I once carried out a study in a high school in London, England aimed at identifying teaching roles and tasks occurring in the music classroom. The results of the study led to the conclusion that to varying degrees music teachers-during teaching episodes-assume roles of Enabler, Guide, Instructor and Assessor.
All 48 student who participated in the study said that their teachers carried out various teaching activities. When these activities were analysed, they were found to be associated with the teaching role of enabler. In this role, teachers set up conditions in which their students acquire information. For example, one student said that teachers made available several worksheets on Rock n’ Roll lyrics which helped students to make up their own song. Teachers used the internet and other technologies to aid in creating the conditions in which students could acquire information, skills and participate in music composition. For example, they used a video camera to capture students’ performance. Students would then access recordings of their performance via the school’s virtual learning environment (VLE) to self-critique. Teachers also presented students with links to YouTube video clips of examples of the genre they were studying.
Again, all 48 students to varying degrees highlighted teaching activities which placed their teachers in the role of guide. In this role, teachers were involved in giving various levels of support aimed at helping students to achieve greater understanding and skills necessary to engage with their composition and performance. For example, giving information regarding the origin of Brit pop or Rock n’ Roll, showing students, via the internet, professional performances of the genre, playing audio examples for students and providing paper-based material with chord progression and rhymes and advising students about various aspects of the compositional process.
Cain (1985) states that the teaching role of instructor, that is, giving direct instructions to students, is one that teachers in the music classroom adopt fully. This teaching role was also assumed by teachers in the study. In this role they taught skills and concepts for example, how to play a chord or the drum-kit or how to play selected percussion instruments. Twenty six (26) students spoke about tasks which were associated with this role. This seems to suggest that teachers assumed the role of instructor almost equally with the roles of enabler and guide.
Only 9 students in the study hinted at teachers’ role of assessor who carried out the task of giving feedback generally, and feedback on the videotaped performances of various students’ compositions. During the study it was observed that the main method of assessment utilised by teachers was the use of a rubric to assess group performances. This McQuarrie and Sherwin (2013) highlight as the number one assessment methods used in the music composition and performance classroom.
Given the nature of the music classroom, teachers’ ability to effortlessly assume and switch between the roles of instructor, guide, enabler and assessor is not just a requirement, but invaluable to successful music teaching.
Cain, T. (1985). Teacher as Guide: The Teacher’s Role in the Secondary School Music Lesson. British Journal of Music Education, 2, 5-18. doi: 10.1017/S0265051700004575
McQuarrie, S, H., X., & Sherwin, R, G. (2013). Assessment in Music Education: Relationships between Classroom Practice and Professional Publication Topics. Research and Issues in Music Education, 11, 1, (not paginated).