Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Therapy

The Impact of Blended Learning on Professional Identity Formation for Post-Graduate Music Therapy Students

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Therapy

The Impact of Blended Learning on Professional Identity Formation for Post-Graduate Music Therapy Students

Article excerpt

Background

The expansion of technology use in higher education has the potential to attract greater diversity in student cohorts, more variety in learning tasks, and autonomy for both teacher and students within the learning process (Biggs & Tang, 2011). The emergence of technology has therefore also created new opportunities for the training of music therapists. Blended learning (BL) in higher education refers to a combination of traditional face-to-face teaching and technology-mediated teaching. It is sometimes referred to by related terms such as "hybrid" and "mixed-mode" learning (Graham, 2006). The BL program at the University of Melbourne was established in 2010 and offers the Master of Music Therapy course to students across Australia, thus providing better access to training to those people in geographically diverse locations. BL goes beyond using modern standard technology-based teaching tools. The BL program aims to foster supportive teacher and peer relationships delivered in both intensive face-to-face teaching seminars and via online learning tasks (details of the coursework content and structure has been previously published in Clark & Thompson, 2016). However, the BL approach has also created new concerns to the music therapy profession. Traditional approaches to music therapy education consider interpersonal skills and experiences as integral to the process of healthy professional identity formation (O'Brien & Goldstein, 1985). Therefore, the impact that the BL study mode has on professional identity formation requires investigation.

Healthy professional identity has been described as integral to the future success of an individual's professional career (Caza & Creary, 2016; Dutton, Roberts, & Bednar, 2010; Siebert & Siebert, 2005; Warren & Rickson, 2016). Healthy professional identity formation is crucial for individuals who work in human service fields, as they are required to closely interact with other human beings (Nelson & Jackson, 2003). Professional identity is grounded in the personal beliefs, values, goals and experiences relative to a person's chosen profession (Ibarra, 1999). The framework of a profession serves as a reference point for individuals as they establish their position, make executive decisions in relation to their work and engage in professional development (Brott & Myers, 1999). Given the inherent link to personal identity, professional identity can also be used as a framework for supporting positive self-concept (Caza & Creary, 2016).

Receiving feedback during training serves as a vital contributor to the formation of professional identity. O'Brien and Goldstein (1985) originally described external feedback and validation as a crucial component of professional identity formation within the education stage and early experiences of being a music therapist. Receiving constructive feedback from experienced clinicians can lead to feelings of competency and confidence in the novice therapist (Vignoles, Regalia, Manzi, Golledge, & Scabini, 2006; Roberts, Dutton, Spreitzer, Heaphy, & Quinn, 2005). Within the music therapy community, educators have previously voiced concerns about whether online learning provides adequate opportunity for teachers to offer timely and personalised feedback to learners (Vega & Keith, 2012). This concern is not surprising given that training aligned with psychotherapy approaches traditionally privileging group discussions, experiential learning, constructivist learning tasks, and reflexivity (Murphy, 2007).

Connection to the community of a profession is also crucial to the process of professional identity formation. Within a creative-arts therapy community, individuals can demonstrate and share skills exclusive to their profession to strengthen the identity of their profession in the work place (Feen-Calligan, 2012). This community activity provides a strong sense of professional frames and articulates the area of expertise for individuals (Caza & Creary, 2016). …

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