Event Title

Reflective Practice in the Secondary School Music Classroom: An Autobiographical Case Study

Presenter Information

John Vitale, Nipissing University

Start Date

30-5-2011 4:30 PM

End Date

30-5-2011 5:00 PM

Description

Purpose: Reflective practice is an important characteristic for all professionals, particularly educators (Reiman, 1999; Ghaye & Ghaye, 1998; Loughran, 1996; Schön, 1991). As a steadfast supporter of reflective practice in education, I have faithfully recorded many of my music teaching experiences over 17 years. Realizing that I had an extensive pool of data at my disposal, I started the arduous process of sorting and categorizing these reflections about a year ago. Early into this process, I noticed that the largest number of reflections in both quality and quantity represented my last five years of teaching in a suburban Toronto high school (2004-2008), where I had the responsibility of solely restructuring and resurrecting the music program. These specific reflections are the focus of this paper -- a case study presented through an autobiographical research design rooted in phenomenology. In addition, findings from this study will also shed light on the multitude of hardships faced by all teachers of music, as well as providing effective strategies to reduce stress, avoid failure, and foster success. Theoretical Framework The very nature of autobiographical research is somewhat paradoxical, as the researcher studies his/her own experiences. Upon further examination, however, autobiographical research is sublime (Gusdorf, 1980). From an educational perspective, autobiographical research can “help both teachers and students redefine their educational experiences on their own terms and in their own voices” (Pinar and Pautz, 1998, p. 72). The concept of “own voice” resonated dramatically with me when I revisited my own reflections, as they captured the emotions of particular points in time where I was pushed to the very abyss of music teaching. Experiencing these reflections then and now, was and is, exceedingly therapeutic and cathartic. I was able to hear my own voice in way that I have not heard it before, allowing me to question and probe what I was thinking and why (Denzin, 1989; Grumet, 1980). In addition, autobiographical research also reveals many “patterns in experience” not easily demonstrable in other types of research frameworks (Bullough & Pinnigar, 2001, p. 16). Methods of Inquiry and Data Collection Given the many facets of qualitative research design, it was determined that a phenomenological approach was the best framework for this study (Mishler, 1990). In a nutshell, phenomenology addresses how humans experience the world (Moran, 2000; Sokolowski, 2000; Creswell, 1998; Rossman & Rallis, 1998, Moustakas, 1994; & Patton, 1990). The wide variety of reflections emanating from my last five years of teaching secondary school are representative of how I experienced the world of music teaching and are the primary source of data for this study. Reflections can be classified into three categories. The first category consists of 28 journals while the second is a large melting pot of anecdotal notes captured in various forms, such as my teacher daybook (lesson plans), post-it notes, rehearsal notes, and even restaurant napkins. The third category is electronic in origin, including reflections captured in 32 emails and conversations/comments recorded in video footage. Lagemann and Shulman (1999, p. xvi) have claimed that this type of raw data is now “more and more commonplace.” in autobiographical research. Through common trends and associations, thematic representations were extracted from the data and classified both texturally (what is experienced) and structurally (how it is experienced), ultimately producing noteworthy clusters of meaning (Cresswell, 1998).

Synopsis of Findings: According to the data, there were three principal themes that manifested themselves, namely; (a) stress and anxiety, (b) fear of failure, and (c) success. In the full paper, I will provide specific examples from the data (journals, anecdotal notes, and electronic reflections) that will animate these themes.

Scholarly Significance/Practical Impact: The process of reflection helped me get through a very difficult five years of music teaching. Learning transpires not from experience, but from thinking about and reflecting on experience (Dewey, 1933). As two years have now passed, there is another level of reflection that is much larger in scope and scale, namely, the process of reflecting on five years worth of music teaching. In sum, re-experiencing my experience. That is, revisiting, rearranging and reorganizing data about past experiences increases one’s knowledge and shed light on one’s views, values, ideologies and representations of the world (Bullough & Pinnegar, 2001). These representations encapsulate the professional practice of teaching high school music, providing insight and transparency into the nature of this demanding role in education. Ultimately, the process of assessing reflections allows experiences to be linked with professional development (Howe et al, 2009).

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May 30th, 4:30 PM May 30th, 5:00 PM

Reflective Practice in the Secondary School Music Classroom: An Autobiographical Case Study

Purpose: Reflective practice is an important characteristic for all professionals, particularly educators (Reiman, 1999; Ghaye & Ghaye, 1998; Loughran, 1996; Schön, 1991). As a steadfast supporter of reflective practice in education, I have faithfully recorded many of my music teaching experiences over 17 years. Realizing that I had an extensive pool of data at my disposal, I started the arduous process of sorting and categorizing these reflections about a year ago. Early into this process, I noticed that the largest number of reflections in both quality and quantity represented my last five years of teaching in a suburban Toronto high school (2004-2008), where I had the responsibility of solely restructuring and resurrecting the music program. These specific reflections are the focus of this paper -- a case study presented through an autobiographical research design rooted in phenomenology. In addition, findings from this study will also shed light on the multitude of hardships faced by all teachers of music, as well as providing effective strategies to reduce stress, avoid failure, and foster success. Theoretical Framework The very nature of autobiographical research is somewhat paradoxical, as the researcher studies his/her own experiences. Upon further examination, however, autobiographical research is sublime (Gusdorf, 1980). From an educational perspective, autobiographical research can “help both teachers and students redefine their educational experiences on their own terms and in their own voices” (Pinar and Pautz, 1998, p. 72). The concept of “own voice” resonated dramatically with me when I revisited my own reflections, as they captured the emotions of particular points in time where I was pushed to the very abyss of music teaching. Experiencing these reflections then and now, was and is, exceedingly therapeutic and cathartic. I was able to hear my own voice in way that I have not heard it before, allowing me to question and probe what I was thinking and why (Denzin, 1989; Grumet, 1980). In addition, autobiographical research also reveals many “patterns in experience” not easily demonstrable in other types of research frameworks (Bullough & Pinnigar, 2001, p. 16). Methods of Inquiry and Data Collection Given the many facets of qualitative research design, it was determined that a phenomenological approach was the best framework for this study (Mishler, 1990). In a nutshell, phenomenology addresses how humans experience the world (Moran, 2000; Sokolowski, 2000; Creswell, 1998; Rossman & Rallis, 1998, Moustakas, 1994; & Patton, 1990). The wide variety of reflections emanating from my last five years of teaching secondary school are representative of how I experienced the world of music teaching and are the primary source of data for this study. Reflections can be classified into three categories. The first category consists of 28 journals while the second is a large melting pot of anecdotal notes captured in various forms, such as my teacher daybook (lesson plans), post-it notes, rehearsal notes, and even restaurant napkins. The third category is electronic in origin, including reflections captured in 32 emails and conversations/comments recorded in video footage. Lagemann and Shulman (1999, p. xvi) have claimed that this type of raw data is now “more and more commonplace.” in autobiographical research. Through common trends and associations, thematic representations were extracted from the data and classified both texturally (what is experienced) and structurally (how it is experienced), ultimately producing noteworthy clusters of meaning (Cresswell, 1998).

Synopsis of Findings: According to the data, there were three principal themes that manifested themselves, namely; (a) stress and anxiety, (b) fear of failure, and (c) success. In the full paper, I will provide specific examples from the data (journals, anecdotal notes, and electronic reflections) that will animate these themes.

Scholarly Significance/Practical Impact: The process of reflection helped me get through a very difficult five years of music teaching. Learning transpires not from experience, but from thinking about and reflecting on experience (Dewey, 1933). As two years have now passed, there is another level of reflection that is much larger in scope and scale, namely, the process of reflecting on five years worth of music teaching. In sum, re-experiencing my experience. That is, revisiting, rearranging and reorganizing data about past experiences increases one’s knowledge and shed light on one’s views, values, ideologies and representations of the world (Bullough & Pinnegar, 2001). These representations encapsulate the professional practice of teaching high school music, providing insight and transparency into the nature of this demanding role in education. Ultimately, the process of assessing reflections allows experiences to be linked with professional development (Howe et al, 2009).