1 – Reflecting on Professional Practice
Reflect on up to three
different workplace experiences and/or critical incidents, where appropriate
including a portfolio of evidence, with a description of each.
What were the experiences/incidents?
· Why were these
experiences/incidents significant to you?
· What evidence is
there about your performance in relation to the experiences/incidents?
· What evidence is
there about the performance of your workplace in relation to these experiences/incidents?
Each of the steps in my teaching career has helped to me
gain particular insights, and indeed prejudices, regarding music education and differing
approaches to teaching and learning.
It is my intention to step back and question some of my decision making over
the past ten years. Hopefully the examination and scrutiny of my own practices
will highlight issues that could benefit from research-led input. Much of what
I do is steered by the confines of institutional regulation and stipulation.
Within those strict frameworks however there is scope for my professional
teaching to be influenced by the research outcomes of others. To begin this
process I have highlighted three moments within my teaching history that could
potentially be improved by reflection and consequent adjustment.
There are of course myriad occasions that would benefit from
reflection, self-doubt, and improvement. In order to structure my thoughts and
aim more purposefully I have tried to choose incidents from three categories, starting
broadly and becoming more tightly focused. The three categories are curriculum;
whole class groups; and individual students.
Reflection 1 – Focus on Curriculum
The first incident chosen for critical reflection here occurred
during a time of departmental reconstruction and staffing reductions. When I
first started teaching at my current school, students at key-stage 3 were lucky
enough to receive one hour per week of each discipline within the performing
arts faculty. With this structure, teaching and assessment could reasonably be
considered to be regular and linear – at least as far as any weekly lesson can
be considered so.
Following the removal of specialist status funding, and the
increased predominance of English Baccalaureate subjects, performing arts
provision was significantly reduced. Since then, Music and Drama has shared a
one hour lesson per week. This has been split termly. One term, Drama; two
terms, Music. Our current curriculum model is structured as a carousel with every
student experiencing distinct lessons in Music Performance, Music Composition
and Drama as illustrated in the table below.
Music – Performance
Music – Composition
Illustration 1: Rotational model for delivery
of KS3 Performing Arts
Whilst I must acknowledge that this model has some merits,
they seem to be largely outweighed by the disadvantages. It is the
disadvantages I would like to concentrate on here.
The most significant issue arises when considering student
progression. For a moment, as an example let us consider Year 7 students in
Class C. They receive composition lessons in Term 1. They are then not
scheduled to study it again until the same calendar point in Year 8. Also,
depending on term length, this could mean that they only get the opportunity to
experience composition for approximately 15 hours per year (based
optimistically on half terms of 7 weeks and 8 weeks respectively). This
extrapolates to 30 hours at the end of Y8 at which point they are expected to
make options choices. By contrast, Maths provision achieves this level of
contact within 6 weeks, or less than half a term.
The other implication of this system is that assessment within
this model is currently meaningless. Rotating termly does not fit neatly with
the school’s timetable for collecting data. Often we are required to submit
data just before, or just after a group has rotated. This of course makes it
impossible to either act on the data or implement necessary interventions.
Questions also arise about what to do with the data has been collected. 15
hours is not very long to collect data, action anything in response to the data,
and measure its impact. Equally, what data can you collect that will be relevant
to another teacher once the group has rotated?
This was a conundrum with which I wanted to engage when I
first became Head of Department.
I don’t believe in collecting data for the sake of it, but I also felt
uncomfortable collecting no data.
I investigated a number of assessment models and engaged with the assessment
conversations taking place on Twitter. I trialled a range of assessment tracking
models to see which might fit our own circumstances. Ultimately I created my
own assessment system that I felt could work within our school. Chronological
development of these ideas are pictured below:
Illustration 2: Early assessment model for KS3
Illustration 3: First attempt at KS3 Performing
Arts progress tracker
Illustration 3: Refined 2nd attempt
at KS3 Performing Arts progress tracker
My initial response to the challenge was largely positive. I
felt that I could make something work that would not only satisfy the need to
show progression but also serve to track the skills of students as they moved
around the rotation.
Over time it has become clearer that this is not necessarily
the case. Tracking this sort of information for each student does not take
long. It is clear. Progress can be shown. However, the data is not very useful
for the teacher in the next bit of the rotation. Knowing how a student has done
in a drama performance is of limited value when they are embarking upon a compositional
journey for the first time in music.
What I did find however, was that the information was useful
for the student. And, upon reflection, perhaps this is enough. The grid served
as a map for the student to help them see their progress through performing
arts across the year. They knew what projects would be assessed in the future
and they knew (albeit broadly) how they had achieved in previous projects.
Whilst I am not fully happy with this assessment tracker, it
is the closest I have got to a satisfactory system so far. I am keen to develop
this further and see how much it can be refined.
If I were to look further into this assessment model I would
want to know the following: Does research into cognition, suggest that it would
be better for the understanding and practice of composition to spread learning
out over the year, or in condensed termly chunks? Can research into assessment
of music shed any light on successful approaches to collecting meaningful data?
Reflection 2 – Whole-Class Groups
I would also consider examining critically my pedagogical
approach to introducing composition to key stage three classes. Looking at my
current methods for teaching compositional skills I feel that there is room for
a more purposeful approach grounded in researched and proven methodologies.
For a long time I have relied on computer technology and
sequencing software to deliver composition schemes of work. I have mostly used
film soundtracks as the foundation upon which I have taught students to be
creative with the elements of music and introduced them weekly to new compositional
techniques. Again, merits are to be found but there is often the sense that
relying on the technology is “taking the easy way out”, and not playing to the
strengths/experiences of all students in the group.
Also, upon reflection, it has been apparent for a while to
me that working with a film clip is not as inspiring as it seems. Whilst it is
very engaging and perhaps “current” for a student to work with a familiar and
enjoyable film clip, it is also quite prescriptive in the options it allows them
to work with. It essentially corals the creativity and imagination of the
student towards the successful completion of a very narrow brief. If, for
example, the clip has a spooky feel, then a particular range of techniques immediately
lend themselves to this and a student is steered towards those.
I think my concern is that this approach misses out a vital
step in the creative process and ignores a range of instrumental/vocal skills
that the students may possess. It avoids the student having to find a source of
inspiration and interpret it in a musical way. Rather, it encourages a
“paint-by-numbers” approach; a checklist of techniques to be applied.
Admittedly this is a criticism of the pedagogical approach rather than the
usefulness of film clips themselves. I think that my own misconception of the
film clip/technology process was that it provided a level playing field for
students with very varied musical histories. That is to say, very few key stage
3 students have meaningful experience of sequencing and composing to film.
However, it is a process that strongly favours the student with keyboard
skills. I’m confident that a more encompassing and holistic experience of
composition can be achieved, despite the time constraints, that fosters
imaginative responses from students regardless of previous experience. Again, I
find myself wondering if a more traditional pedagogical approach has been shown
to yield better results for more students. Or, is it the way that technology is
employed that makes the biggest difference. Should technology be used to
facilitate the composition – through aiding exploration, and assisting with
recording etc – rather than being the sole medium with which a composition is
Being a keyboard player I am fully aware of the usefulness
of technology when composing, and its potential to encourage creativity. But,
can the use of it during the early stages of composition instruction be a
hindrance to creativity rather than a spur?
Reflection 3 – Individual Students
As my third focus for reflection I would like to turn
attention to the experiences of an individual student. The majority of my time
is focused on key stage 5 students however this year I have some input with the
GCSE groups. I teach a student in year 10 who struggles to balance the
requirements of the course with his own very specific musical tastes. He is a
reasonably accomplished guitarist with a penchant for artists such as The
Smiths and David Bowie. Outside of this
narrow field of experience he finds very little merit in other styles and
genres. Whilst he is aware of the requirements of the course to be aware of a
wide range of genres he is in no way inclined to spend time with them. It is
worth being clear that he is a musically astute student who is motivated to
improve on his instrument – by playing the music he likes. He will volunteer
answers during lessons and is happy to share his opinions. In other subjects he
is a challenging student for staff whereas in music he is not. There is clearly
a passion there for the subject but it is stylistically tethered. He is
certainly not the first student to exhibit strong musical preferences. Indeed
having preferences is not remarkable in the slightest. Many students struggle
to find beauty or purpose in a musical style with which they are not familiar.
This proclivity for contemporary alternative music has made
composition particularly inaccessible for this student. He finds it difficult
to be inspired by other genres and eras. I also think that he leaves himself
open to disappointment because it is nearly impossible for him to achieve the sonic
results of his idols. If he constantly compares his work to that of Bowie for
example then he has a long road of discontentment ahead of him! The flipside of
this is that create something simple, like a percussive motif conveying the
weather, seems banal by comparison and not worthy of effort.
Moving forward from
In sincerity all three areas detailed above require further
reflection and contemplation in order to improve my own classroom practice and
the wider practices of my department.
It is the most current of these issues that I would like to
investigate further. That issue is the latter one – the individual student with
genre tunnel vision. The issue of stylistic dominance is echoed throughout year
groups. It is certainly not limited to one student. I wonder if this has any measurable effect on creative
There is a populist theory within education that subjects
should be bastions of the best that has been thought or written. This can
present issues when encouraging student creativity. Society often leans towards
the classical painters, sculptors, writers and musicians when populating the ‘best
of’ category. This can cause us to focus on the quality of the content rather
than the quality of the creative process. It is, I believe the quality of the
process of creativity that needs to be examined, unpicked, and presented to
students because “…although the work of
‘the masters’ is a source of inspiration and is often studied in educational
institutions, such exceptional standards of quality are difficult to reproduce.”
(Odena & Welch, 2009)
Some understanding of creativity is necessary to discern
Margaret Boden (1990) explains that human creativity is
something of a mystery, not to say a paradox. She goes on to consider a useful distinction
between p-creativity (‘psychological creativity’) and h-creativity (‘historical’
creativity). Whilst I see the merit in considering how original a creative idea
truly is, I’m not sure that this distinction is particularly helpful to me just
Furthermore, a distinction between teaching creatively and teaching
for creativity was identified and discussed in a National Advisory
Committee on Creative and Cultural Education (NACCCE, 1999) report. The
examination in the NACCCE report details four characteristics of creativity and
teaching methods as identified by Peter Woods, (1990): relevance, ownership,
control, and innovation. They use these characteristics to show how the two
distinctions – teaching creatively
and teaching for creativity are
closely related, but crucially, how interdependent they are.
Bob Jeffrey and Ana Craft (2001) have subtly amended this
description. They considered that the distinction between teaching creatively
and teaching for creativity was unintentionally dichotomous. Their concern is
that an unfortunate separation may occur that divides teaching from learning in
an unhelpful way. Whilst this possibly the case if not acknowledged, NACCCE
appear to have pre-empted the concern with a clarification that they
appreciation the ‘closeness’ between the two terms. They go on to say, ‘Young
people’s creative abilities are most likely to be developed in an atmosphere in
which the teacher’s creative abilities are properly engaged’. A viewpoint that
has possibly not been fully explored through action research. Particularly, if
trying to determine its effect upon pedagogical practice in the composing
So, in order to effectively develop young people’s
creativity, research points towards a possible routine or process to follow.
Savage and Fautley (2007) reference an early research piece from the 1920s by
Wallas which provides a helpful framework.
Wallas’ four stages are: Preparation; Incubation;
Illumination; Verification. (Wallas, 1929)
Savage and Fautley consider this model to have maintained
integrity over the years and find it to be a useful addition to classroom
practice. Reading into Wallas’ four stages I feel that this structured approach
could be enlightening as part of a response to my original concern.
The concept that the student will be dissatisfied with his
work when compared to that of his idols is addressed by numerous scholars. I
was interested to learn that it was referred to as ‘big C’ creativity (Craft
2001; Gardner, 1993). In contrast, the ‘new’ concept (in the sense of being
contrasted to the ‘traditional’) is related to a psychological notion of
‘imaginative thinking’ and has broad applications in the school context
(NACCCE, 1999; Savage & Fautley, 2007). Within this latter concept,
creativity is defined as imagination successfully manifested in any valued
pursuit. Confusion arises when accounts of the new concept are presented as if
they were characterizations of the traditional one, as for example when we try
to assess young people’s musical products using ‘historical creativity’
criteria. Taking this situation into account, there are issues that need
further consideration. For instance, the term ‘creativity’ and how creativity
might be identified in music classrooms are rarely examined in the literature.
A few studies indicate that teachers of arts subjects usually interpret
creativity and its teaching in personal terms (Fryer, 1996; Fryer &
Collings, 1991), whilst the English National Curriculum devotes a fourth of its
requirements for music to developing ‘creative skills’ in the guise of
composition and improvisation (QCA, 2006b). As such, having a statutory
curriculum does not appear to guarantee a harmonized perception of these
activities in their implementation in schools. Concerns have been raised about
the standards of composition in generalist schools (Odam, 2000) and about the
need for teachers to have more composition and improvisation knowledge if they
are to engage fully with the students’ composing processes (Berkley, 2001;
Pilsbury & Alston, 1996). Other recent research has suggested that the
musical value of improvisation is context and genre sensitive in the lives of
music teachers and musicians. For example, an Economic and Social Research
Council (ESRC) study of postgraduate musicians undertaking a one-year
specialist full-time course to become secondary education music teachers in
England found that they rated the ability to improvise much more highly than
final year undergraduate music students (Hargreaves & Welch, 2003; Welch,
2006). In another example, a recently completed investigation into the nature
of teaching and learning in higher education music studies (the ESRC Teaching
and Learning Research Programme ‘IMP Project’
) has reported differences between classical and
non-classical musicians in their atti-tudes to improvisation, with the latter
(folk, jazz, rock musicians) rating the ability to improvise on their
instrument significantly higher (Creech et al., 2008; Papageorgi & Creech,
2006), not least because of differences in expected performance traditions.In
addition, the term ‘creativity’ is often used in music education statutory
guide-lines in two different ways: (1) describing composition/improvisation
at FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIV on March 26,
Psychology of Music
(2) highlighting the value of creativity as a desirable
‘thinking style’. Examples of this duality are evident in the Curriculum for
Northern Ireland (Department of Education Northern Ireland, 2006), the National
Curriculum for England and Wales (Department for Education and Employment and
QCA, 1999a, 1999b), and the curriculum in Catalonia, Spain (Generalitat de
Catalunya, 1992). In England, it is proposed in the
National Curriculum: Handbook for secondary teachers
(DfEE and QCA, 1999a,
p. 172) that the teaching of music ‘increases self-discipline and creativ-ity’.
Consequently one of the strands of the curriculum’s programmes of study within
all key stages is ‘Creating and developing musical ideas – composing skills’.
Furthermore, the booklet
Music: The National Curriculum for England
(DfEE and QCA, 1999b,
p. 9) provides specific ways in which the teaching of music is believed to
contribute to learning skills across the curriculum, through analysis and
evaluation ‘working creatively, reflectively and spontaneously’. Hence, the
term creativity is sometimes conveyed to mean a thinking style and at other
times to imply activities in composition and/or improvisation.
Burnard, P. (2012) Rethinking
Creative Teaching and Teaching as Research: Mapping the Critical Phases That
Mark Times of Change and Choosing as Learners and Teachers of Music, Theory into
Practice, 51:3, 167-178, Psychology of Music
Craft, A. (2001) ‘Little c creativity’, in: Craft, A.
Jeffrey, B. and Leibling, M. (eds.) Creativity in education, pp. 45-61
Fautley, M. and Savage, J. (2010). Creativity in Secondary Education. Exeter: Learning Matters Ltd.
Gardner, H. (1993). Creating
Minds: An Anatomy of Creativity Seen Through the Lives of Freud, Einstein,
Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Gandhi. New York: Basic Books.
Jeffrey, B. and Craft, A. (2003) Creative teaching and teaching for creativity: distinctions and
relationships. Paper given at the British Educational Research Association
Special Interest Group in Creativity in Education Conference. 3rd February (Milton
Keynes, The Open University)
Odena, O. and Welch, G. (2009) A generative model of teachers’ thinking on musical creativity. Psychology
of Music, 37: 416 originally published online 26 June 2009
Wallas, G. (1926) The art of thought. London: Watts
Woods, P. (1990) Teacher
skills and strategies (London, Falmer)