This pilot study investigated andragogical principles adopted by music technology educators working with non-traditional students (NTM’s) using technology. Andragogical methodologies respect the prior lived experience of adults and establish a collaborative relationship between teacher and student. A modified, 51-question Principles of Adult Learning Scale (PALS) survey was administered online to music educators (N = 53). Respondents were organized into two groups including higher education (n = 41) and Other (online, K-12, and community educators, n = 12). Results showed that there were significant differences among university educators on 16 out of the 51 PALS questions and significant differences between the university educator group and the Other group on four out of the 51 PALS questions. PALS data revealed that there was a relationship between the andragogical concepts adopted by music technology educators and increased use of technology by adult learners. Implications for music technology and adult learning are discussed along with recommendations for future research.
Music-making happens in varying stages of life, and such activities occur both in and outside of formal environments. As a person ages and life circumstances change, the opportunities to participate in a music-making environment evolve. Music-making, also, is a broadly defined concept, replete with possibilities. Welch and McPherson (2018) write that “‘[making] sense’ of the auditory stimuli that are customarily available to the individual within a particular musical culture” (p. 3-4). As a music educator and researcher in higher education, I am curious about how people’s desires to make music (in whatever capacity) evolve over the course of time.
My perspectives as an educator, composer, multimedia producer, and performer have been informed by a personal desire to better understand how to use music notation software, digital audio workstations (DAWs), audiovisual equipment and technology, and specialized computer programs (i.e., Max/MSP) utilized for creative purposes. Over the years, as my life circumstances and desires to learn progressed, I started to wonder how other adults acquired the skills needed to use various kinds of music technology to be expressive, and feasibly for personal and professional reasons. I wondered how adults started to learn new technologies, and whether or not certain ways of teaching might make that process easier. I sought to understand how adults use any kind of music technology. And, since my experience primarily focuses on working in colleges and universities, I gradually wondered how adult musicians acquired the skills needed to use technology to compose, record, edit, arrange, and produce musical ideas of all kinds. In my case, I pursued additional graduate credentials, certificates, and professional development opportunities to better facilitate my connection with music technology. I realize not everyone has that same opportunity or inclination.
As I connected with music technology and found it to be exciting and engaging, I wondered if there were other adults that shared the same desires, but for whatever reason felt like they could not engage with notation and music production software in the ways they hoped. Considering a variety of factors including age, previous musical and technological experience, socioeconomic status, gender, access and location, if the opportunity to learn did exist, could a particular teaching approach be helpful in connecting the adults to music technology and vice versa? One way of beginning the research process examines what constitutes “adult” and, perhaps, “non-traditional”.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) takes a cautious approach in defining a non-traditional student as someone who does not enroll immediately in college after high-school (“Definitions and Data” 2019). Again, there are many reasons why this could happen, and this article cannot account for all of those possibilities. For music educators, what remains clear is that musical activities happen both inside and outside of formal educational settings.1For simplicity’s sake, I consider such environments to be generally associated with pursuing a credential in music. To be clear, music education comes in all types and formats, and those with an interest in music technology need not be enrolled in a program to learn. As a person ages, their connection and access to experts in music technology may change as well. Here, I think about a person who might have learned an instrument growing up, or participated in an ensemble of some kind, and now finds themselves wanting to learn about music technology without pursuing a formal credential. Examples of this include taking private lessons, exploring web tutorials, and purchasing books for self-paced learning.
Whereas adult education once informed much of the pedagogical discourse on musical practice with non-traditional participants, recent trends have moved away from that model to include the sociocultural aspects of lifelong learning (Mantie 2012). Correspondingly, recent scholarship has identified a growing and expansive interest in how music and recreation inform one another across age groups and cultures (Mantie and Smith 2016). Indeed, as more edited collections examine the practical and philosophical ramifications of music making, a review of the literature reveals a lack of quantitative research on when musicians become “adult” musicians actively using music technology.
The lack of quantitative data on how adults informally learn to use different technologies to facilitate music creativity is the result two issues. First, music education research on andragogy tends to emphasize performance and social interaction. Second, the texts on music technology and teaching typically focus on pedagogy in K-12 and university settings. Likewise, the abundance of how-to texts appeal to music educators with access to specific kinds of technology suitable for classroom use. The market is replete with software, audiovisual technologies, and books designed to help educators facilitate their teaching. A cursory look at the corporate sponsors of major music education conferences reveals a plethora of companies offering new products for teachers. A National Association for Music Education (NAfME) blog post from 2017 suggests there is a growing interest in preparing all kinds of music educators to work with students in technical and media-centered areas (NAfME: “Music Technology” 2017). The pilot study presented here considered the adult student’s confidence in using various forms of music and media technology for creative and learning purposes based on how music technology educators incorporate andragogical teaching methods in the classroom and elsewhere. Likewise, the pilot study aimed to shed light on how music educators might better serve this in-between population of adult students: those persons with a demonstrable interest in music technology who may or may not take lessons or perform in ensembles and community groups.
Music Technology and Its Relevance to Adult Learners
Music technology refers to a wide assortment of electronic and computer-based tools including computers, hardware, music recording and notation software, keyboards and drum machines, electronic and amplified instruments of all kinds, cables and speakers, audio-visual equipment, media capable of playback, mobile devices, and custom-made instruments and technologies (Manzo 2016; Hosken 2015; Williams and Webster 2008). Brown (2015 p. xiii) notes: “the technologies of our time—electronic and digital devices and the infrastructure they employ—can enhance music making, learning and teaching.”
Brown’s (2015) definition of music technology suggests that anyone with access to certain tools can learn to use those items for musical purposes and teach others to follow suit (Brown 2015). Educators may be encouraged by this revelation, which suggests that with care, aspiring learners of all ages can use music technology for learning and creative purposes.
In NAfME’s (2017) view, music education must consider the role of technology and how it will prepare students to enter technical fields like audio recording and digital media later in life (“Music Technology”, n.p.). These are admirable goals for those pursuing a formal credential. As expressed earlier, not everyone pursues music at the undergraduate level, or even in an academic setting. As one ages, and life circumstances change, learning about music technology may not be for professional advancement or preparation for a new career. It is entirely possible that someone may choose to learn about new technologies for their personal enjoyment. Therefore, while the NAfME perspective is applicable, valuable, and germane for undergraduates, some broader perspective is necessary to understand the merits of learning music technology for learners outside the realm of young adulthood and majoring in music. Not all future musicians pursue technical careers. Also, older students with varied life experiences, specialized needs, and an interest in music technology, remain overlooked. Andragogy, as an educational theory and teaching model, may help music technology educators to connect with older students.
Andragogy was an educational concept pioneered by Malcolm Knowles in the late 1960s. Knowles emphasized that teaching adults is a specialized field, worthy of fostering distinct skill sets from those of pedagogy, which concentrates exclusively on children (Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner 2007; Dabback 2005; Knowles 1990). Knowles valued adult learners’ ability to acquire experience and practical skills that suit their needs and improve weak areas through proper learning exercises (Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner 2007; Knowles 1990; Knowles 1975).
Knowles' theories frame adults as mature individuals with the ability to identify their deficiencies through problem-centered learning objectives (Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner 2007; Knowles 1990). Adult learners with existing knowledge in a subject area want to expand their personal and professional lives in a respectful and collaborative learning environment (Knowles and Holton, 2011). Andragogical methodologies imply that adults understand the changing dynamics of their personal needs—adjusting their self-guided interests towards the areas that have a positive influence on their learning and prioritizing their efforts towards measurable outcomes (Knowles 1990). Self-regulation, or defining one’s personal motivations and methods for maximizing learning, is essential in andragogical practice and particularly useful for adult musicians (Bugos 2014; Dabback 2005). Knowles' andragogical theories suggest that adults seek information that positively influences their circumstances after the learning process concludes (Knowles and Holton 2011; Knowles 1990). The andragogical method presents teachers and adult students more as collaborators where the learner can diagnose his or her deficiencies and become autonomous in acquiring new skills.
Andragogy and Music Technology in Education
How might andragogy apply to using technology for creative music making? With supportive guidance from a teacher or facilitator, an adult student may decide to learn to use notation software to compose an original song with lyrics. Such an example might happen in a private lesson, using online tutorials, or in a community or church music setting. What is important is that the adult has a desire to create something original, and to use a specific kind of music technology to accomplish that task.
Existing literature on the direct relationship between andragogy and music technology has slowly expanded over the past decade, concluding that there are numerous social and cognitive benefits for older adults participating in a musical activity (Mitak, 2012; Stringham & Ackerman, 2012; Farmer, 2013). Webster’s reports for the Journal of Music, Technology & Education (2012), and the Music Educators Journal (2016), respectively, urge researchers to examine the influence of gender and equality, two critical factors affecting one’s connection with music technology. While such review articles provide crucial information, they lack data on the link between andragogy and music technology.2Any discussion of music technology texts must consider that new volumes, compendiums, and resources come out each year. The point is that these books do not address the relationship between older students and music technology specifically. As the empirical data with adult students and theoretical structures informing music technology education intersect and expand, the likelihood of stronger connections between music technology and adult learning increases.
The Principles of Adult Learning Scale (PALS)
After recognizing the virtues of a cooperative mentorship approach drawn from andragogical methods, Conti (1982) sought to develop a valid quantitative instrument to test the depth of a collaborative model in adult learning settings. After creating and deploying the tool, results indicated that Conti’s (1982) Principles of Adult Learning Scale (PALS), a 44-question survey, proved statistically reliable and germane for researchers and practitioners in adult education for its ease of use and empirical consistency.
Additionally, Conti’s studies (1985a; 1985b) illustrate that the PALS instrument, coupled with appropriately situational teaching focused on adult learners, reliably shows improved academic performance, shared learning models, increased efficacy, and potential to transfer this approach to other academic disciplines. Cohen’s (1995) inquiry supports this premise and calls on facilitators to use a similar instrument to evaluate their capabilities to guide and mentor adult learners personally. There exist no recent empirical studies in music technology education connecting adult learning principles with music and media technology. The purpose of the present study was twofold: a) to provide quantitative data connecting music technology and adult learning, and b) determine if there is a relationship between andragogical teaching principles and increased learning of technology.
After reviewing the literature and choosing a quantitative survey instrument, the following two research questions aimed to examine the relationship between teachers’ use of adult learning principles and increased use of computer and media technology among older students using music technology both formally and informally.
Q1: Among music technology educators, is there a difference in the use of adult learning principles for adult learners using computer and media technology?
Q2: Is there a relationship in the use of adult learning principles and the non-traditional music learner’s ability to use computer and media technology in different settings?
PALS, in its original form, did not measure learning approaches in musical settings. Results from the survey concentrated on broad adult learning principles, rather than on the specific technologies used for creative music making and learning. Additionally, the varied sample groups intended to provide baseline data sufficient for a pilot study and exploratory research in music technology education. Considering these issues, and the instrument’s limitations, the research aimed to capture a preliminary understanding of how music technology educators might connect with adult students.
PALS Research Design and Sampling Procedure
To correctly assess technology-focused adult learning concepts for non-traditional students among different types of music technology educators, a pilot study was designed and incorporated Conti’s (2011) online version of the PALS survey. Wright (2005) surmises that when deployed prudently, online surveys offer certain advantages by removing geographic constraints, affordability, and robust data collection options. Conversely, Internet-based surveys pose challenges to researchers regarding validity, assessment, and rollout (Wright 2005). Reflecting on these pros and cons, and since no recent quantitative studies in music technology education examine the variances in adult learning, this pilot study administered a modified version of Conti’s (2011) online survey, which provided a baseline framework to generate empirical data.
The original PALS survey queries educators that specialize in working with adult learners on a broad range of issues relating to learning styles, classroom and time management, sociocultural values and themes, prior knowledge base, assessment, and various teaching philosophies (Conti 2011). Each question requires the teacher to select among seven choices including Always, Almost Always, Often, Seldom, Almost Never, Never, and N/A (Conti 2011).3An online version of the PALS survey can be accessed at http://www.conti-creations.com/pals.htm. The author received permission from the survey’s creator to deploy and modify as needed. Additionally, the author received IRB approval to administer the instrument while pursuing doctoral studies in 2017.
Beyond the existing PALS instrument, the pilot study included a series of foundational questions4Supplemental questions can be found in the Appendix B. designed to evaluate the respondent’s familiarity with essential music and media technology concepts. Keeping in mind that music technology is very broad—and that this was the study to deploy PALS in music technology education, the additional questions were designed to appeal to a wide base of respondents with varying levels of interaction with technology. The supplemental questions also helped to organize data across three or more levels of instruction including Higher Education, Community Education, and E-Learning/Non-Traditional. Since the PALS survey examines adult-learning concepts more generally, the additional questions helped to concentrate the pilot study on matters relating to music, media, and computer technology among non-traditional learners. Thus, both parts worked in concert, providing initial quantitative data for analysis.
Respondents in the Study
Survey respondents included music technology educators from seven professional organizations and various special interest groups related to the performing arts. Of the sample, 77 percent were college teachers. Participants included college teachers, instructors in community programs, and music technology practitioners currently working with adults in an assortment of classroom, laboratory, and distance-based settings. Regarding the sample, the pilot study concentrated on educators most likely involved with professional organizations pertaining to music technology disciplines.
Correspondingly, links to the online survey were dispensed to sundry professional lists and social media groups pertaining to music technology education including the Audio Engineering Society (AES), the Association for Technology in Music Instruction (ATMI), Technology Institute for Music Educators (TI:ME), Association for the Study of the Art of Record Production (ASARP), Association for Popular Music Education (APME), Joint Audio Media Education Support (JAMES), and from various special interest groups of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). Although there is no definitive music technology organization for educators, these groups explore pedagogical issues in music technology and appeal to industry representatives and practitioners. Furthermore, in recent years, the author has had some interest and/or involvement with each of the organizations in the sample. Without a prior study to emulate, this project instead concentrated on reaching a versatile cross-section of music technology educators working in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The online version of Conti’s (2011) 44-question PALS instrument is identical to his original paper survey. None of the original 44 questions were changed for this pilot study. The only modifications consisted of the additional demographic questions pertaining to music and media technology. Embedded in the modified survey was an IRB-approved informed consent page informing participants about the scope of the pilot study, confidentiality agreement, any potential risks for participating in the survey, and an option to skip over any questions in the PALS instrument. Along with the informed consent, the opening page contained simple directions for respondents on how to answer each question.
For the first research question, conducting a series of paired samples t-tests looked for significance in the responses to the modified PALS survey questions among music technology educators (n = 41) working primarily with adults using technology in higher education settings. Accordingly, running independent samples t-tests looked for statistical significance in the responses to the questionnaire among the remaining music technology educators (n = 12) working with non-traditional learners online and in community programs. For the second research question, regression tests aimed to determine the relationship, if any, that exists in the adult learning theories employed by higher education professionals versus those incorporated by community and online educators.
Fifty-three music technology educators responded to the modified PALS survey and the answers were scored and organized on a categorical scale as follows: 0 = Never/Not Applicable/Skipped Question, 1 = Almost Never, 2 = Seldom, 3 = Often, 4 = Almost Always, 5 = Always. Accordingly, participant demographics were categorized using a scale of: 1 = K-12 Educator, 2 = College Educator, 3 = Community Educator, and 4 = Online/Internet Educator. Educators were organized into two groups: Higher Education and Other.
The first research question examined possible differences in the use of adult learning principles for non-traditional learners using miscellaneous technologies among music technology educators. A series of paired sample t-tests determined there were significant differences among university educators on 16 out of the 51 PALS questions. Subsequent independent sample t-tests revealed there were significant differences between the university educator group and the remaining group of community and online educators on four out of the 51 PALS questions.
Research Question One: Among music technology educators, is there a difference in the use of adult learning principles for adult learners using computer and media technology?
A paired sample t-test revealed statistically significant data from 16 of the 51 PALS answers from college educators (n = 41) working with adult learners.
Table 1: Paired Samples t-tests with Significance
2 & 6
t  = 4.20, p < .001
3 & 6
t  = 4.982, p < .001
3 & 7
t  = 2.5, p < .01
4 & 6
t  = 2.16, p < .05
5 & 6
t  = 4.02, p < .001
6 & 7
t  = 3.27, p < .01
8 & 7
t  = 6.81, p < .001
10 & 7
t  = 5.64, p < .001
12 & 6
t  = 2.97, p < .01
22 & 7
t  = 3.59, p < .001
24 & 6
t  = 3.86, p < .001
31 & 7
t  = 2.07, p < .05
42 & 7
t  = 3.74, p < .001
43 & 7
t  = 1.97, p < .05
46 & 7
t  = 3.77, p < .001
49 & 7
t  = 2.97, p < .01
Table 2: Independent Samples t-tests with Significance
t  = 2.23, p < .05
t  = 1.97, p < .05
t  = 1.99, p < .05
t  = 2.53, p < .05
Research Question Two: Is there a relationship in the use of adult learning principles and the non-traditional music learner’s ability to use computer and media technology in different settings?
For the second research question, a regression test revealed there to be a significant relationship between how university educators encourage adults to diagnose their learning problems versus those teachers working with adults in informal and non-educational settings. Respectively, subsequent regression tests showed there is a significant relationship between how university educators connect their subject matter to everyday life versus those teachers working with adults in informal and non-educational settings including community programs and online.
Table 3: Regression Tests with Significance
r = .597, F [1,10] = 5.55, p < .05, d = .55
#46 5The original PALS survey had 44 questions. The seven additional questions developed for this study brought the total to 51. Question #46 is the second question from the modified questionnaire. Keeping the numbers sequential ensured for consistency when running the regressions and presenting data.
r = .63, F [1,10] = 6.59, p < .05, d = .66
Results from the paired samples t-tests revealed statistically significant differences in how often university music technology educators a) worked with adult students and b) how often they showed students how to use various types of technology and media versus teachers working in community and online settings. Results suggested when university music educators thoughtfully introduce technology into learning environments by allowing for extra time for processing, adult students were likely to use such tools. Additionally, teachers that guided adult students towards collaborative and autonomous learning also provided beneficial. One response from the open-ended question at the end of the PALS survey supported this result as well. The respondent wrote: “I teach courses in creative technology, in which personal and social experiences play an important role [which] makes it essential to integrate technology, and instructional strategies such as differentiation, continuous assessment, and critical thinking.” Instructors that expressed sensitivity to learners with physical limitations seemed to remain cognizant of the role music technology, in particular, played with various students. One respondent offered this summation:
“We use accessible music technology as we are a music school serving visually impaired and blind students. The instruction is fully individualized according to the vision status as well as musical level. Our goal is literacy so we emphasize braille and large print as opposed to audio only. Nevertheless students at every musical level thrive no matter what their technological capacity. We use computer technology in some way with everyone (130 students).”
Results from the paired samples t-tests illustrated that when university music technology educators a) encouraged self-directed/self-paced learning, b) provided adults adequate time to complete certain tasks, c) provided differentiated instruction when appropriate, and d) took into account an adult’s lifelong learning motivation, the likelihood of confident use of technology increased in adult populations.
Though university educators comprised the largest group in the respondent sample, three statistically significant differences occurred when measuring how college teachers worked with adults versus their colleagues in the community and online settings. Results from the independent samples t-test showed that some differences exist in how both groups of educators perceive and address prior knowledge, self-paced learning, and lifelong learning as a motivational tool for non-traditional students. The respondent sample from the Other group was undoubtedly smaller (n = 12), which may explain some of the differences in instructional approach. For some community and online educators, little may be known about any given cohort enrolled in courses. Moreover, for the one respondent working in K-12, adult learning theories likely have little application in daily practice, as may be the case with some of the respondents in the Other group, who skipped some issues or felt some of the questions were not applicable to their situation.
The second research question asked if a relationship exists between the use of adult learning principles and the non-traditional music learner’s ability to use computer and media technology. A regression test showed there was a significant relationship between how university educators guide adults to identify their learning problems versus those teachers working with adults in the community and online settings. Additional regression tests revealed there was a significant relationship between how university educators connect adult learning to everyday life versus those teachers working with adults in other venues.
Limitations of the Study
The modified PALS instrument used in this pilot study, along with the sample population, do produce some limitations in the dataset. First, PALS was not originally conceived to address adult learning in music education. Therefore, its applicability and influence must be with some nuanced perspective. The instrument did not stipulate what age constitutes an “adult learner” and this is particularly important in musical settings. The survey did not explore issues related to playing, composing, arranging, or listening to music, nor did it stipulate what kind of media a learner might use. The questionnaire did not explore the social aspects of music-making either. The original PALS questionnaire was valid and reliable. Nevertheless, the additional demographic questions were not tested for validity and reliability.
The study’s limited sample and specific breakdown of demographic information certainly presented some limitations in the data. A case can also be made that trying to survey music technology educators presents too narrow a sample and is thus a flaw in the pilot study’s design. On the other hand, the lack of empirical data examining music technology education and andragogy suggests that initial surveys like PALS will likely produce modest results that may be helpful for educators. Though the data are not generalizable for all music educators, the open-ended responses and statistical data offer some insights about the validity of considering andragogical approach in music technology education.
What is clear is that the statistically significant results presented in this study offer a general overview of the possible correlation between andragogical teaching methods, particularly among university educators, and how confidently adult students assimilate music, media, and computer technology. The data suggest that a collaborative learning environment between the teacher and the student, patient and supportive instruction, and allowing for modification of tasks equip older learners with the space they need while respecting their prior knowledge. As older students build confidence, assimilate content, and apply their learning for specific goals, they become more independent and autonomous.
Some responses from the survey’s last open-ended question present additional challenges as 77 per cent of the participants work in higher education. The questionnaire emphasizes educators that a) work with adults and b) focus on some facet of technology. An open-ended response reveals some insights:
“All my adult students are individual and via Skype, so many of the answers above will be N/A (such as competition, as there is none). My teaching has always been wide-ranging, even when I taught K-6 music 20 years ago.”
Another limitation in the modified PALS survey concerns how to best identify the age of adult students. At what point the student becomes “non-traditional” is not defined clearly. Some of the free-responses shed some light on this challenge:
“It was unclear in the introductory material if you are interested in how adult learning strategies are applied for graduate or undergraduate students. Although my undergraduate students are technically adults numerically, they are not so much so emotionally or even cognitively. They haven't been ‘out in the world’ to understand what being an adult is. They have different motivations and ideals than my graduate students. As one who has done research in the area of andragogy, I know that much of the theory addresses the adult learner who has worked in the world and come back to school for a purpose. That said, I approached your survey with my adult learners (grad students) in mind rather than my 19-22 year olds. The other thing that tints my responses is that I am teaching music educators. So many of the things in the survey do not really apply to my classroom contexts at the graduate level. I do not structure my courses in units, per se. All of the learning experiences that I craft for students (all levels in higher ed) are designed for students to meet the course learning outcomes rather than objectives for any given class period as in PK-12. Another issue is that we are an Apple campus, so technology is pervasive and expected. Laptops, iPads, and smartphones are used all the time. In every group of students, I have more and less tech-savvy students, but it's a team effort to learn new applications and tools.”
This response expresses that the PALS survey, though relevant on many levels, does not take into account that the vast majority of students enrolled in music technology courses are younger adults. Another respondent echoed this sentiment:
“My major issue with many of the questions here is that often I have adult learners mixed in with traditional 18-22 year old college students, and I cannot teach specifically to the adult learners, who often only make up a small percentage of the class. Additionally, because I am an adjunct instructor, I cannot fulfill many of my ideal pedagogical goals, such as meeting with students individually or tailoring instruction to individual students, because I am not compensated for that kind of work.”
Perhaps, then, at least on the undergraduate level, the vast majority of students likely have some fluency with technology and one challenge for contingent faculty members is that they have neither the resources nor the training to work closely with older students.
The modified questionnaire introduces some aspects of music, media, and computer technology in the first few questions. Even so, the survey cannot account for the nearly limitless options of technology that adults might come across in their learning path. Similarly, while PALS broadly examines andragogical principles, it is not specific to any one discipline related to music and audio education. As such, results must be viewed with some caution. One responded offered some perspective:
“The problem with my undergraduates and technology seems to be that they come to rely too heavily on it. My composition students struggle to write away from the computer. Rather than working with pencil and paper, sketching, or other tactile forms of creation, they often prefer going straight into Finale. I find this problematic for several reasons, chiefly my belief that over-reliance on MIDI feedback limits a student's creativity and exploration. I'm grateful for my students' fluency with tech, because it makes it easy to implement just about any tech tool in the classroom - the trouble is getting them to be open-minded without it.”
Again, this response offers precise input concerning music notation software and technology. The respondent mentions that his or her students have difficulty getting away from using computer-related software to complete specific tasks. The question then becomes if older students have similar challenges.
Future Implications and Recommendations
The modified PALS questionnaire used in this pilot study produced data that should be viewed with some caution. Music teaching and learning, with or without technology, is not simple and cannot be generalized across every age group. Though this project produced statistically significant results, the open-ended responses reveal a need for more targeted research with specialized groups of teachers either working with adults over the age of 25, or perhaps with teenagers in secondary schools. As a first good-faith effort to generate empirical data, and broaden the scope of andragogy in music technology education, the modified questionnaire served a useful, exploratory purpose. And while limited, and perhaps antiquated in its scope, PALS is generally reliable and could be modified further to achieve a more comprehensive mission in future scholarship. A potential follow-up study with expanded and revised methodologies must be revised across several areas as noted below.
Recommendation #1: A deeper investigation of assessment and qualitative methods.
First, the original PALS instrument did not consider music-specific teaching or performing contexts, much less how such activities are supported by technology. Equally critical to the current study’s limitations is the fact that the supplemental questions did not consider the many types of learning settings, both in-school and out-of-school, formal and informal, and the specific ages of adult students. Similarly, neither the original 44-question survey nor the new questions provide much detail about music and media-specific assessments. Without creative output and field observation data to analyze, one cannot track the progression of adult learning or test the effectiveness of a particular andragogical method used by a teacher over time. While the pilot study described here incorporated quantitative and qualitative data, future research must consider a wider sample population and the possibility of conducting semi-structured interviews and using participant observation.
Recommendation #2: A closer evaluation of creativity and andragogy.
The research questions in this study did not specify a particular kind of creative practice with music and media technology. The modified questionnaire and open-ended responses sought only to understand how educators might use andragogical concepts to inform their teaching. Issues on creativity, artistry, technological fluency, and expertise were not specifically addressed. Therefore, a revised methodology ought to consider the role of creativity and how it is fostered among adult learners using technology. Equally important is a set of research questions that allows the teacher and the student to examine their collaborative relationship, and how such a cooperative might function in music technology education.
Recommendation #3: Considering the theories informing music technology.
If one is to assume that music technology considers a balance of art and science, thinking and doing, and theory and practice, then future research might leave open the possibility for a deeper inquiry into the theoretical structures informing music technology education. Accepting that there is much to gain from examining the philosophies of music education and adult education, future studies might use the possibility of cultivating a new philosophy of music technology education as a means for lifelong learning. Such learning takes place at all stages of life and in multifaceted ways. Scholars researching community music, music therapy, and music education, may find some commonalities in how their field’s underlying philosophies connect with media and music technology specifically. A theory without practical application serves little purpose. Nonetheless, looking for ways to inform theory and practice that are germane to learners of all ages is advisable.
Recommendation #4: The Role of Social Justice
Just as the first recommendation advocates for qualitative research methods, equally important is the consideration of how sociocultural factors affect human beings using technology. A host of factors affect learning; among those include race, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical and mental capabilities, language, and emotional support. A more expansive follow-up study ought to consider how inclusive teaching is fostered not only with adult populations, but also in a fashion that respects and validates all learners using music technology in some capacity. Methods that consider the ethical and responsible use and disposal of technology are likely to reveal how different age groups perceive such tools in daily life.
The PALS survey revealed that when adult learners have some control over how and what they learn, their likelihood of long-term success increases. This finding aligns closely with Knowles’ (1990) assertion that adult learning is intrinsic. Accordingly, results from the survey support longstanding andragogical theories that adults seek information that positively affects his or her circumstances after the learning process ends (Knowles and Holton 2011; Knowles 1990). Therefore, educational leaders might find it helpful to offer professional development opportunities for faculty and staff on ways to align course activities with manageable goal-setting rubrics.
Since the PALS survey also indicates that adults likely learn more about technology when they have supportive instruction, leaders must understand that the technology is merely a tool to engage learning and creativity. Regardless of the specific type of technology introduced into the classroom, the results of the survey illustrate that it is the mentoring, guidance, and respect that adults need to be successful, not the latest piece of equipment or software. In essence, though the technology matters, the instructional effort matters more.
Conceivably, then, if an adult expresses an interest in using music technology for compositional purposes, an educator might encourage the adult to pick a style of music they prefer and give the learner plenty of time to create a new song. Similarly, if a non-traditional student wants to record his or her voice, the educator might focus on ways that the adult can do so creatively and naturally, rather than focusing too much time on the scientific minutiae of how a microphone works. If the adult sees the creative possibilities of the available technology, they may find it more useful than passively learning about theory. Likewise, if the educator strives to be inclusive in his or her teaching, adult students from diverse backgrounds may grow in their confidence regardless of their gender, age, race, ability, orientation, culture, or station in life.
Responses from the modified PALS survey show that statistically significant differences exist in how university educators incorporate adult learning concepts to foster creativity and independent learning versus their counterparts in community and online education. University educators promote self-directed learning, use technology frequently to inspire creativity, provide sufficient accommodations for adults, maintain availability for all forms of counseling, teach differently when the need arises, and understand that many adults have an intrinsic desire for lifelong and continuous learning. And while the significant results are modest, they do reinforce the notion that compassionate, learner-centered teaching likely bodes well for all kinds of learners.
More research is needed to determine how music technology educators differentiate in instructional methods with non-traditional learners. Similarly, surveys that focus exclusively on community education programs and teaching via the Internet may help explain some of the significant differences in instructional methods. Future studies may consider alternative research approaches that survey a large pool of adult students in a variety of learning environments to gauge their perceptions of teaching methods.
Likewise, a qualitative or phenomenological study might provide useful input into how scholars might define the proper age of an adult learner using music, media, and computer technology—and how companies market to such audiences. These alternative kinds of research may help define what a music technology educator is, and how that role differs from “traditional” music educators, if such a definition exists at all. Nonetheless, the results of this study indicate that preparing future educators to adopt sensitive, collaborative, interdisciplinary teaching philosophies will promote inclusivity, increase technological fluidity, and expand the learning possibilities for adult students.
1. For simplicity’s sake, I consider such environments to be generally associated with pursuing a credential in music. To be clear, music education comes in all types and formats, and those with an interest in music technology need not be enrolled in a program to learn.
2. Any discussion of music technology texts must consider that new volumes, compendiums, and resources come out each year. The point is that these books do not address the relationship between older students and music technology specifically.
3. An online version of the PALS survey can be accessed at http://www.conti-creations.com/pals.htm. The author received permission from the survey’s creator to deploy and modify as needed. Additionally, the author received IRB approval to administer the instrument while pursuing doctoral studies in 2017.
4. Supplemental questions can be found in the Appendix B.
5. The original PALS survey had 44 questions. The seven additional questions developed for this study brought the total to 51. Question #46 is the second question from the modified questionnaire. Keeping the numbers sequential ensured for consistency when running the regressions and presenting data.
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APPENDIX A: PALS SURVEY (Questions 8-51)
*Developed by Dr. Gary Conti (2011) and used by permission. Web version may be accessed at http://conti-creations.com/pals.htm
Principles of Adult Learning Scale
Directions: The following survey contains several things that a teacher of adults might do in a classroom. You may personally find some of them desirable and find others undesirable. For each item please respond to the way you most frequently practice the action described in the item. Your choices are Always, Almost Always, Often, Seldom, Almost Never, and Never. On your answer sheet, circle 0 if you always do the event; circle number 1 if you almost always do the event; circle number 2 if you often do the event; circle number 3 if you seldom do the event; circle number 4 if you almost never do the event; and circle number 5 if you never do the event. If the item does not apply to you, circle number 5 for never.
- I allow students to participate in developing the criteria for evaluating their performance in class.
- I use disciplinary action when it is needed.
- I allow older students more time to complete assignments when they need it.
- I encourage students to adopt middle-class values.
- I help students diagnose the gaps between their goals and their present level of performance.
- I provide knowledge rather than serve as a resource person.
- I stick to the instructional objectives that I write at the beginning of a program.
- I participate in the informal counseling of students.
- I use lecturing as the best method for presenting my subject material to adult students.
- I arrange the classroom so that it is easy for students to interact.
- I determine the educational objectives for each of my students.
- I plan units which differ as widely as possible from my students' socio-economic backgrounds.
- I get a student to motivate himself/herself by confronting him/her in the presence of classmates during group discussions.
- I plan learning episodes to take into account my students' prior experiences.
- I allow students to participate in making decisions about the topics that will be covered in class.
- I use one basic teaching method because I have found that most adults have a similar style of learning.
- I use different techniques depending on the students being taught.
- I encourage dialogue among my students.
- I use written tests to assess the degree of academic growth in learning rather than to indicate new directions for learning.
- I utilize the many competencies that most adults already possess to achieve educational objectives.
- I use what history has proven that adults need to learn as my chief criteria for planning learning episodes.
- I accept errors as a natural part of the learning process.
- I have individual conferences to help students identify their educational needs.
- I let each student work at his/her own rate regardless of the amount of time it takes him/her to learn a new concept.
- I help my students develop short-range as well as long-range objectives.
- I maintain a well-disciplined classroom to reduce interferences to learning.
- I avoid discussion of controversial subjects that involve value judgements.
- I allow my students to take periodic breaks during the class.
- I use methods that foster quiet, productive, deskwork.
- I use tests as my chief method of evaluating students.
- I plan activities that will encourage each student's growth from dependence on others to greater independence.
- I gear my instructional objectives to match the individual abilities and needs of the students.
- I avoid issues that relate to the student's concept of himself/herself.
- I encourage my students to ask questions about the nature of their society.
- I allow a student's motives for participating in continuing education to be a major determinant in the planning of learning objectives.
- I have my students identify their own problems that need to be solved.
- I give all students in my class the same assignment on a given topic.
- I use materials that were originally designed for students in elementary and secondary schools.
- I organize adult learning episodes according to the problems that my students encounter in everyday life.
- I measure a student's long-term educational growth by comparing his/her total achievement in class to his/her expected performance as measured by national norms from standardized tests.
- I encourage competition among my students.
- I use different materials with different students.
- I help students relate new learning to their prior experiences.
- I teach units about problems of everyday living.
APPENDIX B: Supplemental PALS Questions (Questions 1-7)
What is your primary area of teaching?
How often do you work with adult learners in educational settings?
- a) Always
- b) Almost Always
- c) Often
- d) Seldom
- e) Almost Never
- f) Never
- g) N/A
How often do you use computer technology (desktop/laptop, mobile devices, apps, screen capturing, projection systems, Internet, etc.) to facilitate music learning with adults?
- a) Always
- b) Almost Always
- c) Often
- d) Seldom
- e) Almost Never
- f) Never
- g) N/A
How often do you incorporate music technology (recording/notation software, apps, electronic instruments, audiovisual equipment, etc.) to facilitate learning and to foster creativity with adults?
- a) Always
- b) Almost Always
- c) Often
- d) Seldom
- e) Almost Never
- f) Never
- g) N/A
How often do you incorporate media (PowerPoint demonstrations, videos, photos, online tutorials, Internet resources, DVDs, etc.) to facilitate learning and to foster creativity with adults?
- a) Always
- b) Almost Always
- c) Often
- d) Seldom
- e) Almost Never
- f) Never
- g) N/A
How often do you need to show adults how to use music technology, media technology, or computer technology in the classroom or elsewhere?
- a) Always
- b) Almost Always
- c) Often
- d) Seldom
- e) Almost Never
- f) Never
- g) N/A
Once they understand its use and application, how often do your students use music technology, media technology, or computer technology for independent learning and/or creative purposes?
- a) Always
- b) Almost Always
- c) Often
- d) Seldom
- e) Almost Never
- f) Never
- g) N/A
(Optional Question #52) Please share any comments, insights, and observations you have using adult learning concepts to foster learning with music, media, and/or computer technology with your students.