Investigating the process of learning jazz pedagogy and improvisation through an eight-week professional development workshop
Mishkit, Bruce David
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Music teachers often have life and educational experiences which lead them to identify with a specific role and community of individuals with common interests—for instance, band director, choral director, or orchestra director. But if teachers lack experience and identification with jazz improvisation, and their teaching positions require them to teach a jazz ensemble, how do they find membership in a community of jazz improvisers and educators? To what extent do the borders of the jazz community of practice intersect with those of other music communities of practice? Moreover, who are the brokers that facilitate movement between different music communities of practice? Viewed through the lens of Lave and Wenger’s (1991) concept of legitimate peripheral participation, in this qualitative multiple case study, I investigated three instrumental music teachers as they became more adept both at improvising and at teaching jazz improvisation. As the research suggested, the process of learning is not merely about acquiring information; it is also about changing a music teacher’s practice, resulting in his or her increased confidence as an improvising musician within a community of practice. Pre- and post-study visits to the participants’ respective schools, participants’ enrollment in an eight-week jazz improvisation workshop (jazz community of practice), and their subsequent attendance at a one-week summer jazz residency generated this study’s data, which took the form of recorded video, audio observations, and interviews. The qualitative research analysis program NVivo facilitated several cycles of coding, categorizing, and sub-categorizing data. The following themes developed from the data analysis: finding time to practice; motivation; past experiences; confidence; and piano skills. The findings of this study suggest that creating a community of practice, mentored by a professional in the field of study, and lasting for an extended length of time, creates an effective situated learning environment that enhances professional development. To varying degrees, each participant incorporated information, concepts, and techniques from the workshops and summer jazz residency into their school curriculum, and became more confident teachers of jazz improvisation. As important as professional development is for inservice music teachers, a well- rounded undergraduate music curriculum, which includes jazz pedagogy, may help preservice music teachers become better trained inservice music teachers. Future researchers might consider studying extended music teacher professional development workshops as well as research student learning as a result of teachers participating in those workshops.