Doctor of Philosophy
The purpose of this study was to explore the development, implementation, and impact of a musical learning project in two middle school general music contexts. Specifically, this study sought to consider in what ways, if any, such a project supported critical reflection, created opportunities for border crossing, and encouraged multiple ways of knowing in the music classroom (Giroux, 2005). Co-designed by the researcher and two participating educators, the five-week project focused on the creation of digitally designed student soundscape compositions that aimed to help students draw connections between learning practice and in-the-world experience. Critical listening and dialogue were utilized as pedagogical approaches to help students build upon their diverse knowledges, challenge taken-for-granted norms and draw connections between personal experience, educational endeavors, and the social world.
Both the project and study were grounded in the overarching theoretical framework of border crossing (Giroux, 2005) wherein “existing patterns of thought, relationship, and identity are called into question” and “juxtaposed with alternative ways of knowing and being (Hayes & Cuban, 1996, p. 6). This framework was complemented by those of dark and politicized funds of knowledge (Gallo & Link, 2015; Moll et al., 1992; Zipin, 2009), critical listening and mis-listening (Lipari, 2014; Schmidt, 2012b), authorial agency (Matusov et al., 2016), and self-authorship (Baxter Magolda & King, 2004) throughout the analysis.
A critical, qualitative approach was utilized in order to consider the problem from the perspectives of the participants and to contextualize it within the realities of individual classrooms (Matsunobu & Bresler, 2014). A hybridized methodological framework of design-based research (McKenney & Reeves, 2012), critical educational action research (Kemmis, 2010), and case study (Yin, 2014) was employed. This framework allowed for the development of a learning project that was iteratively implemented alongside two music educators in order to critically explore and understand classroom practice. Data collection involved interviews with students and educators, focus groups, participant observation, and journaling.
This study found that project-based approaches to middle school general music, when predicated on students’ experiences and implemented in a way that promotes critical reflection, can help students engage in border crossing practices. Through this project, students in this study interrogated the strengths and limitations of their experiences, juxtaposed their own beliefs with those of others, and began to critically and creatively reimagine their role in and with the world. Cross-case data analysis uncovered themes related to both student and educator experience (Miles et al., 2014). For students, the creation of space for engagement with diverse perspectives, modeling of and practice in critical listening and reflection, and compositional prompts that encourage a critical view of the world emerged as important. For educators, opportunities for dispositional and pedagogical reflection, curricular self-authoring, and discourses based on the complexities of student funds of knowledge arose. Based on these findings, a conceptual model that places practices of border crossing into a creative musical setting was developed. This model, which focuses on the cultivation of critical artistic dispositions wherein students imagine, creatively generate, and artistically actualize ideas that interrogate and engage with local and global realities, was generated to help educators seeking to design critical curricula in the general music setting.
Summary for Lay Audience
This study focuses on exploring the design, implementation, and impact of a musical learning project in two middle school general music contexts. Specifically, I sought to consider how such a project might support critical reflection and encourage multiple ways of knowing in the music classroom. The project was co-designed with two participating music educators and centered on the creation of digitally designed soundscape compositions that aimed to help students draw connections between their in-the-world experiences and their learning in school. In addition, I utilized critical listening and dialogue as pedagogical approaches to help students critically explore these experiences and draw connections among their personal lives, educational endeavors, and the social world.
The concept of border crossing was used as the foundational framework for this study. Within this framework, personal patterns of thought are problematized and contrasted with the ideas and perspectives of others. Using this framework, I analyzed the ways in which students interacted with the learning project, as well as the pedagogical practices employed by the participating educators. As I served as both researcher and educator in this study, implementing the project alongside the participating teachers, I also examined my own experiences. Throughout the analysis, I drew upon additional frameworks to help me explore the role of students’ diverse experiences and perspectives in the classroom, the importance of modeling and engaging in reflection, and the ways in which educators design and implement critical curricula.
Findings from this study suggest that learning projects, when developed in a critical manner, can help students explore the strengths and limitations of their own experiences, consider those experiences in juxtaposition with others, and begin to critically and creatively reimagine their role in and with the world. Based on these findings, I designed a conceptual model that places practices of border crossing into a creative musical setting. This model focuses on the cultivation of critical artistic dispositions wherein students imagine, creatively generate, and artistically actualize ideas that interrogate and engage with local and global realities. This model is intended to support educators seeking to design critical curricula in the general music setting.
Bylica, Kelly, "Critical Border Crossing: Exploring Positionalities Through Soundscape Composition and Critical Reflection" (2020). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 7000.
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