Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

Drawing 'Music and Me': Children's Images of Musical Engagement

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

Drawing 'Music and Me': Children's Images of Musical Engagement

Article excerpt

Children's engagement with school music can be seen in their participation and heard in their playing and speaking. Children's understanding of music can be intimated from their participation in and responses to activities, such as singing, dancing, instrument playing, composing and improvising with others or by themselves. Children may describe their interpretations of music in simple phrases, for example, "music is all about loving the songs" "music calms you", and "music makes me smarter" (Cosaitis, 2012, pp. 165-166). Their feelings towards music may be heard through words, such as 'happy', 'awesome', 'cool', 'fun', and 'inspiring' (Cosaitis, 2012). Apart from actions, written texts, and verbal expressions, children's perspective of music can also be shown by drawings, as visual images have a similar if not stronger communicative function (Weber & Mitchell, 1995). Increasingly researchers have sought the perspectives of children and adults about their engagement in learning through analyzing visual images (Misailidi, Bonoti & Savya, 2011; Cobb, 2012; Bennett, 2013)

Drawing a picture is a relatively easy way to gather social information from and about children (Eleftheriou et al., 2012; Goldner & Scharf, 2012). Many children may dislike answering questions whereas drawings are perceived as easy and enjoyable (Lewis & Greene, 1983). Drawings can avoid linguistic barriers (Chambers, 1983) and their content may offer insight into a child's feelings and thoughts (Crook, 1985). Weber and Mitchell (1995) agreed that it is easier and more natural for young children to reveal their ideas via drawings than through written texts that seem to be end-product postscripts. Compared to other forms of expression, children's visual images may articulate their music learning experience more coherently (Creech & Hallam, 2006). Phenomenologically drawings "help children 'show' things that are difficult to verbalise" (Huss, Kaufman & Siboni, 2013, p. 5) so to know more about children's thinking and feeling, teachers should take children's drawings seriously (Weber & Mitchell, 1995). Children's drawings can reflect personal stories and provide a window into their thoughts and feelings (Thomas & Silk, 1990; Barraza, 1999; Brand & Dolloff, 2002; Burkitt & Watling, 2013). Drawings can also reveal "cultural values and ways of seeing and understanding the world" (Huss, Kaufman & Siboni, 2013, p. 5). Image-based research can engage imagination, provide access to the inner world of the student, and offer a rich source of qualitative data (Walker, 2008; Bland, 2012; Eleftheriou et al., 2012). The use of drawings in research has increasingly gained respect, popularity and validity (Cobb, 2012, pp. 223-224).

This research was undertaken in a suburban state-supported primary school in Melbourne selected because of its very successful music program. In line with similar studies (Cobb, 2012; Misailidi, Bonoti & Savva, 2011; Bland, 2012) an initial research question was posed: How do children's drawings show their perceptions of their engagement with music? The question did not specify only music in school which permitted a breadth of interpretations, but most children did draw aspects of the school music program. Children's visual narratives can reflect their awareness of the elements of their class teaching-learning experiences (Lemon, 2010) and can reflect positive learning outcomes, including "enjoyment of music, personal satisfaction, motivation, self-efficacy, self esteem and friendship" (Creech & Hallam, 2006, p. 53). Once collected it became apparent that the drawings could be interpreted to reflect subsidiary questions concerning gender, the location and type of music engagement, and whether images were a reflection of real or imagined engagements. Ultimately a final question could be posed: What are the implications for school music from analyzing children's drawings of music? …

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