Education in practical music through group teaching

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Mitchell, A 2011, 'Education in practical music through group teaching', Problems in Music Pedagogy, vol. 8, pp. 33-39.

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This paper relates to the International Society for Music Education (ISME) mission of fostering global understanding among the world’s educators by sharing ideas about issues within music education. The paper presents the context, methodology, activities and outcomes of changes made to Southern Cross University’s Bachelor of Contemporary Music curricula, which involved replacing the delivery of individual practical music lessons with group classes in its first year program. The practical music component of the first year of this degree is delivered through the units Music Practice I and Music Practice II, with specialisations in guitar, bass, keyboards, drums and voice. This research project was conducted in two phases: i) the implementation of the revised Bachelor of Contemporary Music curricula, and ii) an action research case study of the effects of the new curricula on teaching and learning practices in music performance education. The paper identifies significant pedagogical challenges and opportunities arising from teaching practical music through group classes, analyses best practice in teaching strategies employed for group music teaching and describes the learning styles of a diverse cohort of students. It also discusses learning environments most productive in this method of delivery, highlights key motivational factors and resources that contribute to student development, and identifies the assessment instruments most suitable for group classes. The quality of delivery of the practical music component of the Contemporary Music degree through this format has profound educational implications as this forms a significant component of the students’ first year experience. The paper reports on learning outcomes of teaching music practice through group classes based on feedback provided by studio teachers and students, evaluates the pedagogical implications for music education and concludes with recommendations on the best provision for practical music education through group classes and ways to improve its delivery.

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