In my last blog, Reimagining and Improving Instruction, I closed with a profound quote by Jerome Bruner in which he challenges our awareness and understanding of instruction and reminds us of our responsibility as educators: “Pedagogy is never innocent. It is a medium that carries its own message.” (Bruner,1997, p.63). This quote made me stop and reflect on my teaching: “What is the current message I am conveying to my students, and what will my new message be?”
- If I implement and follow standard music education pedagogy in this current environment, my students and I will not be successful.
- If I initiate and create a new framework for music instruction, I may fail, and my students and I will not be successful.
This quandary, however, does present an opportunity for me to engage in critical inquiry and examine my current pedagogical values and beliefs. To proceed, I must embrace my uneasiness and begin a dialogue between past music education pedagogies, and the reality of this moment. It is now time for me to look ahead and create a new pedagogy for music instruction.
Problem Solving or The Creative Process?
To assist me in understanding how to adapt and create a new pedagogy, the book The Path of Least Resistance by Robert Fritz provided new ideas and strategies that I found very helpful. A graduate of the Boston Conservatory at Berklee, Fritz suggests we use the creative process, not problem-solving, to generate new ideas. He believes problem-solving can bring temporary relief, but for the long term, it seldom corrects the problem.
The Creative Process
He advises not to fix problems by searching for solutions, but rather to “consciously choose the results we want to see manifested” (Fritz 1989, p.172). If we are not careful, we can spend a lot of time and energy searching, worrying, and trying to avoid what we do not want.
- I do not want to teach music online next fall.
- I do not want to lose my large rehearsal room next year to other subjects so they can social distance.
- I do not want my students to learn music by electronically moving and manipulating information from one online platform to another.
Fritz encourages us to make choices about what we do want:
- I do want to find a way to actively engage my students next fall.
- I do want my room or a large area where I can work safely with my students.
- I do want my students to learn how to use technology as a tool that will enhance their performances – not become a substitute for the performing arts.
“The Process should always Serve the Result” (Fritz 1989, p.73)
Each year towards the end of May, I hold auditions for our ninth through twelfth grade Select Choir Vocal Ensemble. All choirs practice the audition process in rehearsals, and then during the following week, interested students sign up for ten-minute slots after school. Well, it is that time of year. I do not want to hold virtual auditions, but there is no other option. I do want a strong group for next year, so successful auditions are essential.
I decided to create a Google Classroom called MHS Select Choir Auditions specifically for these auditions. By using Google Classroom, I can easily share the audition information and materials with my classes. I also invited colleagues to be co-teachers with me, which allows them to share the audition information with their students easily. I posted the following information and resources on Google Classroom:
- A link to Flipgrid. On this platform, I recorded a video message introducing the audition process and explained how to submit a video for their audition.
- A Google Form. By using a Google Form, I can create a Google Sheet that will contain all the audition information (name, voice part, vocal experience, etc.).
- A link to a YouTube video and a pdf of My County’ Tis of Thee. For the audition, students will choose the starting pitch and sing the first verse a cappella.
- A link to a YouTube video, and a pdf of the solfege chromatic scale. For the audition, students will choose the starting pitch and sing the chromatic scale ascending and descending a cappella.
After creating the online audition information and materials, I realized the process occurred quite naturally and organically. I strongly dislike having virtual auditions this year, but by being aware and focusing on what I did want, the process did not dictate the outcome – the process serves the results. Below are a few positive results from this year’s online auditions that I will use in the future.
- Google Classroom – I can easily share information and materials with all the students and my colleagues.
- Posting materials – Students now have easy access to the audition materials and can practice on their own.
- Flipgrid – I will now have video documentation of each singer that I can compare and refer to if needed (Maybe I will still record the tryouts when we return to in-person auditions?).
Conclusion: Creating a New Pedagogy for Music Education
We, as a profession, are unquestionably feeling uneasiness as we face the reality of the pandemic and strive to navigate and understand how to move forward. The uncertainty and questioning we are experiencing are because we can no longer implement the standard classroom pedagogy or follow the rote music instruction we have relied upon for so many years. If we can engage in critical inquiry and examine our core values and beliefs, I believe we can create a new pedagogy and redefine the future of Music Education.
Bruner, Jerome Seymour. The Culture of Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.
Fritz, Robert. The Path of Least Resistance: Learning to Become the Creative Force in Your Own Life. Kent: Elsevier Science, 2014.