Academic journal article Contributions to Music Education

A Qualitative Study of Applied Music Lessons and Subsequent Student Practice Sessions

Academic journal article Contributions to Music Education

A Qualitative Study of Applied Music Lessons and Subsequent Student Practice Sessions

Article excerpt

This qualitative study examined the relationship between student-teacher interactions in the college instrumental music lesson and individual student practice. Videotaped observations, questionnaires and practice narratives indicated that the three teachers advocated a variety of techniques, but student practice observations (N = 12) revealed that students employed a limited number of these techniques during practice sessions. The techniques that the students used were those that their teachers had emphasized during lessons. Three distinctive teaching styles emerged from the lesson observations. Findings illustrate Schouml;n's theories of reflective conversation. This was a small-scale exploratory study carried out with a limited number of participants. Additional research is needed to explore fully the dynamic relationship between music teachers' teaching styles and their students' practice behaviors.

The applied music lesson, one teacher interacting with one or more students in a studio setting, is a mainstay of music instruction. Given this long-standing tradition, it is surprising that relatively little research has been carried out in the music studio. Most studies in the applied music setting have utilized some sort of systematic observation techniques in order to quantify student and teacher behaviors occurring during the lesson (Albrecht, 1991; Helper, 1986; Kostka, 1984; Siebenaler, 1997; Speer, 1994; Vallentine, 1991). A number of these studies have been set in the independent piano studio (Kostka, 1984; Speer, 1994; Siebenaler, 1997). Several other studies have addressed various aspects of the applied music lesson in a university setting (Albrecht, 1991; Helper, 1986; L'Hommedieu, 1992; Murphy, 1995; Valentine, 1991).

Some researchers (e.g., Siebenaler, 1997) have used Schön's (1987) theory of reflection in action, in which there is an active and on-going musical conversation, as a model of music teaching and learning.

In such examples, the participants are making something. Out of musical materials or themes of talk, they make a piece of music or a conversation, an artifact with its own meaning and coherence. Their reflection-in-action is a reflective conversation with the materials of a situation..." (Schön, 1987, p. 31).

Reflective conversation involves three phases: (a) problem solving, in which the student is made aware of the problem; (b) experimentation, in which the music being studied is performed by the teacher and/or the student; and(c) evaluation, in which the student and teacher evaluate the "fit" of the solution and either go on to a new problem or repeat the cycle beginning with Phase I (Murphy, 1995; Schön, 1983, 1987).

The art and science of practice is also an important topic for musicians. An increasing body of research literature attests to the academic and scientific interest sparked by this topic (Barry & Hallam, 2002). Performing musicians certainly acknowledge that practice is essential to musical progress (Bruser, 1997; Ericsson, 1997). Research indicates that the highest levels of performance are attained through deliberate practice applied consistently over long periods of time. Some authors have even suggested that a minimum investment of ten years is required for even the most "talented" to achieve "the level of elite performance" (Ericsson, 1997, p. 28).

Research also indicates that practice habits of student musicians vary widely depending upon such factors as motivation, learning style, and maturational processes (Harnischmacher, 1997). However, merely engaging in "practice" does not ensure progress toward desirable musical outcomes. Practice must be deliberate, informed, and "mindful" in order to be useful. Practice in which mistakes go unnoticed and/or uncorrected can actually result in increasing the number of flaws in a student's performance (Barry, 1992).

Music teachers encourage their pupils to engage in regular, systematic practice. …

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