Some thoughts on practice and theory

Approaches to teaching music should develop metacognition in teachers and learners so that student musicians can continue to learn independently when they graduate, and teachers can reflect on and improve their practice. Our pedagogy also needs to plug students into the communities of practice that will support them throughout their careers. Thus, teaching needs to be reflective, whilst encouraging reflexivity, and the resources that support learning, flexible and creatively managed in order to facilitate both formal and informal learning.

Additionally, the music curriculum and student assessment must be designed in a way that accounts for the ways that students learn, and the conditions for the acquisition of both formal disciplinary knowledge, and informal practical knowledge: whilst providing sufficient opportunities for formative and authentic assessment. Student appraisal also requires a more inclusive approach to measuring attainment: so that students are not only being measured on a narrow range of technical and theoretical outcomes, but also on creative outcomes that fully reward them for their efforts in making music.

As Jorgensen puts it ‘too many music teachers remain uninterested in music education research and are focussed almost entirely on practical matters.’ (2008, p.340). She then goes on to conclude that:

“Not enough attention has been given to practice-driven theory, or to theory and practice as interactive, that is, theory impacts practice as a practice also impacts theory. These more practice-driven, dialogical, or interactive conceptions of theory and practice would dignify practice in ways that have not been as common in music education research as I wish might be the case.”

Jorgensen, Estelle R.(2008) ‘Questions for music education research’, Music Education Research, 10: 3, 331 — 346.