Welcome to RSME’s research roundup! Here we assemble literature from our own journal, as well as other publications, that address online conversations about music education and related topics. Our fourth roundup, inspired by Musical Futures’ recent #mufuchat, brings together research indirectly related to the @musicalfutures topic about whether previous mufuchats have changed followers’ teaching practices. Participating music teachers cited teacher talk and effective feedback as one aspect of their teaching that had been modified by the weekly twitter conversations.
The literature below does not address feedback issues, but rather, considers the notion of #mufuchat as a space where music teachers can come together to share stories and ideas that may impact their future practice. That a twitter hashtag could enable such impactful weekly conversations advocates for the categorisation of such twitter communities as communities of practice (Wenger, 1998), wherein like-minded participants pull together to intentionally improve their practice, learning together through regular interaction. While communities of practice are useful for the professional development of even the most experienced teachers, the literature below focuses on how they can be particularly helpful for preservice and early career teachers.
The convenience of online interaction, as exemplified by #mufuchat, has been utilised by some teaching courses to form virtual communities of practice throughout preservice practical teaching experiences. Fitzpatrick (2013) describes one course in which, in addition to weekly face-to-face seminars, preservice teachers undertaking their teaching practicum would have to contribute weekly to a class blog. Contributions had to include a weekly blog post on a topic of their choice, as well as responses to two posts from other students. The class blog became a virtual community of practice as preservice teachers engaged in mutual problem solving, and the sharing of ideas and resources. Similarly, Blair (2013) considers the the benefits of online blogging throughout practicum experiences, emphasising how the process of narrating teaching experiences shapes one’s teaching persona.
Cain (2011) and Snyder (1999) examine the benefits of preservice teachers reflecting on their practice amongst peers through regular, face-to-face meetings. Like Blair’s (2013) and Fitzpatrick’s (2013) findings regarding online communities of practice, Cain and Snyder found that peers sharing solutions that had worked for them was an effective way for trainee teachers to approach problems in the classroom. Cain calls attention to the features of good conversation and dialogue that are evident in discussions amongst equals, and the absence of the problematic power relations that exist between university supervisors and trainees. Further enhancing the democratic elements of the structured discussions was the fact that the topic for each conversation was voted upon by the participating preservice teachers.
The advantages of dialogue between peers is echoed by Blair’s (2008) evaluation of a specific beginning teacher mentorship program in Midwestern United States. Blair suggests that in place of the traditionally dyad mentor-mentee structure, beginning teachers get more out of a community of practice that includes novice teachers as well as experienced teachers at varying career levels. Such a system might foster more “growth and mutual engagement than a traditional mentorship model” (p. 112), as the experience of sharing stories amongst a group of colleagues reduces complicated power relations. Gruenhagen (2012) similarly espouses regular conversations between teachers about their practice. A case study of a first year early childhood teacher in the East Coast of the United States, the study’s findings call for a range of teachers (from novices to the much more experienced) of various ages to come together to share stories.
Roulston et al. (2005) suggest a different framework for early career mentorship, in which teachers come together with university educators not as a support group but in order to collaboratively conduct action research to improve the teachers’ classroom practices. Ilari (2010) explores another manifestation of communities of practice that extends beyond sharing stories and reflecting on individual practice. Because of the lack of placement schools available within a Brazilian music teacher training course, a ‘free day’ of music classes was offered for babies and young children at the university. Here, student-teachers were mentored and engaged in peer-learning, participating in communities of practice not only in theory, but also in practice, as they developed teaching skills and identities through a hands-on approach.
If any of the following article titles interests you, click on the reference to be taken to the abstract.
Cain, T. (2011). How trainee music teachers learn about teaching by talking to each other: An action research study. International Journal of Music Education, 29(2), 141–154. doi: 10.1177/0255761410396961
Gruenhagen, L. M. (2012). Learning in practice: A first-year early childhood music teacher navigates the complexities of teaching. Research Studies in Music Education, 34(1), 29–44. doi: 10.1177/1321103X11430593
Roulston, K., Legette, R., DeLoach, M., Buckhalter-Pittman, C., Cory, L., & Grenier, R. S. (2005). Education: Mentoring and community through research. Research Studies in Music Education, 25(1), 1–22. doi: 10.1177/1321103X050250010501
Communities of practice have been found to be very effective contexts for mentoring preservice and early career music teachers. It is clear that these communities can manifest in a number of ways, from online and face-to-face meetings, to practicum experiences wherein student-teachers and mentors teach alongside each other. The research above demonstrates how the development of teaching practices and identities are benefitted by the sharing of resources, stories and solutions in a democratic environment; findings that are illustrated in regular conversations between educators on twitter.
We hope you’ve found this RSME research roundup helpful in your research or practice. We’d love the roundup to be as interactive as possible, and encourage all readers to add to this very brief literature review. If you’ve written (or know about) an article/book chapter/blog entry about communities of practice for preservice and early career music educators, add references and links in the comments below or tweet a reply to @RSMEjournal. If you are currently in the middle of writing such an article, consider submitting it to the internationally peer-reviewed journal, Research Studies in Music Education.
Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.