Routes Into Teaching at Colchester Institute – Review

Tuesday 3rd November 2015 MusicNet East, Essex Music Services and the Musicians’ Union ran a day of practical activities for students on Colchester Institute’s Music BA course who had chosen to take a module in music education. Panel discussions, practical music-making and discussions with the students produced the following findings:

  • Routes Into Teaching are varied; either informal or formal learning can prepare people to teach well and there is now less distinction between these two than previously. Combining elements of the two strands can be very helpful.
  • Teaching can also add value to performing/composing careers, and learning and enthusiasm from these can also feed into teaching.
  • Musicians who come into teaching as failed musicians do not succeed or survive.
  • Teachers improve by developing a reflective teaching practice to learn from experience and by taking opportunities for their professional development.
  • Teaching can make a big difference to pupils’ lives, especially by adapting their methods to suit their pupils’ needs and interests. Knowledge of shared local musical cultures can support this.
  • There is little division between teaching and playing music in informal music, or in uses of music in other cultures.
  • Music has a particular emotional response from pupils, which can offer a value beyond that of some other curriculum learning. This can help engage pupils at risk of disengagement, but can also bring up emotional difficulties for example, transference. The one-to-one instrumental teacher is also in a vulnerable position in this situation, and needs to be support by safeguarding training, union membership, and knowledge of the pupils’ Special Educational Needs.
  • The peripatetic tutor can be the sole, regular one-to-one contact that pupils have with adults and can act as a mentor for pupils who are at risk of disengagement, leading to increased valuing of music teaching in the school and of music generally.
  • Making music more responsive to pupils’ interests and needs can help to engage children in challenging circumstances. This can involve offering training to existing peripatetic tutors, but also engaging new types of peripatetic tutors, especially those who can teach creatively and responsively, initially in musical styles the young people know and understand.

Essex Music Services are developing this work at Tabor School. Showing an interest in and understanding of social development can help applicants develop good CVs and to interview well. Showing evidence of successful and reflective work experience also helps develop good CVs. Essex Music Services may be able to offer further training and shadowing opportunities. The students commented they’d learnt much, particularly about how to lead music workshops, how to measure the quality of music workshops, how music can build social inclusion and about what Music Services look for in a CV. They were interested in further training opportunities and to know more about the practicalities of getting involved in delivering workshops. Here are some of the comments from students at the end of the day: – “The activities themselves gave a real life experience, showing us on how to lead classrooms & getting everyone involved” – “Knowing that even the simple activities can still be fun and enjoyable” – ‘Talking to people within the field and getting varied discussions to further knowledge” – “Being the student in the role and seeing how things work for them. Being in their shoes.” – “Community within the group, expression, simplicity and ability to have fun”.

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