorporate critical thinking skills. All  rehearsals were video taped, and analyzed with SCRIBE. Results indicate that all participants increased their time  spent in critical thinking skills from pre-test to post-test (p < .05), and post-test scores  (expressed as percentages of rehearsal time) of the experimental group (M = 13.93) were significantly different  from those of the control group (M =  2.76).    

Perceptions  of Music Education Majors Regarding Improvisation   

By Christian Bernhard   

SUNY Fredonia   

Educators  and researchers have advocated the use of improvisation as an instructional  technique in music classrooms and rehearsals (e.g., Azzara, 2002; Feldman &  Contzius, 2011; Higgins & Shehan-Campbell, 2010). These scholars contend  that improvisation activities afford students unique means of representing  aural and notational stimuli and hence, may aid in the comprehension and  performance of music. Within the community of general education, the  Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2011) – a group established to  promote skills and knowledge needed for future success – states that all  students should have experiences with critical thinking and problem solving,  communication, collaboration, as well as creativity and innovation. Furthermore,  the third content standard of the National  Standards for Arts Education includes the statement that students studying  music in kindergarten through grade twelve should have experiences “improvising  melodies, variations, and accompaniments” (MENC, 1994, p. 1).    

Despite  these recommendations, researchers have found that many music teachers feel  inadequately prepared or motivated to teach improvisation (Bell, 2003; Brophy,  2002; Byo, 1999; Madura, 2007; Riveire, 1997; Wilson, 2003). While these authors  have painted a clear picture regarding attitudes and abilities of inservice  music teachers, less is known about perceptions of preservice educators. Will  current music education majors report similar concerns, or have recent  publications and teaching strategies helped to change perceptions? The purpose  of this study will be to survey music education majors regarding perceptions of  improvisation. Subjects for the study will be approximately 400 music education  majors from a state university in western New York, who will respond to  questions from a researcher-constructed survey regarding attitude and ability  to implement improvisation. Descriptive statistics will be reported, as will  comparisons by respondent year in school (i.e., freshman, sophomore, junior,  senior, or masters) and program concentration (i.e., instrumental or  vocal/general), and implications for practice and further research will be  suggested.   

College  Music Students Use of Time   

By Debra Campbell   

Crane School of Music SUNY Potsdam    

Many  researchers (Tanriogen, 2009; Forbus, 2010; Janusik, 2009) have been interested  in the way in which college students spend their time, both in and out-side of  class. The majority of previous studies have been completed with students who  are not majoring in music. The few music time studies (Byo & Cassidy, 2008;  Williamon & Valentine, 2002) focus on quality and quantity of musical  instrument practice time. Since college music students split their time among  many areas within music as well as general academic study in addition to time  practicing their instrument or voice, their use of time may be substantially  different than other students who have a dissimilar focus. In addition, many  music students express dissatisfaction with the perceived unreasonable  workload. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine and describe  music students’ use of time in relation to the requirements of their university  degree work.    

University  undergraduate music students who are majoring in Music Education and Music  Performance complete(d) a weekly diary. Data were collected during Spring 2011  and will continue to be collected in Fall 2011. These data will be analyzed for relevant themes and related  to current research. Preliminary analysis indicates that many Music Education  students spend most of their time focusing on performance related activities.  Studying for academic courses seems to be completed very late  in the evening. Complete analysis and reflection will be reported along with  suggestions for current practice and future research.

Meaningful Music Experiences for Students  with Autism: A Case Study   

By Emily Gaines   

University at Buffalo, SUNY   

A case study  was developed to describe an autistic student’s music development when specific  strategies indicated in the Social Communication, Emotional Regulation and  Transactional Support (SCERTS) model were implemented to assist the child with  emotional and social behaviors in the music classroom.The action research cycle (plan, action, observe, and reflect)  (Kemmis & McTaggart, 1988) was employed during this case study   

The  subject Solomon, is a 10 year old 5th grader who attends music with  his regular classroom, a sheltered 5:1:1. I met with Solomon and his class for  ten, thirty-minute sessions. I began with a specific plan of instruction but  changed my plans as the study went on, in response to the behavior I observed.    

The  study began with a plan to incorporate relaxing background music at the  beginning of each class. From there, I planned to work with students on various  percussion instruments to eventually be able to play in a rotating circle. This  plan was chosen because Solomon needed to improve independent learning skills,  socialization skills and appropriate emotional responses with teachers and  peers.     

Through  research, I was able to pin-point key struggles that affect Solomon’s music  learning. Solomon responded more  to emotional issues than he did to the type of music activity I presented in  class. Solomon was able to engage in large motor activities, such as keeping a  steady beat and moving his feet back and forth during a dance activity.  However, he was not able to move both his arms and legs in more complicated  dance movements or play complicated rhythms on an instrument. Solomon appeared  to enjoy music when he was emotionally stable, participating actively and  accurately. Realizing that Solomon’s success improved drastically when he  closed his eyes was another intriguing aspect of this study.   

This  case study highlights many issues and solutions for students with autism in the  music classroom. It is important for educators to realize that every person  diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder is unique. While there is some research  being done in the field of music therapy, music educators must do more research  to address the needs of special education students. First and foremost, it  seems that a good rapport with each student is crucial for success. A student with autism often  responds well to familiarity, kindness and patience. In the future, I would  like to do more with background music and song lyrics to address specific  emotional responses.    

The Role of Technology in Music Classrooms:    Three Case Studies of School Music Teachers   

By Yue Ji   

University at Buffalo, SUNY   

While  advancements in information technology have been quite rapid in recent years,  music educators sometimes have been slow to embrace what technology can do for  their programs, for them as teachers and for their students. The purpose of this study was to gain  insight with regard to the use of IT-assisted instruction in music classrooms.  Data were collected through online and face to face interviews. The interviewees were experienced  classroom music teachers representing elementary through high school. Preliminary findings are 1) use of  information technology in music teaching can stimulate students’ interest; 2)  information technology cannot replace teacher’s instruction; and 3) using information technology can  improve teacher’s instruction.

At this  time, there is additional transcription and coding to take place. Once the coding is completed, a cross  case analysis looking for similarities and differences will be conducted. Also  the interviewees will review and comment upon the findings.   

Measuring  Teaching Effectiveness with  Initially Certified Music Educators: Is there  only one way?

By Keith Koster

Nazareth College   

The  purpose of this study was to determine what kinds of feedback pertaining to  teaching effectiveness would be beneficial for initially certified music  educators in New York. Participants (N = 28) completed a forced-answer and  open-ended questionnaire that included a variety of established procedures that  can measure a teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom. Regardless of subject  area, grade level, and full or part-time employment status, a clear majority of  participants believed that (a) follow-up meetings with mentors after an  observation, (b) share time with other music educators, (c) off-site visits to  observe other master teachers in action, (d) time alone or with others to  review and discuss current research about teaching effectiveness strategies and  (e) presenting teaching demonstrations in the form of a performance-based  master class model led by a master teacher would be positive ways to both  measure and improve their teaching. Real-time feedback in front of learners,  and no formal observations but one-to-one meetings with a master teacher were  perceived as least beneficial. Additional open-ended responses were solicited  that indicated that in today’s economic climate, initially certified music  teachers are anxious about evaluations of their work, job security, and  financing graduate work in the future. Implications for further research are  presented.   

The Effects of Participation in the Alexander  Technique on    Female Violinists and Violists   

Kristin Mozieko   

Aaron Copland School of Music Queens College CUNY   

The primary purposes of this  mixed-methods study were to (a) determine  what effects, if any, participation in 20 AT lessons has on the sample of  female violinists’ and violists’ Pain, Executive Skill Function, Well-being and Awareness, and (b) to describe the experiences  of the participants in the study intervention. The secondary purpose of this study  was to explore how participation in AT affected the female violinists’  self-reported experience of playing.    

Due to the prevalence of performance-related injuries in female string  players, it was theorized that AT could provide a means for improvement. This study employed a mixed methods  design using pretest and posttest questionnaires, observations, and  semi-structured interviews. The  surveys and interviews were used to explore how participation in AT affects  playing experiences.    

The 12-week study was performed in a major metropolitan city and  participants were female violinists and violists between the ages of 18 and 34  with no previous AT training. Criterion sampling was employed and 51 participants were randomly  assigned to either the control group (n = 26) or the treatment group (n =  25). The intervention included AT  lessons two times a week over a 10-week period. Six case study participants  were selected from the treatment group to participate in the qualitative  interview portion of the study. 

The quantitative findings demonstrated statistically significant changes  in Awareness and Executive Skill Function, while only approaching statistical  significance for Pain and Well-being. In the qualitative analysis, themes that were explored included the  dependent variables, as well as teaching and learning, AT principles, tools,  and applications. The qualitative  data provided evidence of improvement in all four a priori variables.

Convergence of the quantitative and qualitative data helped corroborate  the statistically significant findings for Awareness and Executive Skill  Function and provide convincing data that there was improvement in Pain, while  data for Well-being improvement was inconclusive. Recommendations for application of these findings and  suggestions for further research are included.

Adults’  Perceptions of Their Experiences in a Teacher-Student Rock Band

By Jill Reese

SUNY Fredonia   

Music education has experienced an influx of  scholarship and practice inspired by informal music teaching and learning  practices outside the realm of traditional music education. Researchers have  investigated young musicians’ experiences in the context of informal music  learning paradigms such as rock bands, and have suggested implications for  music pedagogy, K- 12 music curricula, and teacher education programs. Though  researchers often focus on students’ experiences in informal teaching and  learning situations, few focus on teachers’ experiences participating with  students in informal learning contexts.    

The  purpose of this case study in progress is to examine and document the  perspectives and experiences of teachers who are participating in an  intergenerational, teacher-student rock band. Research questions that guide  this inquiry are (1) How do these teachers describe their social and musical  interactions with other band members (students and other teachers)? (2) How do  they describe their growth as people, musicians, and teachers? and (3) How have  their rock band experiences influenced their perceptions of teaching and  learning, if at all?

Each  teacher will participate in three interviews. First, teachers will participate  in a group interview that focuses on their perceptions of experiences in the  band, and on the influences of these experiences on perceptions of teaching and  learning. Second, each teacher will participate in an individual interview that  focuses on prior personal and school music experiences, and current experiences  in the rock band. Third, they will participate in a final group interview that  focuses on their experiences interacting as members of a rock band. During the  third interview, they will use a retrospective talk-aloud protocol while  watching video from their band’s rehearsals and performances to reflect on and  talk about their social and musical interactions. During the transcription  process, the researcher will code data and engage in constant comparative  analysis to examine narratives that elucidate the guiding research questions.

The  results from this study could inform music teachers’ and music teacher  educators’ understanding of this type of informal teaching and learning, and may  suggest ways in which the experiences of the teachers in this study might  transfer to adults in other teaching and learning situations.     

High School Student Perspectives on  Developing Musicianship in the Instrumental Music Ensemble   

By Alden Snell Eastman  School of Music and   

David Stringham James Madison University   

Researchers suggest that the  instrumental music profession is primarily concerned with notation decoding, at  the expense of reading with comprehension. A variety of resources are available  for teachers; however, these materials do not prioritize musical behaviors that  researchers report are related to music comprehension (i.e., singing, movement,  and tonal and rhythm pattern instruction). We have developed materials prioritizing these musical  behaviors, designed to help improve individual musicianship in instrumental  music ensembles.

Our proposed report will document  the third phase of an ongoing research project, in which we have studied the  effectiveness of researcher-developed materials. In the first phase of this research, we met with six in-service instrumental music teachers to  review researcher-developed teaching materials. In the second phase, one in-service teacher documented  perceived effects of teaching with these materials on both teacher and student  musicianship. Teachers in  both phases of the study reported that their musicianship is insufficient to engage  students in singing, movement, tonal and rhythm pattern instruction,  improvisation, and composition, perhaps due to the lack of emphasis on these  skills in undergraduate and graduate teacher preparation.  For example,  the in-service teacher felt comfortable teaching melodies, bass lines, tonal  patterns, and rhythm patterns, but did not teach students to improvise or  compose. The purpose of the  current study is to examine perceptions of students learning melodies, bass  lines, tonal patterns, and rhythm patterns extracted from a piece of repertoire  using researcher-developed materials.

With the purpose of improving  instrumental music instruction, we will describe experiences of students in a  non-auditioned high school concert band who learn music using a  researcher-developed model for teaching instrumental music. The following questions are guiding our  research: (a) What are music achievement levels of students who are taught  using researcher-developed materials? (b) What are relationships among stabilized  music aptitude, vocal music achievement, and instrumental music achievement?  (c) How do descriptive statistics for this administration of Advanced Measures of Music Audiation (AMMA, Gordon, 1989) compare with others  found in literature? and (d) How do students describe their experiences being  taught using researcher-developed materials? The following data has been collected, and is currently  being analyzed: (a) student responses to a survey; (b) students’ vocal and  instrumental performances of melodies, bass lines, tonal patterns, and rhythm  patterns taught during the study; and (c) student perspectives gathered in two  focus groups. 

Collegiate Musicians’ Perspectives on  Learning to Improvise

By Alden Snell and

Chris Azzara

Eastman School of Music   

Existing literature highlights the importance of  improvisation in music education. Analogous to conversation in language, improvisation is the spontaneous  expression of music vocabulary and provides a means for assessing student  understanding of that vocabulary. Researchers also call for a deeper understanding of improvisation as a  context for reading comprehension.    

Subjects in this study were enrolled in a  half-semester class that met weekly for two hours during the Spring 2011  semester at this school of music. Data  was collected using the following procedures: (a) a brief survey; (b) two  half-hour interviews with volunteer subjects; and (c) evaluation of students’  recorded and transcribed improvisations. Initial findings include: (a) participants felt the process of learning  to improvise taught in this class was sequential and logical; (b) participants  reported little meaningful improvisation experiences in their K-12 music  education; and (c) the pressures of performing repertoire in lessons, concerts,  and juries prevented these participants from fully embracing improvisation in  their personal music practice.           

Further research is needed to improve in-service  music educators’ practice; studying collegiate students’ experiences in  learning to improvise may be a logical addition to the literature. With  the purpose of improving improvisation instruction, this research will document  the experiences of undergraduate and graduate students at a school of music in  the northeastern United States learning to improvise. The following questions guide this research: (a) How  do undergraduate and graduate students at a school of music in the northeastern  United States describe the process of learning to improvise? (b) How do these  students describe past improvisation experiences? and (c) What effect is learning to improvise having on these  students’ current level of musicianship?