Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

The Enhancement of Musical and Other Learning for Both Teachers and Students through a Weekly Choir Session

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

The Enhancement of Musical and Other Learning for Both Teachers and Students through a Weekly Choir Session

Article excerpt

Introduction

Primary schools are such busy demanding places. Educators are concerned with a crowded curriculum and high emphasis placed on the development and cultivation of literacy and numeracy concepts. Teachers are generally concerned with the delivery and teaching expectations of all key learning areas of the primary school curriculum. However, the creative arts, in the real world of time and teaching are generally speaking, lower in priority. The majority of teachers believe their teaching time is dominated by attention to English and mathematics because the demands of departmental directives necessitate that students achieve benchmark standards in literacy and numeracy and this has had direct consequences for the creative arts key learning area.

Engaging children in the creative arts can allow them to communicate in potentially profound ways (Eisner, 2002). As Russell-Bowie (2009, p. 5) reflects, the arts can embody and communicate emotions, ideas, beliefs and values It can convey meaning through aesthetic forms and symbols and evoke emotive responses to life with or without words. Involving the creative arts in our curriculum is to represent learning not in the ordinary sense of language, as writing on a page, but in either a visual, kinaesthetic, aural or tactile form. With reference directly to the area of music, to see the connection in the classroom between music and mathematics, in patterns and numbers, the scientific aspects developed of sound and silence, the literacy features of emotive and descriptive language is remarkable. However, syllabus requirements are, by and large, seen as being met for creative arts through end of year performances, exclusive arts days and special school assemblies. Schools have admitted it is difficult to have consistency and regularity in the arts curriculum, because of the time constraints and the lower educational priority given to the subject area in the curriculum (Alter, Hayes & O'Hara, 2009).

Gibson and Anderson (2008) argue that within the context of Australian schools there is an urgent need for a detailed study of the impact of arts programs. This small-scale study provides further insights into the impact of the arts, in particular the impact of singing, in one Australian primary school. This paper will present investigation through a small scale study, into how the benefits associated with the inclusion of children singing in a one hour weekly session can not only influence and enhance students' musical learning, but also develop and enhance teachers' personal skill and confidence levels, while promoting other learning for all concerned across key learning areas.

Background

There is evidence to suggest that school arts programs can enhance students' potential to engage with school and learning more broadly (Australian Council for Educational Research, 2004; Bamford, 2006; Catterall, Chapleau & Iwanaga, 1999). Hennessy (2000), Glover and Ward (1993), Bariseri (2000) and Heneghan (2001) have argued that music is for all a valued constituent of life, and it must be an important part of the school curriculum. However, recent reviews of arts education in Australia, such as the National Review of School Music Education (Department of Education, Science and Training, (2005) and the National Review of Education in Visual Arts, Craft, Design and Visual Communication (Davis, 2008) have shown a continued serious deficit in these areas in primary education over the past decade. However, a study conducted in the United Kingdom (Hargreaves, Lamont, Marshall & Tarrant, 2003) showed that primary school teachers lacked confidence in teaching music, and that it was a subject which caused them the most stress in their teaching. Ruddock and Leong (2005) investigated relationships between non-musicians' concepts of what they considered 'musical' and their judgements of their own musicality and concluded that participants' negative judgements of their own musicality were related to lack of understanding of music, an inability to play an instrument and being adversely affected by a particular formal music learning situation in their past. …

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