Effectiveness of grouping middle school students based on learning modality preferences on vibrato acquisition
Varga, Anthony Carman
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The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of grouping middle school students by learning modality preferences on vibrato acquisition. Traditional approaches to teaching vibrato synthesize reading and listening to elicit an appropriate tactile response, however, Ornstein (1995) identified this approach as a narrow scope suited to a "hypothetical average student" (p.105). Keefe (1985) proposed learning styles as a reliable lens for understanding the individuality of learning. Music education research has a pronounced lack of pedagogical studies addressing technical development particularly regarding stringed instruments. A majority of vibrato research in particular has been regulated to diagnostic studies of the behavior of its inherent acoustic properties. Of the several tutorial vibrato studies that exist, namely those by Gillespie (1997), and Shepherd (2004), few examined beyond two of the primary sensory (e.g., visual and auditory) learning modes identified by Swassing and Barbe (1979). This study challenged traditional approaches by accommodating individual sensory preferences as the most promising path to learning vibrato. Dominant learning preferences of 60 middle school orchestra students were identified using VARK (Fleming, 2001), an instrument whose name is derived from an acronym for Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, and Kinesthetic. Based on VARK (Fleming, 2001), results, four groups were created corresponding to three learning preferences and a control group. Pretest recordings were made to evaluate existent vibrato abilities and all subjects participated in six weeks of intervention vibrato lessons where teaching was deliberately matched to each group's learning preference. The control group was taught using a traditional class method book. Following the intervention period, posttest recordings were made as an exit assessment. All recordings were evaluated by a panel of qualified string educators using Gillespie's (1993) vibrato evaluation instrument and three data sets were constructed corresponding to means of the pretest, posttest, and a means of difference between the two. Analysis included measures of central tendency, Kruskal-Wallis H test and frequency distributions. Descriptive statistics were computed for grade, gender, and instrument to examine latent peripheral relationships and no significant differences were found between learning preference groups and the control group compelling the researcher to accept the null hypothesis.