Identity development among adolescent males enrolled in a middle school general music program
Willow-Peterson, Katherine Anne
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The purpose of this study was to better understand the musical engagement of adolescent males enrolled in a general music class in order to learn what factors of the environment adolescent males perceive as impactful in the development of their musical identities (cf. MacDonald, Marshall, & Miell, 2002). Secondly, because researchers have posited that informal music contexts are pivotal in the development of adolescent identity and that connections can be drawn between formal and informal settings (cf. Green, 2008; Hargreaves & Marshall, 2003), I wanted to learn what role, if any, in-class connections to students’ informal musical contexts might play in the engagement of their musical identities. The following research questions were explored: In what ways, if any, are adolescent males’ musical identities engaged in the general music classroom? What role, if any, do in-class connections to informal contexts play in this engagement? Musical identities were understood through a social psychological perspective encompassing identities in music and music in identities: the socio-cultural musical roles individuals fill and the ways in which music serves other, non-musical aspects of an individual’s identity. An all-male school in the Midwest United States served as the research site. Participants were adolescent males, ages 11 through 14, enrolled in a compulsory general music program. I collected data via questionnaire, focus group interview, individual interviews, video reflections, researcher memos, and artifacts. Four factors emerged as key in the engagement of participants’ musical identities in the music classroom: 1) freedom in decision-making, 2) belonging to the classroom community, 3) distinction among peers, and 4) exposure to the other. Participants reported they could more fully engage their musical identities when each of these factors were present in the classroom, with the exception of distinction, which at times helped and at times hindered the expression of particular self-concepts. In-class connections to informal contexts were revealed in the roles of both freedom and exposure to the other in students’ engagement of musical identities. I concluded by discussing the implications of these findings as they relate to teaching, program advocacy, and recommendations for future research.
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