Victoria’s research is exploring different approaches to assessment without levels in schools, comparing them with assessment for Key Stage 1 and 2 SATs.
Written by By Sam Clements, Birmingham City University HELS PhD Student and Senior Lecturer at London South Bank University. (also read My experiments with Adapted Repertory Grid (ARG) Technique for more info)
This academic year (my first year as a ‘proper’ PhD student!) I have been carrying out my main data collection (using the ‘evolved method’ developed through the control group pilot study) with a group of nested case study participants. Adopting a nested approach to my selection of six case study participants by selecting individual participants who are at different stages in their training and experience will provide the opportunity for a more comprehensive analysis of the data than if they were all at the same stage.
The virtual worlds activity using CC3 gaming software and associated adapted repertory grids are now completed for all participants and my electronic ‘perception survey’ for the wider teaching community is underway. The purpose of this survey is to infer from my nested case study participants to a larger population. Hammersley (1992) argues that such comparisons with a larger population may allow us to establish some of the representativeness of our single cases. In addition, non-participatory observations of classroom music teaching will be carried out with the nested case study participants. The focus of each observed lesson will be Music Teaching Phenomena (MTP) agreed in advance by the participant and myself, the observer. Observation notes will only describe evidence of teaching and children’s learning in relation to the identified MTP. All findings and constructive feedback will be verbally shared with the participant at the time, and subsequently discussed in the form of ongoing blog via a participant Wiki. Observation notes will be coded and analysed using grounded theory.
The schedule for observations will be event driven as I will be bound by the school timetable and the frequency of opportunities to teach music will vary by participant. In addition I am expecting my first baby at the start of May so we shall see how I manage my research schedule with or (hopefully) without too much interruption!
Addressing my Final Research Aim
The final part of my research will utilise the idea of teaching through learning, which means that the lens will be on the participant as a learner as opposed to the university or CPD tutor as a teacher of the learner. This variation on the ‘usual’ lens falls within Folkestad’s summary (1998) of a general relocation of focus from teaching to learning. The focus on the learner necessitates a revision of teaching methods, from ‘How to Teach’ (with the ‘results’ of teaching witnessed from the teacher’s point of view), to ‘How to Learn’, and ‘What to Learn’, so for example in this study how different Music Teaching Phenomena (MTP) are perceived, experienced and expressed in activities by the learner (nested case study participant).
Participants’ planned individualised learning will be informed by the grounded theory, co constructed by the researcher and participant, and will be supported by the participant Wiki.
My research interests are music education, the performing arts, creativity, creative partnerships and teacher identity. The working title of my PhD thesis is ‘Defining the X Factors: Enablers and Inhibitors of effective music teaching’.
What is a Repertory Grid?
The type of repertory grid used in my study is an adapted one, where the participant identifies their own elements and is then supplied with a limited choice of suggested constructs from which to select. In a ‘true’ repertory grid the participant would elicit both their own elements and their own constructs. The constructs presented to the control group for their selection were examples of Music Teaching Phenomena (MTP). Participants were required to choose only constructs (MTP) with which they have experience.
Elicitation of the Elements
The elements for each participant were the codes which were generated through their map making activity. Poles of the elements were elicited by the participant to represent the element and its opposite, or contrast (where more appropriate). Young et al (2005) explain that it is sometimes better to ask participants to generate a contrast rather than simply use a literal opposite because it provides more information about how they perceive it in regards to the stimulus.
Selection of Constructs
The MTP with which participants were presented for selection were divided into two categories, initially entitled:
- Professional skills level – related to the participant’s musical abilities
- Pedagogical skills level – related to the participant’s teaching abilities
The questions; ‘What is ‘ability’?’, and ‘Aren’t skills just knowledge in action?’ have long been the subjects of debate amongst educationists. Schulman (1986) and his colleagues in the ‘Knowledge Growth in Teaching Project’ built a model of pedagogical reasoning and action, and a professional knowledge base for teaching that clearly places the emphasis on the intellectual basis for teaching and on the transformation of subject matter knowledge by teachers. They proposed a model of the components of the professional knowledge base for teaching that includes three major categories of content knowledge: subject matter content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge and curricular knowledge. A key component of the knowledge base for teaching that gives it its special identity according to Shulman and his colleagues, is pedagogical content knowledge, and this component laid the groundwork for the evolving categories of constructs in this current study.
Within pedagogical content knowledge Shulman includes ‘demonstrations, examples, illustrations, explanations, analogies’, and ‘the most useful forms of representation of these ideas’. In my current study, ‘demonstrations, examples, illustrations’ could relate to constructs around the Musical and the Professional. ‘Illustrations, explanations, analogies and representations’ could relate to constructs around the Pedagogical. What is being measured through my repertory grids is how participants’ aptitude for these constructs is related to their elements.
I consequently revised the construct categories to become:
- Musical and Professional Aptitudes
- Pedagogical Aptitudes
The Musical and Professional Aptitudes were selected and then adapted (for appropriate relevance to themselves) by each participant. The source for these constructs was a model of outcomes of music education introduced by David Hargreaves (2007). The Pedagogical Aptitudes were selected by each participant from requirements listed within the programmes of study of the 2013 National Curriculum for Music for Key Stages 1 and 2.
Each participant completed their repertory grid, rating their elements (X Factors) against their constructs (Music Teaching Phenomena). The elements were rated from 1 to 9 where 1 represents concordance with the element and 9 represents concordance with its contrast.
I observed that the success of the repertory grid activity was dependent to a degree on the rapport developed between myself as the researcher, and the participant. The importance of a careful management of my own subjectivity became apparent, particularly following the repertory grid activity undertaken with participant 1. Peshkin (1988) claims that to identify one’s own subjectivity the researcher must undertake self-monitoring to note and address areas of concern. Peshkin’s own self-monitoring involved identifying six discretely characterized ‘I’s’ which were aspects of the whole that constitutes him (the researcher) in his particular research context. I therefore began to consider the ‘Situational I’s’ present in the context of this pilot of method.
Following the completion of the repertory grid with the first control group participant, the following principles were applied to the subsequent repertory grid activities with the remainder of the control group: In relation to the ‘Justice-seeking I’ any musical and life events in the participants’ pasts which have had a positive or negative impact upon them cannot be met with judgement (either of the participant or any other individuals involved). The aim of these exercises is not to ‘fix’ the past. In relation to the ‘Non-human research I’, self-monitoring is necessary to ensure that whilst a good rapport is established whilst the appropriate boundaries are observed. The use of ‘leading questions’, or intentionally driving the activity towards the pursuit of rich data must be avoided.
My rationale for the planned method centred on the idea of utilising research exercises which were situated within the participant’s life, rather than the participant being situated within the research project, in order to create a non-agenda-biased context where rich data was elicited on the participant’s terms. Initially that was a failed rationale, as the first version of the mapping exercise failed to elicit any rich data at all. Critical reflection revealed a fundamental flaw in approach; there were barriers to successful execution in terms of the practical aspects of making the map (for example drawing, space awareness, ’thinking in layers’) and a lack of opportunity for participants to reflect, revise and return to their maps in an on-going way. The evolution of this activity to experiment with fantasy gaming software to create ‘virtual worlds’ not only intrigued and engaged the participants and researcher with the possibilities, but ultimately removed the barriers obstructing their success with the task.
The second round of reflection and evolution emphasised to me the importance of using discriminate terminology related to method. Shulman’s (1986) ‘pedagogical content knowledge’ offered a lens through which I could closely analyse ‘abilities’, ‘skills’ and ‘knowledge’ and re-interpret these for greater meaning in my study.
Finally I reflected upon the importance of monitoring my ‘researcher subjectivity’ in the early stages of Adapted Repertory Grid (ARG) interviews. With help from Peshkin (1988), I identified my own ‘Situational I’s’ resonating with this method monitored my own subjectivity during ARG interviews with subsequent participants.
Undertaking the pilot study enabled me to test my method through a three stage process; of implementation, critical reflection, and evolution. The experience provided significant ‘prior preparation to entering the field’ (Sampson, 2004) and the outcome is an ‘evolved method’ which has grown to become a more effective, reliable and valid version of itself.
Thanks for reading! I hope it’s been interesting (if a little long..) I’ll send an update hopefully with some findings, post baby!
A number of BCU staff and research students write their own blogs which are full of interesting reflections and ideas. Here are some
- Dr. Geoff Hill: the (research) supervisor’s friend
Geoff writes about some of the experiences he has had as a research supervisor and aims to encourage other supervisors to share their practice.
- Prof. Martin Fautley: https://drfautley.wordpress.com/
Martin has written a lot on the subject of music education and assessment. Sometimes political but always with a hint of light hearted humour.
- Dr. Carolyn Blackburn: https://drblackburnblog.wordpress.com/
Carolyn has been involved in a number of different research projects focusing on early childhood and families. She has written on Fosterline, Communicative Musicality, speech and language, relationships and early intervention.
- Shannon Ludgate: https://shannonludgate.wordpress.com/
Although fairly knew to blogging, Shannon has written some fascinating reflections on her use of research methods and talks about her PhD looking at touch screen technology with early years.
- The CSPACE blog: Ok a bit of a cheat here but the CSPACE blog offers ALL researches at BCU a space to share their reflections, practice and discoveries with the rest of the CSPACE team and the world. The CSPACE blog has posts on creative writing, supervision, conferences, music, evaluations, reflections, and much more!
Research Background: The National Plan for Music, and the trial ITT modules
In September 2010, Darren Henley, Managing Director of Classic FM, was commissioned by the Secretary of State for Education of the coalition government, Michael Gove, to undertake a review of Music Education in England. The Henley Review lays down recommendations for minimum expectations of what any child going through the system should receive in terms of an education in music.
The purpose of developing a ‘National Plan for Music’ was introduced by Henley as the means to ‘tackle the patchiness’ in the quantity and quality of music education available across the country. My interest lies with the implications for the ‘core workforce’; that is the primary school teachers, and primary teacher trainees in the classroom. The part of the plan to ‘boost new teachers’ confidence and skill in teaching music’ included the trialling of new primary music Initial Teacher Training (ITT) modules during the Summer break of 2012 following the completion of trainees’ one-year Post Graduate training (PGCE) courses, and before they took up their first posts as newly qualified teachers. These trial modules were delivered by selected ITT providers who successfully bid for funding from the Teaching Agency (now the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL)) to devise, implement and evaluate their modules.
21 institutions were awarded various amounts of funding each; of which London South Bank University was one. My paper presented at the Teacher Education Advancement Network (TEAN) Aston Conference of May, 2013, entitled, ‘How can we improve training in music within primary ITT programmes to best meet and develop the competence and confidence of teacher trainees?’ (Clements, 2013) evaluates the short and medium term impact of the music module we carried out at London South Bank University with PGCE students in July 2012, who were then tracked as newly qualified teachers over their first term in school, to January 2013. The paper discusses the implications for the development of training programmes arising from our module, which in turn led to the preparation and validation in March 2013 of a new optional Performing Arts Education module (worth 30 Masters level credits) within our PGCE course.
Incidental Themes arising from the trial modules
My current research investigates themes from the trial music module. What emerged from this module very clearly was the apparent influence of individual musical or other background factors (for the purposes of this study I have called them the X Factors (XF)) on Student Teachers’ ability to engage with and teach different aspects of classroom music effectively. For the purposes of this study I have used the term Music Teaching Phenomena (MTP) to mean different aspects of primary classroom music teaching. It was not possible to investigate these emerging themes during the music module due to the pre-set aims and restrictions of that study, thus leaving me with ‘incidental questions’, which have inspired this current piece of PhD research.
During the music module a number of student teachers appeared to challenge common stereotypes; here are some examples: Those with the XF: High level of formal musical training, were not always ‘the best’ at teaching all aspects of music; issues arose around the following MTP: Ability to improvise with children and The use of freer (and less musically accurate) forms of notation such as picture scores. Student teachers with the XF: No formal training but with a family or cultural musical background, were often found to be the most musically creative in a classroom context (MTP); however psychological barriers arose around issues of musical self efficacy (MTP) and use of tools such as staff notation (MTP).
The aims of my research therefore are to identify and analyse the underlying ‘X Factors (XF)’ influencing aptitude for Music Teaching Phenomena (MTP), to catch the interplay between them, and to devise an effective framework for developing individualised training strategies for teachers at different stages in their experience.
Pilot of Method
I carried out a pilot of my method using a control group to test the planned method for collecting data related to the following research objectives:
- To identify and define the internal musical and non musical factors (X Factors (XF)) influencing aptitude for different aspects of music teaching (Music Teaching Phenomena (MTP));
- To explore and analyse the extent to which XF and MTP function as interdependent variables.
The method involved two exercises, both related to personal construct theory:
- Map making (critical incident charting) exercise
- Adapted Repertory Grid (ARG) technique exercise
The control group consisted of four participants all of whom were trainee teachers at the time.
The two exercises worked in conjunction as tools to uncover what was present, in terms of internal X Factors, and look at them closely – whatever they might turn out to be – rather than having a pre-determined agenda such as those agendas which permeate traditional interviews or questionnaires. Charmaz (2006) describes methods which are too agenda biased as being incapable of generating ‘rich data’. With this method, there are no questions. The participant sets the agenda right from the start, deciding what topics are, or are not, important to be represented and/or discussed.
Participants code their own data, in a way that is meaningful to them.
They elicit their own elements from those codes, generating poles for those elements and their contrasts. This enables the research activities to be situated within the participant’s life, rather than the participant being situated within the research project.
In this method the outcomes of exercise 1 inform exercise 2. Therefore exercise 1 must be successfully completed before exercise 2 can take place.
The method was a little experimental and a pilot was most definitely necessary, as the outcomes proved!
Exercise 1: Map Making (critical incident charting)
The control group was introduced to the idea of mapping an individual’s ‘musical journey’ from birth to date using their own words and pictures/diagrams around a journey line, by showing them an example map. Following this,
participants were invited to make their own maps, representing their own journey in any way they chose, from a straight and smooth pathway to a traumatic path with twists and turns.
The critical incidents shown in their map could include for example, musical experiences in their lives as children, adult music makers and teachers of music. Participants were encouraged to include core life events and personality/identity development within the map. Large poster paper and coloured pens were made available for the participants, who completed this exercise independently. All four participants completed the exercise at the same time, in the same place (a university classroom). It was intended that the X Factors which the map exercise uncovers for each participant would subsequently be analysed to generate codes which would become the unique, personalised elements for the participant’s Adapted Repertory Grid (ARG). These elements would then be rated by that participant against their personally selected constructs (Music Teaching Phenomena (MTP)) in order to uncover connections between them.
The control group found the map making exercise difficult – not to comprehend, but to execute. Some participants claimed to be inhibited by their artistic ability (their perceived lack of it) and found managing the space on the poster paper a challenge. They had ideas but struggled to convey these on paper, some started well but then reverted to ‘writing lists’. They felt their outcomes lacked depth, almost as though they were trying to represent in a 2D way 3D concepts, or layers of meaning. All the participants expressed a desire to ‘do the task well’ – two participants requested that they re-draft their journey maps after they had finished them. Two participants stated that they felt they had used too much writing on their map, that it strayed from the main points they wished to portray, and that they needed time and tools to re-focus their work.
The maps produced by the control group had not effectively uncovered X Factors for which any effective coding could be undertaken. The maps were descriptive rather than analytical and stated ‘what happened’ rather than telling the story behind ‘what happened’. It became clear that participants needed the opportunity to reflect, revise and return to their maps in an on-going way. There were barriers to successful execution in terms of the practical aspects of making the map (for example drawing, space awareness) and critical analysis or ’thinking in layers’.
Evolution of Method
The United States television series CSI: New York broadcast an episode entitled ‘Kill Screen’ (2014), set within the world of competitive gaming. The main character in the episode creates a virtual world for his avatar (his virtual self), complete with physical and human geographical features which interconnect different aspects of his life. In the episode, the features of this virtual world were selected by the gamer; he selected ideas and icons which had meaning for him and would represent his world, whether that be in the realm of reality or the world of fantasy.
Inspired by this idea I began to investigate software designed to enable gamers to create their own virtual worlds. Campaign Cartographer 3 (CC3), (2014), created by Pro Fantasy Software is a map making programme which enables users to create simple maps and worlds for campaigns and games. The software includes a wide choice of fantasy mapping symbols, styles and types so that users can set their ‘world parameters’ such as size and geographical features (terrain type, % of water to land), and introduce features to represent critical incidents, how they are situated within a journey map, and how they are interconnected.
The software was introduced individually to each participant of the control group. Through the medium of this software the mapping exercise evolved into something which could be executed with relative ease.
Participants were able to successfully import into their virtual world physical icons to represent their musical and life critical incidents, and plot a route to join the icons together to show connections.
They were able to review and revise their worlds in an on-going way over the course of the exercise.
Burnard (2012) makes much use of Bourdieu’s ‘Thinking Tools’ of field, habitus, capital and practice to understand the creative musical practices of the musicians participating in her project. She uses these thinking tools to structure her analysis of how these musicians think, act and create; to understand what their practices are grounded in; and on what capital rests the processes and principles of their practices. These same thinking tools were used as a conceptual framework to aid the participants and I to collaboratively extract and make sense of the X Factors present within their virtual worlds. The answers to the question; ‘How did/does this participant think about, act about, and create (this performance, this composition, this music lesson, this experience)?’ and the question; ‘On what capital rests the processes and principles of this particular practice?’ helped to generate the codes which were elicited from the dense virtual worlds data.
Once their virtual world had been created participants were asked to narrate their journey around it. The significant underlying musical and non-musical X Factors influencing their journeys were uncovered in detail as these narrations were transcribed. After the narration stage the X Factors which had been identified were discussed and the participants organised these into codes. Their codes became the elements (of the self)/X factors which were then used in their Adapted Repertory Grids (ARGs).
Thanks for reading! I think that’s more than enough for now – but I’ll write more, about the ARGS and their outcomes in due course!
My research interests are music education, the performing arts, creativity, creative partnerships and teacher identity. The working title of my PhD thesis is ‘Defining the X Factors: Enablers and Inhibitors of effective music teaching’.
My long route to full time PhD Study…
I made the decision to begin a PhD in September 2013 having worked for 13 years in education after qualifying as a teacher in the year 2000. My first two years as a PhD student were subsequently undertaken in a (very) part time capacity! I had a full time post as a Senior Lecturer in Education within the Department of Education at London South Bank University (LSBU), where I was course director of two different undergraduate Education degree courses. In addition I was teaching and leading modules on the primary PGCE course (with all the school supervision that entails) which allowed me very little time left to carry out the reading and research required for my PhD studies. To compound things, having moved to Oxford for my husband’s work I had been travelling up to 6 hours each day into London to work and back since February 2014.
Eventually, in the Summer of 2015, it became clear that things could not continue as they were, and I finally decided to give up my job in order to concentrate on my PhD full time from September 2015. A scary decision! I have retained a small portion of my teaching at LSBU, in particular the Masters level module in Performing Arts Education which is an optional part of the primary PGCE course. The subject area of this module is my main area of interest and having written and validated the module in March 2013, I was feeling far too possessive to give it up! However, I have not missed the managerial side of my former job for even one second.
It is a real shame that the culture and way of working within HE often makes it virtually impossible for full time academic staff to carry out any research.
A lecturer in education who does not actively research education makes no sense to me.
I spent two years as Primary Music Consultant for Hertfordshire Advisory Service before arriving at LSBU in September 2011. Prior to this I had accumulated ten years of experience in a wide range of primary education contexts, specialising in music and the performing arts, including teaching posts in the UK and Australia.