Teaching the way we learnt: a study in popular music education

Irwin, Mark Stewart (2016) Teaching the way we learnt: a study in popular music education. Doctoral thesis (EdD), University of Sussex.

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Popular music education in the UK, and worldwide, has seen a significant expansion in the last two decades. As this new subject matures, scholars are beginning to fashion a new and more student-centred approach to learning and teaching: drawing on the informal learning practice found in popular music. Green (2006) defined the key characteristics of informal learning: allowing learners to choose the music; learning by listening and copying recordings; learning in friendship groups, with minimum adult guidance; learning in personal, often-haphazard ways; and integrating listening, playing, singing, improvising and composing. Informal musical learning is also facilitated through the use of recording as a technique for reflecting on, and improving one’s own performance. These novel approaches to music education have begun to be applied by music educators, in a diverse range of contexts. Karlsen (2010) has correspondingly linked informal learning with ideas of authenticity, and communities of practice: social networks that provide individuals with access to learning through interaction with experienced ‘old-timers’ as described by Lave and Wenger (1991).

This thesis examines the way that seven musicians, teaching in one private UK Higher Education popular music institution, learnt their craft: firstly as musicians and subsequently as teachers. It asks how the way that these individuals acquired their skills and beliefs might impact on the way that they teach their students, and if this impact might be more effective if teachers were encouraged to reflect on their own learning, using that reflection to research, inform, and modify their own teaching practice. This work is particularly situated in small and medium size group teaching rather than the one to one teaching model found in classical music programmes, or in peripatetic music teaching. Furthermore, my work takes a structural-constructivist approach using the ideas of Bourdieu (1977, 1990a, 1993) as a theoretical lens, and drawing on the constructivist learning theory developed from the principles established by Vygotsky in the 1920’s and 1930’s (1930/1978).1 I argue that a hybrid approach to Bourdieu’s notion of habitus (1990a, p.53) or the dispositions we adopt to the social world is crucial to understanding the way that we become musicians. Moreover, that the situatedness of musical and educational practice and the identity practices of learners and teachers are fundamental to the process of learning as a process of becoming (Lave and Wenger, 1991). Ergo, by recognising this process of learning as situated in social, cultural, historical, and technological contexts we may also facilitate metacognition (Flavell, 1979). By metacognition, I mean the ability to be reflexive2 as a learner or teacher; understanding the way that learning works, our beliefs about learning, and how those beliefs affect one’s own learning and thus agency. Additionally, that notions of authenticity and creativity are vital to the effectiveness of musical learning practices, and the accumulation of social and cultural capital for popular musicians.

My research methods include the use of open ‘semi structured’ interviews (Leech, 2002) alongside observation in the classroom3 to generate empirical data. The primary research presented here is an Action Research Study: enabling the teachers in the study to retrieve their own experience of informal learning in order to facilitate informal learning practice in the music classroom.

I suggest that these individuals recognise the importance of their own experience and are able to utilise, and learn from those experiences in developing approaches that are relevant, creative, and also authentic to their students. What this work also aims to do is establish links between theory and practice, and to identify potential mechanisms for engaging with our students’ entire learning experience, whilst allowing them to understand the social and cultural process of musical learning.

1 This text is a collection of Vygotsky’s work originally published in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
2 Reflexivity is a word used in sociology to describe how much agents are able to recognise the forces of social structure and therefore affect
3 By classroom teaching, I mean small group (10-20 students) and exceptionally, larger group (40-60) teaching, as is the model for delivery at my

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Subjects: M Music. Literature on music. Musical instruction and study > MT Musical instruction and study
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 17 Feb 2016 06:36
Last Modified: 17 Feb 2016 06:36
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/59666

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