02/28/07 The Scholarship of Teaching Artists
While helping New England Conservatory’s Music-in-Education students to prepare and propose Guided Internships, I have begun to realize the extent of complexity â€”but also, opportunityâ€” involved in teacher education and the creation of teaching artists programs that serve schools and other learning communities. As MIE Program Coordinator, I am faced with the challenge of ensuring that student-proposed Guided Internships be productive experiences for both the interns involved (usually as teaching artists) and for the host organization (i.e, a community program or school) they are conducting their internship at.
Students who propose internship ideas come with a wide variety of prior teaching experiences, and the goals/expectations they set for their internships vary just as much. Most students, even freshmen, have some cursory teaching experience from high school; for example, being a mentor for younger high school peers. Others have already taught college-level courses, led summer programs, or consider themselves lifelong teachers. The MIE Guided Internship Program is designed, however, as a set of individualized/independent projects, and it is usually the approach to pre-planning and documenting the internship (and not the actual teaching component) that poses the most challenges. It is during these phases (internship pre-planning and documentation) that Guided Interns receive hefty doses of mentorship from MIE faculty and MIE Research Center staff.
To what extent can a research center, like the MIE Research Center, play in the planning of guided internships?
Respected educational policy researcher and teacher education advocate Gail Burnaford, of Florida Atlantic University (and formerly, Northwestern University), suggests that by taking a stance in “teacher action research,” teachers can reach new levels of understanding student learning, as well as reform their own understandings of personal learning processes. [Note: Incidentally, I've found Burnaford's article to be very useful, and refer to it often, throughout my own work.] Burnaford writes,
Professional development [Guided Internships] that assumes an action research stance . . . means taking small slices of music, small slices of classroom episodes or video vignettes, and with teachers and artists, asking, ‘What’s going on here? What is happening? What do we see?’ The process involves interviewing children and young people about the experience . . . Developing research questions that are valuable to both teachers and artists can promote dialogue and enrich the actual teaching that occurs when artists visit classrooms.
One of the initial steps we encourage students to take, when planning their Guided Internships, is the formulation of overarching inquiry or research questions. Even questions that seem simple at first (i.e., “What’s going on here? What do we see?”) may actually require quite a bit of planning to answer thoughtfully. Because the answers to these questions, and the questions themselves, are at the forefront of determining what kinds of artifacts are collected for the intern’s portfolio, it is important for interns to be very thorough as they plan the collection of said documentation.
Burnaford outlines some of the more common approaches to documentation:
The methods of teacher action research provide a number of ways to do this: collecting field notes, looking at video, doing a lot of listening to recordingsâ€”not of performances, but of student thinking, of children talking with each other about their art. These reflective methods (Wolf & Pistone, 1991) are intended to improve children’s performance and achievement; they are valuable as tools to contribute to evaluation of arts initiatives; they are also effective approaches to professional development for adults in schools.
Some interns, but not all, are able to see the immediate value of having these various artifact types in their internship portfolios, and are able to structure them into their lessons; for example, through class assignments, private lessons, conversations with mentor teachers or school/community center administrators, personal reflections, and MIE seminar work. For other interns (such as those less familiar with the portfolio process, or with less teaching experience), I direct them to the following passage from Burnaford’s article:
Gardner’s four roles for students who are engaged in the arts (Gardner, 1973) are useful frameworks for professional development of teaching artists, music teachers, and classroom teachers. The four roles, composer, audience member, critic, and performer give artists and teachers a frame or empty outline to use in order to ask the inquiry questions, ‘Why is the child doing this? What is she learning? What is he expressing? What did I as the teacher or artist do to help? What can I be doing next?’ . . . Teacher learning is the way in to student learning; teachers need to experience all four of those roles too.
I find Burnaford’s reminder (that Gardner’s four roles are also applicable to professional artists and educators) to be a refreshing and welcoming statement germane to the emergent workforce of artist-teacher-scholars: that the personae that result from the triangulation of Artistry, Teaching, and Scholarship truly incorporate all four of Gardner’s roles.
Quotations used in this post are from “Crossing Boundaries: The Role of Higher Education in Professional Development with Arts Partnerships,” written by Gail Burnaford for the Journal for Learning Through Music (Summer 2003). Guided interns of all experience levels can benefit from readings found in the Journal for Music-in-Education and its previous incarnation, the Journal for Learning Through Music. Both journals are available for free, online at the MIE National Consortium‘s website, www.music-in-education.org
Randy Wong is Program Coordinator for the Center for Music-in-Education and Information Architect for the Music-in-Education National Consortium.