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The Independent Art students presented their year-long inquiry process on Wednesday evening, May 16, 2012 with their Independent Art Show in the library/art wing of Trinity High School from 6:00pm-8:00pm. The girls were madly rushing in and out of the artroom throughout the day putting finishing touches on art pieces or repairing a piece that may have gotten bumped in the artroom. At 3:00 pm, the girls came running into the artroom to begin setting up racks in their chosen area,moving display cubes into strategic positions and hanging their artwork, “tweaking and re-tweaking” until their guests and the art community arrived. The unveiling of the installation piece, “The Spark Within”, a series of 36 panels depicting “Ah-ha” moments in the lives of these 9 talented young ladies was very well received! The girls stood proudly at their displays and discussed their artist statements  and processes with the viewers and circulated among the crowds to admire one another’s displays. This was the girls’ night to shine and so they did! At the end of the evening, 4 artists had sold artwork which I told them they are now considered professional artists!

Helping the students plan the show is a ton of work, but it was well worth it! Giving the students the opportunity to use inquiry and make their own choices regarding the creation of their art was definitely worth all the worK. What great artwork was created with the help of my cig group and AE2.0.



Attempt #1 for my student inquiry :

My plan was to introduce kids to the voice recorders and have them make various recordings that they could later edit into pieces.  After some very basic instruction about how to use the recorders, students were able to make a variety of recordings, but I did run into issues.  Students were trying to record very long samples, or they were having difficulty uploading and organizing their samples.  After we were able to get all of the sounds onto the computers and I showed students how to use various filters and editing tools to create their piece of music.  Most of the groups were able to edit and move around sounds within a set form, but none of the groups pieces were really coming together…  I thought about what was going on, and I thought that the challenge was time related because of activities surrounding state testing…  when I realized the real issue was the fact that I had missed critical step in the music making process – I forgot to discuss purpose!  I had assumed that the students would automatically know what they wanted to communicate in their piece…  which didn’t really work.  We lost several class periods to activites and then the quarter changed and the students moved  on to their next class…

So what now?  I stewed about how much of a mess this project turned up to be – and how I felt that I didn’t provide students with closure because we had to basically abandon the projects mid-stream.  A lot of the issues were time related, but now I have had some time to revise, reflex and now I am ready to revisit…  What am I going to change?

Attempt#2 almost ready for lift-off!

Since purpose was such a issue with the last attempt, my plan is to combine this project with the Protest Music unit that I was working on.  I am going to have students research a variety of songs whose purpose was to voice a cause or historical perspective.  Then I am going to ask students to research a cause or historical perspective of their own and create a statement about their cause using a variety of recordings and sound editing techniques…hmmm….  I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

I heard an interview on NPR’s Tell Me More,A Memoir Should Be More Than A History Lesson back on February 1, 2012, and one statement seemed to hit at the heart of inquiry.

“Lorene Cary, one of the reasons we’re so glad to talk with you is that you have penned one and you wrote one at a pretty young age. It was about your experience as a student at a New England boarding school, the first group of girls to attend this school and you and I share that experience, oddly enough. So I wanted to ask what made you want to write one?

I wanted to out that experience. You’re talking to me, by the way, just a few months after I’ve been appointed to the School Reform Commission here in Philadelphia and for me, going from public school to a boarding school in New England was an experience of going from an education where, basically, many of my teachers as I was growing up looked at us and tried to figure out what was wrong with us in order to try to fix us and get us better to an experience where all of these people looked at us as if to try very hard to figure out what was special and exquisite about us.”

As I have pondered and inquired on our group’s theme (How can we help students discover who they are and their connection to the world through the arts?). I feel more and more that the arts are invaluable to connect with a child’s heart. As I listened to this interview in  the car I immediately thought of our CIG.

I feel an evolution of our thinking taking place. I think many of us become teachers because we want to “help”. We want to make children’s lives better. There is nothing wrong with that. But, in the beginning, I did look at my students as “broken”. I see now how condescending this is. As I have grown as a teacher through Arts Educator, I naturally began to see how special the students are. Our inquiring hearts theme is a way of trying very hard to identify what is special and exquisite about each child and then reflecting it back to them.

After much discussion, the class and I came up with two rewards for the proficiency tests. One would reward individual achievement on a weekly basis, and one would reward collective achievement over the remaining weeks in the school year.

For individual achievement I spoke with the president of our parent organization about helping me develop ‘Band Bucks’ that could be redeemed at the school store. Band Bucks come in two amounts, $1.00 and $.50. For the collective achievement I spoke to our principal about organizing a band party the last week of school. We will order pizza and soda and listen to music.

In both cases student achievement will be based on their score on the weekly playing test. I designed a rubric in which students are given points in four categories, 1.) If they have their book and instrument (3points) 2.) Rhythmic accuracy (4 points) 3.) Melodic accuracy (4 points) and 4.) Reasonable tempo (4 points), for a total of 15 possible points. In order to receive a $ 1.00 band buck the student must earn 14-15 points on their playing exam. In order to receive a $ .50 band buck the student must earn 10-13 points. If the student earns fewer points than 10 they are not eligible for a voucher. In addition to earning points for band bucks I am also logging the students’ scores into a weekly ‘star’ poster that I designed. The poster has each student’s name and remaining weeks in the school year. If a student earns at least 8 of the 15 possible points they are given a star for the week. If every student in band is able to collect 10 stars (out of 14 remaining weeks) they will earn the pizza party. However, if even one student comes up short, none of the students will earn the party.

I believe this rewards system holds students both individually and collectively accountable for making sure that they practice on a regular basis. The students accepted the terms of the rewards system and we have begun to implement it. More to come about the results.

            I began this year’s foray into inquiry with a pretest regarding student practice, that my CIG designed. Upon reading the results I learned several things about my students. One, they are not practicing enough. I knew that already, but I now have written proof. Two, they felt that some kind of reward system would motivate them to practice more. I hate this idea, as a musician, because I feel that improving your skills should be the ultimate motivational tool. But, my goal is to motivate students to practice more and I will do what I have to. Three, many indicated that they wanted to be “pushed” more and “challenged” more.

            After taking some notes, I spent the next class period going over the results of the pretest with the students. We discussed each question, the results, and what those results mean in terms of improving the collective motivation of the class. The two points we discussed at length were the rewards system and the class’s desire to be challenged from week to week.

            At the end of class I talked to the students about inquiry. I told them that I would like them to form a line of inquiry that we could use to serve as the basis for a research project about student motivation and inspiration. I gave them some examples of inquiry questions, and after several suggestions we settled on one that I thought appropriate for our class, “How will giving us rewards for practice make us better at playing our instruments?” I revised the language slightly and we are now operating under the following inquiry question, “How will implementing a proficiency rewards system impact individual student practice habits?”

            Our next step will be to define the particulars of the rewards system and implement the system into our weekly routine.

Quote #4: “Inquiry requires teachers and students alike to take up multiple roles and responsibilities within and across classroom activities.”

 I don’t think you could sum it up much better than that. I feel like this quote speaks to what collaborative inquiry is all about….moving away from the practice of teachers standing in front of a room and spooning out information that the students are expected to regurgitate, and toward a classroom setting in which teachers lead, but the division of power is such that students are able to assume that role when appropriate and promote peer teaching and self learning.

That said I find the goal this year extremely interesting. Taking group inquiry into the classroom is one thing, but giving students the reigns to shape and mold the line of inquiry, even create it themselves, is quite the other. Relinquishing power in this manner, even for the most liberal of teachers, is a bit scary. Then again, I guess it’s the logical next step.

With regard to my particular CIG, the discussion question that I kept coming back to when I read through these ideas was “What ‘problems’ to you encounter with your students that could stimulate a shared inquiry as an active quest?” Our CIG is centered around this question. We want to find out why so many students refuse to practice their craft outside of a classroom setting. We also want to learn their motivation for taking an arts class (to fit in, to create art/music, to get an easy A) and how we can motivate them further.

The Three Artistic Processes: Paths to lifelong 21st century skills through music by Scott C. Shuler, MENC President

I chose this article because it was a different article than another group member had selected and we thought that we could share ideas from different articles and share information.

This article discussed the 3 artistic processes as an answer to a variety of teachers’ questions about why Music Education in important.  The answer that I felt related to me was the need to explain how studying music prepares students for lifelong success, regardless of career choice.  The author also discusses the 3 artistic processes as clarification for how student-centered music education helps children master 21st century skills necessary for future successes.

Shuler discusses the history of the 3 artistic process model and its usefulness as : comprehensive (content-wise), practical (as a natural process that allows for a natural transfer of learning and assessment), and authentic (allowing live-long student-centered music making that stretches beyond the music classroom).  Shuler also states that in order to give students the gift of lifelong music education that teachers must ensure that students assume the responsibility of making musical decisions (interpretation & creativity), self-assessment and diagnosis & improvement of their own work.  Shuler believes that Music Education has gained some ground since the revision of Bloom’s taxonomy, which puts “Create” on top.  When teachers empower their students to carryout the process, teachers are empowering higher order thinking.  Shuler also comments that some of the 21st century skills that can be gained through this process are  Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and that national music standards highlight creativity through improvisation, composition & interpretation.  Commenting that collaboration requires attributes such as empathy, willing acceptance of a contributing role & respectful participation and an understanding of when to offer ideas and when to listen to others ideas.

The 3 Artistic Processes are described as Creating, Performing, & Responding and the article includes a table that describes activities within each of these areas.  The table also includes verbs that relate to Bloom’s taxonomy.

Insights Gained?

I really feel that this article was relevant to our group’s question: How can we help students discover who they are and their connection to the world through the arts?   I find the connection because I felt the article directly discusses both artistic behaviors and collaboration in the music classroom.  One comment that the author made that really interested me was about how teacher-centered music making does not give students the tools to be musical beyond the music classroom.  That some enthusiastic high school band members and choristers never play or sing beyond graduation, or if they do they are then dependant upon community or other music directors to provide the direction.  Shuler suggests that student centered music education gives students the gift of lifelong music making.  I was particularly interested in the process that he suggests to encourage students to take responsibility for their music learning.  I think that in the classroom, I would definitely like to give students the opportunity to make music in such a way that will extend throughout their lives.

Questions Generated and/or Divergent Views?

Looking at the chart, I do see that it is applicable to classroom music, although it does seem that most of the article refers to the ensemble class.  I am really thinking about the comment that Shuler made about students needing the skills to direct themselves and their research and experiences in their lifelong music making!  I am also considering how I can manipulate the artistic process described  in my classroom.  I am interested in students: creating and developing ideas and concepts, interpreting and developing personal ideas about their creation, presenting work, and evaluating their work.  I really am not sure about what content I want to use yet, I still have lots of ideas swirling around 🙂


After reading each of the quotes, it took me a while to decide which quote it was that I wanted to respond to…  finally, I rested on quote #5…

The question is “In what ways might inquiry disrupt the traditional idea of teacher as expert and learner as novice?”

When I consider the changes in education over the past 20 years (12yrs teaching, 4yrs teacher training, 4yrs my own HS career),  it is clear that the entire educational system has experienced a dramatic shift.  Now this shift was dramatic for me, because I was personally involved, but I am certain that during the decade before people in my position can say the same thing, and I am certain that a decade from now the same will be said again.  It seems that change is a constant – which is not always good and not always bad.  Right now I am confused by what the “traditional idea” of a teacher is.  I will comment that inquiry challenges a traditional thought where noise is bad, students should stay in their seats, and notes should be quietly taken.  I also believe that inquiry based activities provide students with the opportunity to explore that it is ok to not be perfect, a chance to explore their resources and to find creative answers to problems.

The relationship between me and this quote is that I question “traditional” thought when it comes to technology and availability of information.  I think that there are many activities that I could offer students if they were allowed to use their phones, mp3 players, etc. in my class.  In this time of the availability of  information, I feel like my phone, or other mobile technology could help me provide students with new and changing information, as well as, the tools for students to discover this information on their own.

September 2020

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