The practice habits of university music majors
Ravita, Philip Michael
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Student practice and the influences that shape self-regulated behavior (habits) remain of interest among educators. This self-regulated behavior includes factors such as what informs a student’s selection of a goal during self-regulated practice, the motivation to engage in an activity, and the value attributed to an activity. Interest exists concerning the discrepancy, if any, in student-versus-teacher evaluation as informed by these factors. Through the application of Bandura’s (1986) social cognitive theory, I examined the motivators, informers, values, and sustainers of the practice habits of eight university undergraduate performance and music education majors during self-regulated practice. The instructors came from five applied lesson studios in which the students were enrolled. Using a primarily descriptive methodology, the source of the data I collected was two pre-arranged applied lessons and two pre-arranged practice sessions for each student during the fall semester of 2018. I contrasted the information taken from the practice sessions with the goal-directed and instructor-modeled activities typical of the applied lessons. To compare the self-assessment of competencies with the assessment of the instructor, I employed a survey in the form of a questionnaire and reviewed videotapes of the participants in both applied lessons and self-regulated practice. The data collected for applied lessons and self-regulated practice were then separately coded and placed into one of two categories, musical or non-musical behavior. I then compared this data among and within the participating applied lesson studios. My analysis revealed that the preponderance of instructional time was spent in musical activities. The same was true, but to a slightly lesser degree, for students during self-regulated practice. I observed that motivation and the value attributed to an activity were informed by modeling of goal-directed activities (habits) during applied lessons. The students carried this goal-directed activity into self-regulated practice. These practice habits maintained the behavior that supported the goals, the achievement of which informed students’ self-assessment of their performance competencies. Students were less satisfied with their level of performance competency than were their instructors. This lack of satisfaction occurred despite the alignment of the observed selection of practice habits with the activities modeled by the instructor in applied lessons and was contrary to previous research (Varela et al., 2016) that found students’ assessment of their competencies higher than the assessment of their instructors. One implication of this study is the importance of instructors’ training of students in task analysis regarding practice habits. Such training, combined with modeling, may enable students to choose goals wisely and to self-assess accurately to affect the self-regulation necessary to achieve musical proficiency. The differences in goals between students and instructors, practice-room behavior, and self-assessment warrant further exploration.