Our research project was a study of differing methods of teaching theoretical knowledge and aural skills in an elementary level general music classroom. We studied a number of elementary age students, ranging from grades 2-5, at a local public elementary school. Our control group, consisting of half of the population of each grade, took part in traditional teacher-led, whole group classes. The other half of the students spent several weeks in small groups of 3-6 cycling through a series of “music centers.” Each center was in itself a single, student-led lesson pertaining to the same material that was being taught in the control group lessons. Before beginning this series of lessons, we administered an assessment. At the end of the lesson series, we gave the same assessment and compared students’ growth. The assessment consisted of multiple-choice questions relating to musical theory knowledge and an aural component wherein students displayed the ability to match pitches.
I was invited to take part in this research project by my professor, Dr. Daniel Johnson of the UNCW department of music. I am also currently majoring in music education, with a special interest in elementary level teaching. I am currently undertaking my practicum semester, and I thought that the time spent in a classroom would be a beneficial experience to prepare me for this semester.
I gained a deeper understanding of how to properly plan for and implement centers-based instruction. Because of the nature of the two groups, I learned strategies for using the same education material and content to create multiple types of instruction. One of the biggest challenges that this project faced was creating instructional centers that were relevant and easily accessible for all four of our targeted grade levels. The nature of the school’s music class schedule, in which all four of the target grades came to the classroom for music within a relatively short period of time, made it impractical to create and implement specialized centers for each grade. As a result, small tweaks had to be made to a standardized set of centers to make them relevant and accessible to each of the grade levels while remaining workable for the teacher. Doing this taught me a great deal about the developmental differences between each of the grades and how best to teach students at their respective levels.
One of the largest things that I took away from this project was, as mentioned, an understanding of some of intricacies and eccentricities of lesson design in my field. I also benefit from the amount of time spent in a music classroom as a result of this study. Thanks to my participation in this project, I have had the opportunity to spend more time in a wider range of elementary music classrooms than some of my fellow undergraduates. I am able to claim a greater level of relevant experience, and the experience that I have goes beyond simply observing the teaching process. I have gained real world experience for things that would remain theoretical for many undergoing a similar degree program.