Envisioning a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning for the Music Discipline

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For most of us employed in schools, colleges, and departments of music in higher education in the United States, teaching is a matter of intuition. Often we are good teachers; we can be engaging in the studio or classroom, and we can point to our high scores on the end-of-semester evaluations as proof of our excellence. Yet few of us can explain the basis of our teaching practices, nor can we systematically assess their impact on students. While it can be argued that all of us are, to some degree, theorists of teaching, few of us make those theories explicit, available to students and colleagues. Even fewer of us have opened up our teaching theory and practice to the review and critique of our community of professional peers in a manner that might be called scholarly.

There is a growing critical discourse about teaching and learning, both within and across disciplines in higher education. In part a response to public calls for accountability in higher education, the discussion is putting to rest the notion that good teaching is based solely on scholarly insight in one's field. It foregrounds the possibility that all teaching can be documented and investigated, and that even the best teaching can be improved. Boyer's Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate first put the Scholarship of Teaching on the map. He argued:

We believe the time has come to move beyond the tired old "teaching versus research" debate and give the familiar and honorable term "scholarship" a broader, more capacious meaning, one that brings legitimacy to the full scope of academic work. Surely, scholarship means engaging in original research. But the work of the scholar also means stepping back from one's investigation, looking for connections, building bridges between theory and practice, and communicating one's knowledge effectively to students.1

 

Re-visions of Scholarship

In naming the scholarships of discovery, integration, application, and teaching, Boyer was recognizing the full range of work in higher education. He was also calling into question familiar faculty obligations—teaching, research, and service—how they are balanced, evaluated, and rewarded. Specifically regarding the scholarship of teaching, Boyer said:

Teaching is . . . dynamic endeavor involving all the analogies, metaphors, and images that build bridges between the teacher's understanding and the student's learning. Pedagogical procedures must be carefully planned, continuously examined, and relate directly to the subject taught. . . . [Great teachers] stimulate active, not passive learning and encourage students to be critical, creative thinkers with the capacity to go on learning after their college days are over.2

For Boyer, the scholarship of teaching was equivalent to excellent pedagogy. Essentially, he argued that: (a) the characteristics of truly excellent pedagogy mirror other kinds of scholarly endeavor, and (b) the scholarship of teaching was no less rigorous than more traditional scholarship. The release of Scholarship Reconsidered influenced many universities across the United States to re-examine faculty priorities, acknowledge the centrality of teaching in the life of the professor, and make new determinations about how teaching would be accounted for in tenure and promotion processes.

 

Community Property

Several years later, Shulman followed up on Boyer's remarks by making purposeful comparisons between the scholarship of teaching and the more traditional scholarship of discovery. He proposed that teaching could be made more valuable in the academy, first, by making it visible through documentation:

Notice that we don't question this need to document when it comes to more traditional forms of scholarship. We don't judge each other's research on the basis of casual conversations in the hall: we say to our colleagues, "That's a lovely idea! You really must write it up." It may, in fact take two years to write it up. But we accept this because it's clear that scholarship entails an artifact, a product, some form of community property that can be shared, discussed, critiqued, exchanged, built upon.3

Shulman goes on to say that

If something is community property . . . and is thus deemed valuable, this means we have an obligation to judge. We assume, moreover, that our judgments will be enacted within the disciplinary community. . . . Artifacts of teaching must be created and preserved so that they can be judged by communities of peers beyond the office next door.4

Necessary to advancing a scholarship of teaching were strategies for documentation and review. From 1994 to 1998, the American Association for Higher Education conducted a national project called From Idea to Prototype: The Peer Review of Teaching, funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts. This project brought faculty and administrators from several campuses together to generate new strategies for rigorous and disciplinarily appropriate peer review of teaching.5 Both formative and summative strategies were introduced, including collegial observations of teaching, peer colleagues' interviews of students regarding their classroom experiences, and external review of course content.6 The strategy that prompted the most interest was the course portfolio. Cerbin is credited with first conceptualizing the course portfolio:

Thinking about teaching as scholarly inquiry began to lead me in the direction of something I had not seen anyone else doing: a portfolio focused on the course rather than on all of one's teaching. Being a social scientist, I began to think of each course . . . as a kind of laboratory—not as a truly controlled experiment, of course, but as a setting in which you start out with goals for student learning, then you adopt teaching practices that you think will accomplish these, and along the way, you can watch and see if your practices are helping to accomplish your goals, collecting evidence about effects and impact.7

 

Student Learning as the 'Center of Gravity'

The course portfolio has not been the sole means by which the scholarship of teaching is documented and becomes public, but it is an important development because of its focus on student learning as a marker of effective teaching. In a volume dedicated to the course portfolio, Hutchings points out:

Most teaching portfolios contain samples of student work, but the "unit of analysis" is primarily the teacher; that is, the purpose of the portfolio is to give a picture of the individual's teaching effectiveness. In contrast, the course portfolio puts the spotlight on student learning as the organizing principle. . . . The heart of the course portfolio, its center of gravity, is evidence the teacher gathers about students' learning and development.8

A project complementary to the Peer Review of Teaching was the Classroom Research Project, initially established at Harvard and then moved to the University of California, Berkeley in 1988. Grants from the Ford Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts helped develop models of Classroom Research that emphasized student learning and trained more than five thousand college teachers in Classroom Assessment Methods.9 Assumptions underlying Classroom Assessment pertain directly to the scholarship of teaching:

It is in . . . college classrooms across the nation that the fundamental work of higher education—teaching and learning—takes place. If assessment is to improve the quality of student learning, and not just provide greater accountability, both faculty and students must become personally invested and actively involved in the process.10

In 1998, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching introduced the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL). CASTL includes a Higher Education Scholars Program, Teaching Academy Campus Program, and work with scholarly and professional societies. The intersection of these three programs "supports the development of a scholarship of teaching and learning that fosters significant, long-lasting learning for all students; enhances the practice and profession of teaching; and brings to faculty members' work as teachers the recognition and reward afforded to other forms of scholarly work."11 Hutchings and Shulman further explain the CASTL program:

A scholarship of teaching is not synonymous with excellent teaching. It requires a kind of "going meta" in which faculty frame and systematically investigate questions related to student learning—the conditions under which it occurs, what it looks like, how to deepen it, and so forth—and do so with an eye not only to improving their own classroom but to advancing practice beyond it.12

The forgoing discussion makes it clear that, though the vision of bringing recognition and reward to the full range of faculty work in higher education has not been lost, the scholarship of teaching has been redefined over the past decade to become the scholarship of teaching and learning. Boyer's excellent and rigorously developed pedagogy has been transformed into systematic investigation of student learning, made public, subject to critical evaluation, and built upon by a community of scholars.

 

Musicians and the Community of Scholars

Not surprisingly, standards for documentation, review, and support of the scholarship of teaching and learning are developing along disciplinary lines. Huber explains:

CASTL's program is built on the premise that these should be disciplinary communities, in part because of the importance of the disciplines to a scholar's academic identity, and also because teaching is not a generic technique, but a process that comes out of one's view of one's field and what it means to know it deeply.13

But Huber continues by noting that each discipline, in developing a scholarship of teaching and learning, may be able to contribute to a larger effort, and thus

CASTL is also committed to the value of conversation and exchange among the disciplines as a way of building and strengthening the cadre of instructors in and around the academy who are committed to exploring teaching and learning as part of their teaching practice.14

Consider what scholars in the field of management can contribute to an interdisciplinary conversation about the scholarship of teaching and learning. Bilimoria and Fukami propose that

Perhaps more than most disciplines, management is one in which how teachers teach and the tools they use closely mirror important aspects of what they teach about the nature and functioning of the phenomena. . . . Commonly referred to as "classroom-as-organization," we can apply concepts—practice what we preach, in other words—from the core of our discipline directly to our classrooms.15

Howery makes a case for the contributions of sociologists to the dialogue, saying that "sociologists employ research methods across the qualitative/quantitative spectrum and often use multiple methods to best understand a phenomenon . . . Sociologists bring the same tools to the study of teaching and learning."16

What will musicians contribute to the interdisciplinary discourse on the scholarship of teaching and learning? In a school, college, or department of music, students test the accuracy and durability of their understanding in authentic performance on a daily basis. This is true regardless of whether a performance is one on a musical instrument or one of composition or analysis. These tests of understanding in an authentic context may not exist in a chemistry course, for example, where performances may take place in the laboratory, but where testing of understanding is commonly a separate phenomenon that takes place on paper. Other types of courses may not require an authentic performance at all.

Additionally, collegiate level music students test their understanding through performance not just once each day, but several times and in several contexts. Students perform on their instruments in lessons, in chamber ensembles, and in large ensembles; they perform related acts of formal and historical analysis in music theory and history classes. Students consistently have the "living benchmarks" of peers and expert practitioner-professors by which to judge their own performances. Contrast this picture with that of the traditional collegiate writing course. The student in a writing course performs on an individual basis and might be discouraged from reviewing and analyzing the written performances of his peers. Although a professor who is an expert writer may teach the college writing course, the student may seldom have the opportunity to read the professor's works-in-progress.

So, as we begin to trade knowledge across disciplinary borders in developing and supporting the scholarship of teaching and learning, we musicians might contribute our perspective on performances as embodied understanding, as knowledge-in-action. This understanding is flexible, subject to change based on regular feedback from peers and practitioner-professors. In a related vein, the music discipline can offer a model of regular, collaborative reflection on performance by students and professors.

 

Envisioning Scholarship

Given the importance of performance in music, it is reasonable to assume that the scholarship of teaching and learning in the music discipline will look at music teaching through the lens of student performance. In casting disciplinary scholarship in this mold, it is important to remember that scholarship of teaching and learning most often begins locally, in classroom or studio, in a problem of practice. According to Bass, these kinds of problems may be difficult for faculty to acknowledge:

In scholarship and research, having a "problem" is at the heart of the investigative process; it is the compound of the generative questions around which all creative and productive activity revolves. But in one's teaching, a "problem" is something you don't want to have, and if you have one, you probably want to fix it. Asking a colleague about a problem in his or her research is an invitation; asking about a problem in one's teaching would probably seem like an accusation.17

To engage in the scholarship of teaching and learning, music faculty will need to reconstruct the familiar daily activity of teaching and learning in music classrooms and studios as problems worthy of continuing inquiry. Though the following list is not exhaustive, the problems that comprise it are common ones. Exploration of these problems could be significant in advancing the scholarship of teaching and learning in the music discipline:

First, and perhaps most obvious, are problems of practicing. Applied music lessons at the collegiate level are commonly structured so that the professor and student meet on a weekly basis. What happens in between those meetings? What do we know about students' independent practicing? Studies on musical practice exist in music cognition and music education research literature, yet most are concerned with the means by which students develop technical accuracy during instrumental music practice and the strategies they use to prepare for formal performance.18 We might more importantly inquire into the ways in which students develop self-assessment skills and senses of self-efficacy during practice. How do students judge that their interpretations of music are improving, and how do they develop the belief that their performances are worthy of others' attention? Hunter, a United Kingdom Teaching Fellow, is investigating students' self- and peer-assessment of performance as an example of the scholarship of teaching and learning in music.19

Our curricula and pedagogies might benefit as well if we inquired into students' practicing between class meetings for other types of music courses. What do we know about the ways in which students' practice for aural skills, keyboard, music history, music theory, or music education courses? Is a student's conception of music, independently developed in the practice room, rightly called a misconception when the student's ideas conflict with the teacher's ideas? If we knew more about students' practicing, particularly about the intuitive strategies they develop for self-assessment, which aspects of our pedagogy would change?

Related to these problems of practicing are problems of the fixedness of musical understanding with which music students enter the collegiate environment. A documentary entitled A Private Universe,20 featuring interviews with Harvard University seniors illustrates how mental models may be resistant to change, even in well-constructed collegiate courses. Asked by the interviewer, "Why is it warmer in summer than in winter," Harvard seniors are invariably confident in their pre-Copernican views, saying for example, that in the summer the sun is closer to the earth and thus generates more heat. These graduates have been successful in science classes through middle school and high school and have probably been enrolled in science courses as undergraduates, yet they formulate answers to scientific questions with understanding typical of young elementary school students. Do collegiate music majors hold similarly unyielding mental models of music? How can their misunderstandings be identified, and what pedagogical models might help them overcome their misunderstandings?

We must also consider the kinds of knowledge, skills and dispositions college music majors will need to enter the world of work. These are ecological problems. In order to carry out inquiries into music learning ecologies, we might compare the day-to-day activity of professional musicians with the required curriculum for music majors. For example, do most successful professional musicians use entrepreneurial skill? If so, to what extent should entrepreneurship become part of the required curriculum? Do most professional musicians teach as a part of their normal activity? If so, should all collegiate musicians be required to enroll in music education courses? Similarly, how do professional musicians use technology to enhance their performances, and what kinds of new technology might be necessary in the required curriculum? As a Carnegie Scholar in the Pew National Fellowship Program, I have followed this line of inquiry in developing scholarship of teaching and learning.21 Another associated type of investigation, which I hope to pursue, would examine the lives of non-music majors who actively participate in community music making endeavors upon graduation. Do these adults credit any collegiate courses or activities for their preparation for active participation in and support of the arts? Might such enriching experiences be made available for all college students?

Finally, we must investigate problems of access. The central questions of access are these: Do all collegiate students have opportunity for high quality music study and participation in music ensembles? What are the barriers that might prevent some students from participation? Recent statistics indicate that 10.4 million students are enrolled in two-year collegiate institutions, including 44% of all undergraduates, 46% of black undergraduates, 55% of Hispanic undergraduates, and 55% of Native American undergraduates.22 Given this diversity, are music courses and ensembles in two-year institutions not only of high quality, but also culturally relevant? How is music instruction made available to part-time, commuting college students? Are articulation agreements between two-year and four-year institutions being formed in such a way that students can continue their music study without interruption? These problems are vast and multi-layered, and they especially concern students who transfer from two-year institutions to four-year institutions as music majors and who often bear added tuition costs because they are required to enroll in "remedial" courses upon transfer. The problems also pertain to Music in General Studies curricula. To what extent might particular student groups feel excluded from music study because of curricular content? In a powerful example of the scholarship of teaching and learning, Barkley, a Carnegie Scholar in the Pew National Fellowship program, examined enrollment trends in a Music in General Studies course. She subsequently adjusted both course content and means of course delivery, and showed not only a significant increase in enrollment but also greater diversity in the course population.23

 

Methodology

Rendering as problematic the familiar transactions between professors' teaching and students' performance is only a first step in advancing a scholarship of teaching and learning in music. We must also identify appropriate methodologies by which to gather evidence, report findings, and take action. In a classical model, researchers discover cause and effect relationships through the experimental method, isolating and precisely manipulating the variables. Based on that research, practitioners are then advised about an appropriate course of action. This model presents a double set of challenges for the scholar of teaching and learning: First, no hierarchy of researcher and practitioner exists in the scholarship of teaching and learning; rather, the faculty member is simultaneously scholar and teaching practitioner in her own classroom or studio. Furthermore, as psychologists Nummedal, Benson, and Chew caution, "investigations conducted in the classroom environment seldom permit the methodological rigor necessary to actually rule out alternative explanations."24

What seems necessary, especially while the scholarship of teaching and learning is still being invented, are interpretive methodologies. These rely on rich descriptions of classroom and studio contexts, teaching strategies, and student performance, allowing theories of teaching and learning to emerge. Interpretations require appraisals of quality by scholars who can pay attention to the particulars of a classroom or studio, who are immersed in the daily circumstances of teaching and learning. Useful and trustworthy interpretations are most often built up over time, as scholars consider multiple sources of data including course syllabi, student papers, video of student performances, interviews with students and colleagues, and detailed observations; and then they reconsider the myriad of ways in which these data might be related. Geertz reminds us that "a good interpretation of anything—a poem, a person, a history, a ritual, an institution, a society—takes us into the heart of that of which it is the interpretation."25 Multiple interpretations of a single phenomenon are possible, of course, and differing interpretations may be equally illuminating. This ought not to be regarded as a liability of interpretive methodologies; in fact, it may be their highest good as we try to expand our understanding of the complex relationships between our teaching and our students' performance, and moreover, as we begin to share our scholarship across disciplinary boundaries.

 

Conclusions

Scholarship of teaching and learning, especially while it is at an early stage of development in the music discipline, will probably resemble stories. These stories will give rich descriptions of the present, and build theories that ought to help us anticipate the future of teaching and learning in higher education. A story cannot be an absolute predictor, but it might function as a guide:

[Guides] are typically prepared by people who have visited a place before and know a great deal about it. If the guide is useful, we are likely to experience what we otherwise might have missed, and we may understand more than we would have without benefit of the guide. The good guide deepens and broadens our experience and helps us understand what we are looking at.26

Where might the stories make their greatest impact? One possibility is that this scholarship may find a place in doctoral-level college music teaching or pedagogy courses. For those doctoral students who are unwilling merely to teach as they have been taught, a scholarship of teaching and learning would open up possibilities for systematically observing and questioning contemporary curriculum and pedagogy and building new practices in light of collected evidence. Another possibility, especially on smaller campuses, is that a few faculty from each department could become scholars of teaching and learning and make connections across disciplines in an institutionally-sponsored teaching academy. In the teaching academy, a music faculty member would need to be keenly aware of the distinctive circumstances of the discipline, what it might contribute to, and draw from, a larger effort. Still a third possibility is that the scholarship of teaching and learning will advance as it is shared between institutions, where scholars from different campuses explore similar questions and compile their findings. An inter-institutional effort in music would undoubtedly benefit from the active sponsorship of a scholarly society.

Certainly, the scholarship of teaching and learning will be made even more compelling if it is manifested in all three ways. Supporting current scholars, while at the same time inducting new scholars and engaging in cross-disciplinary dialogue, would be a powerful demonstration of music faculty members' investment in teaching as a creative and intellectual pursuit, comparable to their investments in other types of performance and research. Moreover, a dynamic scholarship of teaching and learning in the music discipline would illuminate other types of performance and research, and thus ensure the vitality of our art.


1Ernest L. Boyer, Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate (The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1990), 16.

2Ibid., 23-24.

3Lee S. Shulman, "Teaching as Community Property: Putting an End to Pedagogical Solitude," Change 25 no. 6 (November/December, 1993): 6-7.

4Ibid.

5See American Association for Higher Education, Bulletin (November, 1994).

6See Innovative Higher Education 20 no. 4 (Summer, 1996).

7William Cerbin, "Inventing a New Genre: The Course Portfolio at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse," in Making Teaching Community Property: A Menu for Peer Collaboration and Peer Review, ed. Pat Hutchings (Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education, 1996), 53.

8Pat Hutchings, "Defining Features and Significant Functions of the Course Portfolio," in The Course Portfolio: How Faculty Can Examine Their Teaching to Advance Practice and Improve Student Learning, ed. Pat Hutchings (Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education, 1998), 14.

9Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross, Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers, 2nd edition (San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 1993), xiv-xv.

10Ibid.

11Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, "Information Program" (Menlo Park, CA: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1999).

12Pat Hutchings and Lee S. Shulman, "The Scholarship of Teaching: New Elaborations, New Developments," Change 31 no. 5 (September/October, 1999): 12-13.

13Mary Taylor Huber, "Disciplinary Styles in the Scholarship of Teaching: Reflections on The Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning," in Disciplinary Styles in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Exploring Common Ground, ed. Mary Taylor Huber and Sherwin P. Morreale (Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education, 2002), 27.

14Ibid.

15Diana Bilimoria and Cynthia Fukami, "The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in the Management Sciences: Disciplinary Style and Content," in Disciplinary Styles in the Scholarship of Teaching: Exploring Common Ground, ed. Mary Taylor Huber and Sherwin P. Morreale (Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education, 2002), 129.

16Carla B. Howery, "The Culture of Teaching in Sociology," in Disciplinary Styles in the Scholarship of Teaching: Exploring Common Ground, ed. Mary Taylor Huber and Sherwin P. Morreale (Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education, 2002), 150.

17Randy Bass, "The Scholarship of Teaching: What's the Problem?" Inventio: Creative Thinking about Learning and Teaching 1 no. 1; available from http:www.doit.gmu.edu/Archives/feb98/randybass.htm; Internet.

18For reviews of research on practicing, see Susan Hallam, "What Do We Know About Practising? Toward a Model of Synthesising the Research Literature," in Does Practice Make Perfect? Current Theory and Research on Instrumental Music Practice, ed. Harald Jorgensen and Andreas C. Lehmann (Oslo: The Norwegian State Academy of Music, 1997); and Nancy H. Barry and Susan Hallam, "Practice," in The Science and Psychology of Music Performance: Creative Strategies for Teaching and Learning, ed. Richard Parncutt and Gary E. McPherson (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).

19See Desmond Hunter, "Developing peer-learning programmes in music group presentations and peer assessment," British Journal of Music Education 16 (1999): 51-63; and Desmond Hunter and Michael Russ, Peer Learning in Music (University of Ulster, 2000).

20A Private Universe, Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (Distributed by the Annenberg/CPB Project, Washington, DC, and by Anker Publishing Co.: Bolton, MA, 1987), video.

21See Susan Wharton Conkling and David Beauchesne, "Can the Curricula of Conservatories and Colleges of Music Prepare Students for the Challenges of the 21st Century?" in The Professional Musician in a Global Society, ed. Inok Paek (Malmo, Sweden: Lund University Press, in press).

22See Kent A. Phillippe, National Profile of Community Colleges: Trends and Statistics, 3rd edition (Washington, DC: American Association of Community Colleges, 2000).

23See Elizabeth F. Barkley, "From Bach to Tupac: Using an Electronic Course Portfolio to Analyze a Curricular Transformation," AAHE Bulletin 53 (10): 3-6.

24Susan G. Nummedal, Janette B. Benson, and Stephen L. Chew, "Disciplinary Styles in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: A View from Psychology," in Disciplinary Styles in the Scholarship of Teaching: Exploring Common Ground, ed. Mary Taylor Huber and Sherwin P. Morreale (Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education, 2002), 169.

25Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures (New York: Basic Books, 1973), 60.

26Elliot W. Eisner, The Enlightened Eye: Qualitative Inquiry and the Enhancement of Educational Practice (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1998), 59.

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Susan W. Conkling

Susan Wharton Conkling is Professor and Chair of Music Education at Boston University. She has led efforts to develop a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in the field of music, beginning with a Carnegie Fellowship in 1999. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in choral conducting, methods, and curriculum, and she has designed and implemented courses to prepare DMA candidates for their roles in higher education. She is also well-known for her efforts to create professional development partnerships between public schools and collegiate schools of music. Conkling has served the profession as a board member of the American Choral Directors Association, the International Society for Music Education’s Commission on the Education of the Professional Musician, and the Society for Music Teacher Education. She currently serves the College Music Society as its Music Education board member.

 

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