An interesting perspective on music education and research
An article by Nielsen (2009) has caught my attention because it discusses how music teachers in the classroom connect with music education research. More appropriately, the article points to the issue that little music education research is relayed to music classroom teachers and vice versa. The music education researcher has a lack of current understanding about classroom practice. I think this is one reason why I have taken on postgraduate study in music education, due to the fact that classroom teaching can be an isolating experience. The isolation is from current thinking and research in music education and how it can apply, or not, to the classroom.
Recent music teacher pre-service education research highlights that much of what is learnt in pre-service music teacher education does not fit with the reality of classroom music teaching. This is known as praxis shock (Ballantyne, 2006, 2007) and probably highlights the disparity of music educational researchers with little classroom music teaching experience delivering courses to undergraduate pre-service music teachers. What is good in theory may not apply to well in practice.
Nielson (2009) outlines some of the major issues in music teacher education and research findings which could be beneficial to classroom music teachers. First, research must be communicated to the teacher for it to be effective and the research must be reflective of the teacher’s situation to be influential. At present the connection between music education and research in music education is weak. Next is the issue of who should formulate research questions in music education is asked and this depends on how teaching/learning and research are approached. This issue demonstrates that the research agenda is most often dictated by those in the research arena, with little understanding of day-to-day classroom practice. Research ideas and findings are great but they would be even better if they were understandable and applicable to the day-to-day classroom environment.
The next issue is problems of how music education research and music teachers interact. Music teachers have little knowledge of current research and vice versa. Music education research has little practical experience of the daily lives of music educators. Until this issue is addressed fully, then research and practice will never fully integrate. Nielson (2009) suggests that teachers with a research background teach differently than teachers without such a background. The informed teacher has knowledge which has been critically evaluated.
Nielsen (2009) states that there are ‘players’ in music education and are described as internal and external. External are the decision and policy makers, not directly involved in classroom activity. Internal players are teachers in the classroom. External players deal with curriculum often as a political document that reflects research. The internal players can be influenced by research, but generally, this does not function efficiently as once the teacher leaves the undergraduate level, little further education may take place.
Further, Nielsen (2009) outlines how music education has shot itself in the foot, so to speak, with the advocacy that music education can benefit other subject areas. This is termed the ‘distortion’ (p.36) of music education and leaves little room for the benefits of music education in itself to prosper.
Nielsen (2009) surmises that music education research in practice must be directly influential and not isolated from actual classroom practice. Ineffective communication of music education research results continues to confound the message of the benefits of music education to individuals. I would have to agree with some of the arguments presented. From my experience with classroom music education, there is little research communicated to classroom teachers that is of real value and substance. Unless music educators personally engagement with music education research after they leave undergraduate training, there will be little connection to well-founded and valuable research. It is at this point when teachers have the understanding of both classroom practice and research skills, will music education and teaching have greater impact and be able to rely on music for itself as a valuable part of education and not as a basis to prop up other educational domains.
Ballantyne, J. (2006). Reconceptualising pre-service teacher education courses for music teachers: The importance of pedagogical content knowledge and skills and professional knowledge and skills. Research Studies in Music Education, 26, 37-50.
Ballantyne, J. (2007). Documenting praxis shock in early-career Australian music teachers: The impact of pre-service teacher education. International Journal of Music Education, 25(3), 181-191.
Nielsen, F. V. (2009). What is the significance of research for music education in practice? On relations between the practice of and the scientific approach to music education. Philosophy of Music Education Review, 17(1), 22-40.