Toward a Theoretically Grounded Choral Music Pedagogy
Hill, Stuart Chapman
This study applies critical educational theories to the real practice of teaching choir in secondary schools, focusing on four major areas: Learners and Learning, Learning Environment, Curriculum and Instructional Strategies, and Assessment. Educational psychology informs the discussion of Learners and Learning. Teachers should occupy a "middle road" between Piaget's stages of human development and Vygotsky's emphasis on environmental stimuli. Teachers must also carefully attend to the prior and tacit knowledge students carry with them. The "brain-based learning" movement is also important: the characteristics of the human brain require that music teachers re-invent rehearsal structure. Postman & Weingartner and Dewey present critical ideas on the Learning Environment. Postman & Weingartner argue that students' curiosities should guide curriculum. Dewey recommends that the teacher lead from within the classroom community, not as an outside arbitrator. Music teachers can incorporate these principles by inviting students in on the underlying thought process of rehearsal planning. Kounin's practical suggestions (as presented by Emmer, Evertson, & Worsham) provide strategies for creating an environment that reflects these broader principles. As Mark points out, the Curriculum and Instructional Strategies of American music classrooms are built around large-ensemble performance. This narrow conception of music education results in programs that do not meet the standards set by the Music Educators National Conference. Regelski's concept of "amateuring" provides an alternative perspective on goals for students' musicianship, and Reimer's "musical intelligences" recommend the inclusion of general music courses in the curriculum. Performing repertoire should be varied enough that students are able to explore the self and the "other." Because it is not fair to evaluate students of varied experience on their musical performances, music teachers must carefully consider Assessment. Teachers must use both formative and summative evaluation, as articulated by Armstrong, and must teach students to engage in formative self-evaluation. Most musical classroom activities cannot evaluated using traditional tests. Abeles, Hoffer, & Klotman present the "process portfolio" as one alternative, and Armstrong presents performance-based assessments as another. A strong assessment strategy is both important pedagogically and important for accountability to parents and administrators. Concluding comments tie these ideas to my philosophy of music education.