Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Learning from a Master Teacher Using a Tripartite Structure Framework

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Learning from a Master Teacher Using a Tripartite Structure Framework

Article excerpt

Introduction

String instruments such as violins, violas, cellos, and double basses are part of the largest family of instruments in an orchestra. Learning a musical instrument involves the development of a complex set of motor, sensory and cognitive skills (Küpers, Dijk, McPherson, & Geert, 2014), which requires dedicated and solitary hard work (Pike, 2011). Experts' experiences suggest that becoming a skilled performer is a challenging and enduring process, which requires vast amounts of long-term practice (McPherson, 2005). Playing a string instrument at an expert level requires approximately 10,000 hours or ten years of intense practice (Konczak, Velden, & Jaeger, 2009). The nature of learning to play a musical instrument is particularly difficult for children: "It is very hard for children to invest large amounts of time and effort in musical learning in complete isolation" (Davidson, Sloboda, & Howe, 1995/1996, p. 41). As a consequence, only some children persist and succeed while many lose interest and give up (Davidson, Sloboda, & Howe, 1995/1996; Pitts, Davidson, & McPherson, 2000). It is clearly of key importance to instrumental music researchers and teachers to understand factors that encourage high levels of persistence and achievement.

Research in instrumental music education identified a number of factors that foster students' learning. For example, a substantial portion of the research indicates that parental involvement (Barnes, DeFreitas, & Grego, 2016; Creech, 2010; Davidson, Sloboda, & Howe, 1995/1996; Macmillan, 2004; McPherson, 2009; Zdzinski, 1996), quantity and quality of practice (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Römer, 1993; McPherson, 2000/2001) and motivation (McPherson, 2000/2001; Pike, 2011) contribute toward high levels of instrumental achievement. If so, who is responsible for encouraging parental involvement, practice and motivation? Previous research studies suggest that teachers should first, inform parents about parental involvement strategies that would increase student success (Zdzinski, 1996); second, motivate and maintain students' enthusiasm, which confounds and exasperates many instrumental music teachers (Pike, 2011); and third, design practice activities and instruct individuals to engage in practice activities between lessons to maximize improvement (Ericsson et al., 1993).

Encouraging parental involvement, practice and motivation are only a few examples of the many responsibilities of an instrumental music teacher, which highlights the importance of their role. Shulman (1987) claimed that a teacher possesses knowledge that is not understood by the students. Effective teachers can help the unknowing to know, those who lack understanding to comprehend and discern, and the unskilled to become adept. And through a series of activities, instrumental teachers provide their students with specific instruction and opportunities for learning. Whether a student becomes a good player or not to a large degree depends on the teacher-how they explain, how they demonstrate, how they ask questions, how they respond to student performance, and, perhaps most importantly, what they have students do (Duke & Simmons, 2006, p. 8). Despite the significance of the teacher's role in instrumental music education, typically string instrument players pursue a teaching career without understanding their role as a teacher. Consequently, many of them lack knowledge about how to teach their instrument to students, particularly to a group of young children. They teach by trial and error and find teaching difficult, challenging, anxious, daunting and scary, and feel that they do not know what to do (Ha, 2015). This is a serious concern because virtually all musicians, irrespective of their qualification and training, teach their instruments, which often involves individual lessons, group lessons and ensemble conducting (Watson, 2010).

The absence of teaching models is a problem (Low, 2002) and more empirical research on useful and effective teaching models is required (Persson, 1994). …

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