Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

First Inversion: A Rationale for Implementing the 'Flipped Approach' in Tertiary Music Courses

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

First Inversion: A Rationale for Implementing the 'Flipped Approach' in Tertiary Music Courses

Article excerpt


Arguably, current models of tertiary learning and teaching are unsustainable. Innovations in digital technologies have begun to transform higher education to the point that universities must embrace change and stay abreast of trends to attract and retain students. Students themselves are disillusioned with out-dated, teacher-focused pedagogies (Barnes & Tynan, 2007), and they are increasingly disengaging with these traditional forms of teaching and learning (Barnett & Coate, 2005; Garrison & Akyol, 2009). Funding pressures and a rising teacher-to-student ratio have led to concerns about the quality of the student experience and learning outcomes in the tertiary sector (Haggis, 2006).

Music education is a case in point, where the typically "labour and resource intensive" nature of music training (Schippers, 2011, para. 3) brings with it a unique set of pedagogical and practical challenges, both for one-to-one teaching and classroom lectures. Many tertiary music schools are struggling to retain educational quality using traditional models of teaching and learning witness the Australian context, where radical cuts to funding and degree programs have become a sombre reality (Maze, 2012) in a milieu where virtually all tertiary music institutions are operating at a deficit (MCA, 2011, p. 1). Particularly in this environment, 'old' classroom pedagogies will only further undermine the capacity of institutions to provide high-quality learning experiences that prepare students for a successful career in a fast-changing music industry.

From a positive perspective, the possibilities are vast for transforming higher education for the better in the twenty-first century, perhaps primarily because of the new possibilities afforded by digital innovations. This paper explores the potential for one pedagogical model--flipped learning--to address some of the current challenges and issues, specifically in the context of tertiary music education.

Collaborative constructivism

This study takes as its point of departure a collaborative constructivist theoretical framework. The constructivist paradigm essentially expounds the view that learners construct their own knowledge and ideas through their past and current experience of the world (Piaget, 1970; Vygotsky, 1978). It theorises that students should be active agents in their learning; that exploring, experimenting, questioning and reflecting on real-world problems leads to deep understanding; and moreover, that engaging in these activities builds learning skills that are transferrable to other contexts. In short, by this paradigm, students learn how to learn. Their role shifts from passive knowledge-recipients to active participants with control over their learning, including the opportunity to negotiate content, processes, assessment, and deadlines (Vrasidas, 2000, p. 9). With the understanding that not all students need to learn the same material, teachers guide discussion and activities that elicit knowledge and foster understanding, and provide the support, tools, and resources students need to manage their own learning (Vrasidas, 2000, p. 9). Constructivist alignment research (e.g., Biggs & Tang, 2011) corroborates the principles of the constructivist paradigm by suggesting that student engagement in learning is greater when the learning process is emphasised over content, and where learning is deep and transformational, rather than surface-level assimilation of facts and information.

Collaborative learning, in which students cooperate to build their knowledge and understanding, is strongly linked to constructivist theory. One early proponent was Dewey (1959), who believed that collaborative learning was a means by which students may assume responsibility for constructing and verifying meaning. By this approach, the 'teacher' creates purposeful learning scenarios that aim to facilitate student interaction, collaboration, and knowledge-sharing. …

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