Category Archives: Re-thinking Creativities

Research Snapshot: Communicative musicality – sounds rhythms and pulses in music and language

Researcherspno

Dr Carolyn Blackburn, Research Fellow in Early Childhood Studies, and Ian Axtell, Subject Leader for Music Education, Centre for Research in Education.

Findings

Participants in this study appeared to recognise the value and importance of children’s spontaneous musical activities and to encourage it describing the benefit for children’s holistic development and the role of music in attachment and bonding. However, they also appear to have identified benefits for children in attending organised, structured musical activities both within the home, but more substantially outside the home.

Recommendations
  • It is recommended that parents and carers are offered guidance and advice about the importance of acknowledging and valuing young children’s spontaneous musical activities in the home. It is a matter of concern that parents might lack confidence to instigate and encourage young children’s musical activities in the home;
  • It is recommended that an online database of trialled and validated musical resources be made available for parents and carers to use in the home;
  • It is recommended that this study is extended to include particular groups of children and families such as minority ethnic groups and children with disabilities;
  • It is recommended that a study to explore young children’s musical activities in early years settings be conducted to explore the understanding and practices of early childhood practitioners given the importance of young children’s spontaneous musical activities in their overall and holistic development as noted from the literature review in this report.

 

Download the full report here: communicative-musicality-report-130987955021412745

Research Snapshot: Kirsty Devaney

Kirsty’s research is investigating how the assessment of composing in UK secondary school examinations is impacting the teaching and learning of composing within schools.

Research Snapshot: Listen Imagine Compose

ResearchersLIC

Martin Fautley (Birmingham City University), Pam Burnard and John Finney (Cambridge University), Pauline Adams (Institute of Education), Jonathan Savage (Manchester Metropolitan University).

Research aims
  • How can composers and teachers be supported to work most effectively together?
  • How do professional composers make judgements about the quality of compositions and what are the indicators of progression? What correlation is there between these criteria and those of exam boards?
  • What does creative progression look like – for example the difference between a Year 7 and a Year 9 composition – and how can we ensure progression within the secondary curriculum, particularly given the genre-based approach?
  • What are the challenges around assessing creativity and how can students be supported to take risks, fail and experiment in a system where assessment is central?

To read more go to: http://www.bcu.ac.uk/research/stories/listen-imagine-compose

To read full REF report download the pdf: Birmingham City University – 25 – Creativity in Education

Research Snapshot: Youth Music, Exchanging Notes

ResearchersScreen shot 2015-01-28 at 23.15.15

Martin Fautley, Professor of Education, Victoria Kinsella, Research Fellow in Education (Creativity), Phil Taylor, MA Education and Masters in Teaching and Learning Course Director, Jane O’Connor, Reader in Childhood Studies

Background

The National Foundation for Youth Music has awarded grants to support 10 Exchanging Notes projects across England. Each project (a partnership between a school and specialist music provider) works with young people at risk of low attainment, disengagement, or educational exclusion to see how participation in regular music-making activities can enable achievement of musical, educational and wider outcomes. Researchers in the School of Education are supporting the project over a four-year period through the evaluation of the educational and musical outcomes of these new models.

Aim of research

This project aims to:

  • See how participation in regular music-making activities can enable achievement of musical, educational and wider outcomes
  • Explore these benefits across a variety of different musical approaches and styles
  • Stimulate fresh thinking and support the aspirations set out in the National Plan for Music Education.

Read more here: http://www.bcu.ac.uk/research/stories/exchanging-notes

Meet the CSPACE Team – Ian Axtell

Name: Ian James AxtellAxtell_Ian_main

Role at BCU: Senior Lecturer and Subject Leader for Music Education

Research Interests:
Bourdieu inspired:
What is the Field of Music Education?
Is the Universe of Discourse in Music Education under threat?

Shulman inspired:
How can Signature Pedagogy in Music Education be defined?

Research you are currently working on: How can Signature Pedagogy in Music Education be defined?

Research methodologies you are using: Humanistic and interpretivist phenomenography underpinned by Bourdieu’s perception of epistemic reflexivity.

Current issues, thoughts and reflections on education & research: This is a fascinating time to be involved in education research since we are in an anti-intellectual turn in education policy discourse. There is an urgent need for genuine critical education research. The place of theory in education has been questioned but education research is responded by creating strong links between theory and practice through critical practice-based enquiry. The question remains whether genuine critical education research can save the education system from collapse under the false gods of knowledge-led curricular and evidence based research (or research that proves what policy makers have already decided).

Most influential research you have read/seen: Bourdieu, P (1977) Outline of a Theory of Practice. Translated by Richard Nice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Advice for new researchers: Join a community of thinking.

Mini fact about you: I am passionate about music education for all and how music can change people’s perception of the world around them.

CELT/CSPACE Education Conference 2016: Call for papers!

What and why?

For the first time this year CELT and CSPACE are joining forces to host our Annual Education Conference. In case you haven’t heard of us before, CSPACE is the Centre for the Study of Practice and Culture in Education, and CELT is the Centre for Enhancement of Teaching and Learning. The conference will be held on 11th July 2016.

Although 11th July seems like a while away yet, it’s the standard protocol for us to collect and select abstracts in advance. You’ve probably already received a call for papers from me via your staff email. If you haven’t received this email, please alert me to this on Rebecca.Snape@bcu.ac.uk and I will immediately rectify this. We need to receive all abstracts before 20th May 2016, so you have two weeks to get these in to us. We have a range of different formats for you to choose from to ensure that you can present your research in the best way you see fit.

We believe that this is a fantastic opportunity for researchers and teachers across the University to showcase their best practice. Whether you’re an emerging researcher who wants to present their work for the first time, or an experienced academic who wants to share their wisdom and receive feedback from others, we’re keen to hear about the work you’re doing. It’s also a good opportunity for networking, and, particularly if you’re an Early Career Researcher, it’s a great addition to your CV. We also strongly believe that it is a fantastic opportunity for faculties to come together and hear what others are doing, which is why we are opening this up to the entire University. So, come and get involved!

Conference focus

This year we are keen to open out our conference to students and academics across the University who would like to showcase the fantastic work they’re doing with regards to teaching, learning and educational research. Whether you want to talk about a theoretical approach you’ve utilised in your teaching, a style of teaching which has worked particularly well, or a piece of interdisciplinary research, we’re keen to hear about the work that is being done across BCU. Below is an overview of the general themes of the conference for your reference:

Pedagogy, Practice, Politics and Policy: Where to next in teaching, learning and research in education?

(a) Professional practices in teaching

(b) Formal and informal lifelong learning pedagogies

(c) Public and popular debates in education policy

(d) Researching education

Each strand will encourage papers from all education sectors;

  • Further Education
  • Early years
  • Higher Education
  • Schools
  • Third sector /Voluntary provision

 

Social media

Aside from informing you about the conference via internal channels, we will also be promoting it via Twitter. If you want to keep up to date with the latest developments regarding the planning, preparation and running of the conference, please follow @BeckyS1993 or @CSPACE_BCU on Twitter. We now have our own dedicated hashtag for the conference on Twitter: #CSPACE16.

 

We look forward to receiving your submissions in advance of 20th May. If you have any questions please contact me on Rebecca.Snape@bcu.ac.uk. Remember to follow our updates on Twitter! #CSPACE16

24th EAS Conference in Vilnius, Lithuania

Written by Kirsty Devaney, graduate teaching and research assistant, PhD student
@KirstyDevaneyBlack and white headshot

‘Looking for the unexpected – Creativity and Innovation in Music Education’

On March 16th-19th a team of BCU music educators & researchers flew all the way to Lithuania to attend the European Association of Music in Schools (EAS). The title of the conference was ‘Looking for the Unexpected – Creativity and innovation in music education’, a hot topic for us in the UK with the uncertainty of creative subjects within schools due to the impending EBacc and forced acadamisation knocking at the door.

FullSizeRender-17So Prof. Martin Fautley, Dr. Victoria Kinsella, fellow PhD student Samantha Clements, and I packed our warm winter clothes to prepare for snow and produced our presentations about our own research into creativity in music education. Director of learning and participation at Birmingham Contemporary Music Group Nancy Evans also joined us at the conference to present alongside Victoria and Martin on their action research project with ‘Music Maze’.

 

 

How is ‘creativity’ defined in other countries?

The conference kicked off with a keynote from Pamela Burnard talking about ‘diverse musical creativities’, an interesting terminology. In her keynote, Burnard discussed the links between ‘real world practice and industry’ and what is happening within schools and out of school. She also mentioned important aspects of being creative including risk taking, autonomy and enjoyment. Burnard explores musical creativity further in her book ‘Musical Creativities in Practice’ and talks about how some may view musical creativity as:

‘a particular type of practice, perhaps that of the Great Composers, rather than to multiple possibilities’ (p.7, 2012).

There were many incredibly polished vocal performances during the conference covering vast amounts of repertoire, including a lot of traditional Lithuanian folk music. Burnard asked if one of the performances that morning was ‘creative’. Many automatically nodded and said yes. It was a striking piece of musical theatre, they varied how they used the space on the stage and use of props, and the combination between traditional folk music with modern day themes was striking. The students were engaged throughout and the experience was immersive. However, had the students been creative? There is no way of telling just from the performance. Creativity is a process (Wallas, 1926) and we could not know if the students had co-created the piece, made decisions, rejected ideas, improvised, or if they had just followed a strict set of orders from the choreographer or music leader. How did the audience define creativity? What made a ‘creative performance’?

4 stages

Wallas: 4 stages of the creative process  

Whilst attending other presentations I was surprised by the diversity of practice happening in Europe, differences in what they valued in music education and how they defined ‘creativity’ in practice.

Is composing inherently creative?

My own research focuses on composing within schools and I have witnessed many music educators that believe composing is inherently creative because it is ‘creating something new’. However in practice composing can be a very uncreative activity, guided by stylistic rules, criteria driven direction. The assessment can lead to creating pieces of music with a set number of techniques thus creating very ‘unmusical’ works – a kind of ‘composing by numbers’. The three aspects Burnard spoke about in the keynote (risk taking, autonomy and enjoyment) are not always found when students are composing in the classroom or for exams. In other presentations focusing on composing there were interesting approaches to how people approached teaching composing. This made me consider the ‘skills vs creative’ debate:

Should you learn the ‘rules’ first before you can break them?

In one particular presentation the teacher had developed a step-by-step approach to teaching melody writing with young recorder players. The music was rooted in folk tradition but focused on limiting the students’ choice in pitch and using grids to develop a rhythmic pattern. It was also based in western classical notation. The presenter  commented that it was a way for students to learn about specific folk music traditions and techniques as well as improving notation reading. His approach to introducing composing to young students was quite radically different to my own but there were some similarities in that we both were aiming to introduce stages and steps for students. For me, instead of choosing which of the two pitches to use I ask students to decide when there should be sound and when there should be silence, referring back to John Cage’s quote:

‘The material of music is sound and silence integrating these is composing’ (1949)

We would then move onto the next step asking them for either high and low, or loud or quiet sounds. For this teacher it would be the next pitch or rhythm. I would initially see my own approach as more ‘creative’ but on reflection we were both still asking our students to make a decision and go along a process, but it was framed very differently. This leads back to one of the fundamental questions of ‘how DO we teach composing?’ Both of our approaches in rooted in a cultural and musical background, and we are both limiting students decisions initially, however one was focused on melody and the other on timbre and texture.

An aspect of composing that was present in this presentation, and one that I see regularly in the UK, was an obsession around pitch as a starting pointScreen shot 2016-04-22 at 18.13.34for composing. Why is it that deciding on what key a piece of music should be, or what pitch to start with, the most important thing for music? Why not the title, the mood, the structure, the timbral quality of the instruments, the way it looks when performed, the rhythmic quality or the ‘feel’. I am not suggesting every young musician or teacher starts with pitch when composing but it seems more common than other areas of music. This focus on pitch may also impact on what a young person might think composing is about – I remember telling myself at the age of 16:

‘once I know how to do harmony, I will be able to compose’

For a start that phrase doesn’t even make sense, but I felt at that time there were inherent rules that I just needed to learn in order to be a composer. The more rules I learnt, the better I would be. But who dictates these rules – Society? Examination boards? Culture? The teacher? In music and composing there are rules we can learn, but the act of being creative is deciding how and when to use them, when to not use them, and when to change them, do something new and make them our own.

Reflections on my presentation:

On the 3rd day I gave my presentation titled: ‘Loosing Faith in the System: The implications of inconsistent marking, of AS and A level composing, on creativity.’ My talk used the results collected from my KS5 composing survey on teachers’ experiences of marking in A level. Results Screen shot 2016-04-10 at 17.43.34from 71 teachers found that over 90% of them had been surprised by an examination grade and many did not feel confident with predicting grades. The first aspect of my presentation involved delegates looking through the raw data from the survey and talking about what they felt the data told them. I enjoyed this aspect of my talk as it allowed them to ask questions and open up a dialogue with the audience early on in the presentation. It engaged them in the research from the start. I was also keen to see how other researchers in the audience would react to the data; one even commented saying how the research was ‘gold dust’ and examination boards would be very keen to see the full research.

In addition to the qualitative data, my research used the free text answers on the survey and 9 telephone interviews. In this section of the presentation I presented some emerging themes into what impact inconstant making has in the school:

1) Downward Spiral:

Downward spiral

This is when, due to unexpected poor grades, teachers restrict what students can compose so that it is closer to the marking criteria. However as a result of trying to second-guess the exam board requirements the students do not enjoy the experience as much and therefore do less well in the exam.

2) Trail of interpretation:

Interp trail

As mentioned before, there is a danger of trying to second-guess what the exam board of examiner wants to see in the composition. As a result a trail of interpretation of what people think ‘good’ composing looks and sounds like is developed, leaving the student at the end of this line trying to compose what they think others want.

3) Ripple effect:

ripple effect

The final emerging theme is this idea of a ‘ripple effect’ – that inconsistent marking has an impact on the teacher’s confidence, which effects their teaching of composing (potentially limiting creativity), which in turn effects the students’ learning and experience of composing. The wider implications are that students decide not to take music as a subject at this level which endangers music as a subject in the school and therefore threatens jobs. At the end of this it could have a negative impact on the music industry in the UK as a whole.

I enjoyed presenting my early findings at EAS. It has given me confidence to present at future conferences including ISME and BERA, and practice into how to present to a wider audience from across Europe where there are diverse practices in music education.

BCU team presentations overviews:

FullSizeRender-5

The BCU team covered a wide range of topics at the conference. Martin Fautley focused on creativity within lower secondary schools. His results from a survey of over 100 secondary music teachers from Birmingham and London found that assessment was based on matching school expectations of predicted grades. It was also noted that that assessment was reducing creative opportunities in the classroom.

Samantha Clements presented her PhD research methodology involving gaming software as a tool for critical incident charting. This experimental way of collecting data was used in her pilot study with 4 trainee music teachers. She asked them to create ‘fantasy worlds’ which charted each of their ‘critical incidents’ in their life influencing their aptitude for different aspects of music education.

FullSizeRender-15Victoria Kinsella has been working alongside ‘The National Foundations for Youth Music’ on their ‘Exchanging Notes’ projects across England. Victoria reported, from the first year findings, on the importance of multi-agency working for increased creative engagement and intrinsic motivation of young people.

On the final morning Nancy Evans from BCMG, Martin and Victoria presented research from an action research project with BCMG’s composing group ‘music maze’ from 8-11 year olds. The research focused on how the students responded to open-ended composing tasks. Some of the finding included that the children’s starting points were very diverse, and the way they composed and how much adult support and scaffolding was needed, varied.

FullSizeRender-16

We all enjoyed attending the conference as it helped stimulated discussions and debates with each other and with other delegates from outside the UK. Lithuania has a rich musical and cultural background and a country none of us had thought to visit before but would be excited to go back to.

Time and Space for Music Education

Written by Ian Axtell, Subject Leader for Music Education, Secondary Partnership Coordinator.Axtell_Ian_main @IanAxtell

Ian Axtell reflects on the music curriculum and asks: ‘is time for music education in England going to disappear in schools?’

“Classroom music can instill the same sense of motivation and challenge if musical events are a regular part of the curriculum…Where music making is shared there is an opportunity to be positive, to recognise and value individual contributions and to promote meaningful thinking and learning. However, relying on the musical events themselves is not enough. Composing or performing do not just happen.  They quickly lose their value if pupils are not provided with the time and space to prepare. Regular recordings can provide a safety net and promote the opportunity reflect, adapt and improve music making prior to an event but time is needed for this to happen.”clock

“Personal experience suggests that the opportunity for children to experience the buzz of sharing a musical event or magical moment, particularly after their careful planning and preparation, is disappearing because music does not fit into the EBACC or STEM agendas…the emphasis from government is on a narrow perception of academic knowledge that prioritises certain subject domains at the expense of others.”

music perc

Music is an academic subject but it is not just theoria, it is also techne and poiesis.   Music education goes beyond the academic because it brings together a variety of ways of thinking and doing.  It is cognitive but also psycho-motor and affective (Pierce & Gray, 2013).

“If schools are being measured through their engagement with the EBACC then will the time for all pupils to engage with active music making be reduced or even stopped entirely?  This appears to be already happening, particularly in the context of Key Stage 4.  If there is no Key Stage 4 music then what will happen to music at Key Stage 3 or Key Stage 2?”

Read the full article here: https://ianaxtell.wordpress.com/