Collaborative learning among high school students in an alternative styles strings ensemble
Doke, David Reed
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Traditional teaching and learning structures in large music ensembles (e.g., orchestra) place the teacher as the leader and sole dispenser of knowledge with the students as passive learners (e.g., Allsup, 2003; Hendricks, 2018; Rogoff, 1994). However, research indicates that students can play an active role in the learning that occurs in school music ensembles. Alternative style string ensembles, which often involve informal learning, are ideal musical settings for the development of a student-centered, collaborative learning environment. The purpose of this study was to explore how high school string students collaborated with each other as they learned alternative music styles music in an after-school fiddle group. Communities of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991) served as the theoretical framework for this investigation in which I explored student participants’ perspectives, experiences, and interactions as they learned new alternative styles music. During the course of this study I also explored the changing learning roles of the participants and the role of the teacher as facilitator during the learning process. The following research questions guided this study: (1) What various roles did the students undertake in their community of practice? (2) How did the participants move toward legitimate participation as they collaborated with each other in alternative styles of music? (3) How did the teacher serve as facilitator of this community of practice? Data were collected via observations and by way of semi-structured interviews of the participants and their teacher. I used a system of coding to identify important components of learning, what the participants learned, and their movement through the community of learning. From these codes, I identified the following themes: teaching and learning aurally, collaborative learning, changing learning roles of students and the teacher, transfer of participation, leadership and sharing knowledge, student centered learning, enjoyment of playing with others, confidence, perseverance, and students gaining a deeper interest and understanding of the music. These themes served as the basis for presenting the findings for the reader. Findings from this study may inform secondary school string teachers in developing strategies for incorporating alternative styles and collaborative learning environments into their own string curricula. Findings may also provide insights with helping teachers in developing and refining student-centered collaborative learning settings and alternative styles.