Herts musical inclusion critical reflection day

Staff participate in an ice breaker exerciseOn 5th January 2017 a group of tutors and staff from schools involved in musical inclusion projects in Hertfordshire gathered at Stevenage Music Centre for a day of critical reflection on the development of music-based mentoring in the county. An introduction described its development from out of school work as part of previous Youth Music projects, through to the embedding of the role of the instrumental tutor in schools, and most recently the running of a pilot project bringing a specialist community musician for a 5- week intervention at Townsend Church of England School in St Albans.

The session began with a geographical ice breaker which invited participants to stand in the room respective to their birthplace in UK and share their musical heroes and ‘guilty’ musical favourites.

Sharing inclusive musical successes in Herts Schools

The Head of Music and instrumental tutors from Monks Walk School, Welwyn Garden City then discussed inclusion pupils’ progress, noting that some tutors are incorporating song writing and the use of music tech in their practice to support this. Tutors also commented on the need to locate personal and social outcomes in musical learning, and the need for appropriate progression routes for these, both exam and non-exam based.

Kerry Williams, SENCo at Bushey Meads Academy gave a presentation about the impact of the inclusion project at the school, where the young musicians are in the higher bands for behaviour and attitude. Tutors spoke about the benefits of receiving information on the young people’s special needs, and the value of having suitable equipment available to ensure delivery is accessible to young musicians with physical disabilities (of which Bushey Meads Academy has a high proportion). Head of Music Sarah Brown pointed out that the school is reviewing ways to improve general curriculum attainment using Sutton Trust tables, and particularly focussing on the value of high quality feedback in helping students improve.

Mark Howe and Chris Phelps described the short term project Mark has just completed at Townsend School. Mark said he thinks music is just the vehicle to outcomes, and lists many including agency, autonomy and self-regulatory behaviour. Chris described how a group of year 7 girls had particularly liked being offered the chance to train to deliver workshops to families in neighbouring primary schools. An instrumental tutor from Townsend suggested that adding a performance for pupils to work towards might also be helpful to progression, citing a dance project that had proved to be very popular. 

Critical reflection on teaching styles

We then ran an activity where people changed their position in the room respective to statements on Powerpoint slides about content of their teaching. The first juxtaposed creativity with the technical skills with which instrumental music teaching has traditionally been associated.Staff reflect on their teaching styles

The next slide invited tutors to reflect on who has most responsibility for making choices in the lessons, the pupil or the tutor followed by a slide asking about the balance between encouraging technical perfection with pupils’ enjoyment. Then next tutors were asked to consider who spoke more in the sessions, they or their pupils. The final slide asked whether tutors were trying to fit in lots into their lessons, or to create space with their teaching.

These thoughts then fed into a session encouraging us to reflect on how we had ourselves learnt music, who and what had been the barriers and enablers of this. One tutor commented how, despite being about performance,  learning music had provided him access to a supportive musical community, evidencing student peer mentoring within an informal school concert as a valuable part of this. He had now returned to teach in the school and contributed to running the concert. A tutor who had aligned himself with trying to fit a lot into his lesson described the spacious quality created by an inspirational tutor he’d learnt with at music college. Another delegate described not appreciating the guitar lessons her parents had sent her to, another commented that young musicians had so many other distractions they sometimes don’t make a connection between practise, progress and satisfaction in achievement. This sparked a conversation about encouraging young musicians to taking responsibility for their own learning, rather than being the recipients of others’ ‘good intentions’.

Staff refect on their teaching stylesCreating good case studies

The day concluded with training in how to write case studies and taking time to write them in pairs. As previously, the diversity of tutors’ experience and specialisms contributed to a rich dialogue around the case studies. One classical instrumentalist described how he used the discipline needed to learn music to help a student manage anxiety through the organisation of musical practice. Participants particularly valued the opportunity to hear from other tutors, and to share their own experiences, both celebratory and challenging.

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