Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Music Therapy

Portraiture and the Role of Researcher: Reflections and Questions/La Méthode De L'art Du Portrait et le Rôle Du Chercheur : Réflexions et Questions

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Music Therapy

Portraiture and the Role of Researcher: Reflections and Questions/La Méthode De L'art Du Portrait et le Rôle Du Chercheur : Réflexions et Questions

Article excerpt


This paper represents the fruits of a reflective process that began during the writing of the first of three comprehensive essays in partial fulfillment of my doctoral degree at McGill University (Carroll, 2002). In this essay I positioned myself as researcher by identifying my epistemological stances and grounding my inquiry in a theoretical framework. I also discussed my role as researcher and described how I would collect, code, analyze, organize, and present my data. Figure 1 illustrates the recursive phases of this reflective process.

I asked myself, What are my assumptions and understandings of what it means to know, and how do they reflect my epistemological stances, my ways of understanding what it means to know? How do these stances feed into the different facets of my theoretical framework? In what ways do they illuminate the methodology, or path of inquiry (the what, how and why of my methods or tools of inquiry), that I choose in the examination of children's intuitive musical and meta-cognitive understandings?

The focus of my doctoral inquiry (Carroll, 2007) was to examine how children used a range of personal, social, and material resources to solve a multilevel music notational task. I asked 13 children ages 5-9 to notate a song they learned the previous week so that someone who did not know the song could sing it just by 'reading' the marks on their paper. I also asked them to sing the song back from their notation, explain what they did, and then, in the following week teach the song to a classmate using their notational symbols as a reference point. The song was a traditional American folk tune entitled "Mary wore a red dress," which I sang to "Lulu."

In my quest to portray as fully as possible the processes and products of children's intuitive understandings, I found that portraiture (Lightfoot & Davis, 1997) provided a fitting epistemological and methodological frame for collecting, coding, analyzing, interpreting, and presenting my data. Narrative portraits of the processes by which the children completed the multilevel notational task and descriptive portraits of their invented notations revealed diat children with no prior music training used increasingly sophisticated representational strategies to notate a song. They also refined their notations when singing the song, teaching the song, or when prompted by an adult or a peer. I concluded that the peer-peer situation was a motivating force for triggering a recursive process of reflecting-on-actions and knowing-in-action (Schon, 1987). Classmates' questions, comments, and their singing played a critical role in moving the children to modify their notations as well as their singing, verbal explanations, and gesturing in ways they did not do alone or with me. Analysis of the children's notations, verbal explanations, and teaching strategies provided insights not only into what they intuitively knew about music but also their appropriation of the cultural conventions of writing and their aesthetic sensibilities, as gleaned from their choice of symbols, colours, and how they presented the symbols on the page. Interviews with parents, teachers, and the school principal provided contextual background for interpreting the children's notations and how they approached the task.

This study demonstrated that researching the products and processes of children's invented notations from a social constructivist perspective using multiple data sets enables more detailed narrative and descriptive portraits of children's musical and meta-cognitive understandings, which in turn can contribute to a better understanding of the musical resources/understandings that clients bring to the music therapy interactive play-space or field of play. My doctoral inquiry could be classified as foundational research in music therapy, which Bruscia (2005) defines as a type of research that "deals with topics that emanate from related fields (for example, psychology, music, medicine, education) but have important implications for music therapy" (p. …

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