A qualitative study of six applied music teachers within the context of Bloom's second phase of talent development
Sergey, Thomas Michael
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Attrition rates among applied music students accelerate as young people progress through adolescence. Once disengaged from music participation in the teenage years, disinterest tends to persist throughout adulthood. The aim of this qualitative study was to investigate the teaching practices of applied music teachers as they worked with teenagers at a talent development level referred to as second phase (Bloom, 1985), which is typically reached in adolescence. The study investigated teaching and learning behaviors in the lessons, teachers’ management of para-instructional decisions (such as monitoring students’ progress and recommending students for collegiate-level study), and teachers’ strategies for influencing, motivating, and nurturing students. Purposeful sampling was used to recruit six classical guitar, harp, and piano teachers. Data collected from music lesson observations, semi-structured interviews, and documents were analyzed typologically for occurrences of predetermined categories of instructional behaviors and inductively for emergent themes. The study revealed several findings. Verbal directives and questions, positive approbations, and playing models dominated the teachers’ behavior. The teachers accommodated individual learning styles and empowered their students by providing them with decision-making opportunities. The teachers’ pedagogies were systematic and goal driven, with refined tone and strategies for lifelong music making among the pedagogical foci. Musical analysis was integral to the teaching, as it served to deepen students’ intellectual understanding of the music and support their memorization during performances. The teachers prescribed exact practice routines, which most of them provided in written form. The findings suggest that in light of the voluntary nature of applied music study in adolescence and the many activities competing for students’ time, a chief concern of the teachers was to influence and motivate their students to continue their participation in music lessons. The teachers accomplished this by utilizing six categories of teaching strategies, some of which could involve decisions contrary to their own musical preferences and pedagogical inclinations. The strategies’ synergy maximized the facilitation of positive student experiences, particularly those associated with public performance. These experiences seemed to fulfill students’ drive for independence, satisfy their need for recognition, and boosted their motivation to work towards achieving higher proficiency levels.