Responding to: Wiggins “Learning music through sociocultural, constructive process” (From Teaching Musical Understanding)
“The goal of participation in a social constructivist learning experience is competence and independence of the learner” (pg. 55). This statement at the end of the chapter is one of the things that stood out to me most, because it connects to what we have been talking about in class and in other readings. The end goal for music programs is to give students the skills that they need in order to continue engaging with music in the future. Through structuring a program that gives them real-life experience with learning about music and understanding what it is that they are doing through presenting ideas through problem-solving experiences, they are able to learn how to become independent musicians (pg. 55-6).
Learning is a social thing, where “the primary role of the learner is to engage actively, thoughtfully, and reflectively, and the primary role of the teacher is to scaffold learners’ endeavors” (pg. 41). Teachers are there to provide social and musical scaffolding (pg. 41), and should think of the learning community as an “apprenticeship where an expert and a novice work side-by-side, with the apprentice performing those portions of the task in which he or she is competent, and the expert filling in and providing support for scaffolding where necessary” (pg. 43). We recently talked about this in class, when discussing our own preferences for teaching, apprenticeship of observation, and how all of our instruction up to this point has affected the way that we teach. Scaffolding has always seen a little daunting to me, trying to figure out how to do it effectively, and this way of thinking about teaching as an apprenticeship has helped clarify some of those confusions.
When I look at my internship, it is run somewhat like this, where students are given some of the basic skills that they need to get started and observing the teacher, especially those that are on the producer track. When he is getting their weekly EP or podcast out, he often calls students in to watch what he’s doing, he “thinks out loud” and asks them questions of what they think he’s doing. When they have watched him for a while, he gives them the opportunity to try it out themselves while he is there to help them if they need him. There are some students now that don’t need him to be in the room, they just need him to approve their mixes before they are exported. With other students, he monitors their progress as they are working on a project and steps in when he needs to, but for the most part the students have the resources they need to complete projects and he is just there as an extra resource while they are figuring out their own ways through their problems.
The more knowledgeable other in the room doesn’t always have to be the teacher. In a learning community, students can use each other as resources, because each student comes in with a lot of prior knowledge of music, they might just not have all of the tools that they need to describe and label concepts (pg. 45). The teacher can be there to help them with the terminology to label things, as long as they understand what it is that they are labeling. In children’s music, we would start a lesson with experiencing a musical concept over and over again until everyone understood it, then the teacher would say “we call that this” and apply the label. It is more important that students have a conceptual understanding of what they are learning rather than just having a long vocabulary/terminology list and not understanding what they are defining. They can use other methods to express their musical ideas to each other, such as singing, demonstrating with their body, or showing them on a graph (pg. 46-7).
They can take their cues on how to be musically expressive from the teacher, who needs to “to provide a model of what it is to be a musician” (pg. 49). The teacher can do this by showing their students their own process and think out loud during it in a way that helps the students to experience it with them, like we have done in class. Students can do this with each other, and can be helped by the teacher to make sure that they are being good models for each other, and making sure that they are being engaged ” in the learning experiences and construct[ing] [their] own understanding” (pg. 49). rather than being told what to do all of the time. It is helpful for the students to be told and understand what the goals are of the class, for them to be able to be responsible for meeting them and be able to ask questions to help them meet them.
“In peer teaching, learners utilize the same techniques as professional teachers do, such as modeling, correcting errors, offering praise, assessing need for help, anticipating needs, and providing scaffolding” (pg. 50). We have talked about this, and practiced with each other, how students are always having to translate teacher-talk into learner-talk for their peers, and they do it naturally. The students that understand what the teacher said the first time are able to help those that didn’t understand, and the more they interact, the more they are building their learning community. The more they are able to rely on each other, the more independent they can become, and eventually figure things out for themselves.
In class we have talked about how “…in a social constructivist learning community, teachers and endeavor to ask open-ended questions that promote higher level thinking on the part of the learners” (pg. 43). We practiced a lot with thinking out loud and asking different kinds of questions with each other to get used to asking questions that don’t have a simple yes-or-no or one word answer. Asking these kinds of questions helps students think more critically about what they’re doing and learning, and it helps the teacher know where students are in their understanding of the concepts and gets a chance to hear their perspectives.