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This enquiry is an action research project that investigates how changes to learning environments might assist young violinists in developing greater awareness and understanding of their participatory role in instrumental learning. It is also an enquiry aimed at improving teaching practice through encouraging a heightened pupil-centred approach that places the teacher in a more facilitatory role. Positioned during the four months prior to their end of year performance assessments in a school of music, the study involved ten young violinists between the ages of 9-13 who were presented with weekly opportunities to engage in a multi-layered approach to learning that emphasised critical reflection. Informed by approaches that draw attention to the importance of engaging with the development of learning processes, five interventions were used in order to provide pupils with opportunities for: making and analysing weekly performance films; collaborating with a peer in the film analysis process; performing for the entire group of participants and engaging in group discussions; designing, implementing, and documenting the effectiveness of weekly practice strategies; and performing in a public celebratory concert. This multi-layered approach encouraged pupils to direct and explore their instrumental learning in each context by rotating between six ‘musical chairs’ from the perspectives of listener, observer, analyst, designer, advisor, and performer. There is evidence to suggest that incorporating this reflective model is advantageous to both pupil learning and teacher practice. Pupils acknowledged experiencing a growth in their level of confidence and ability to perform, in how they used critical reflection generally, but also specifically when self-regulating their practice. The frequency with which pupils performed, analysed performance films, and observed their peers perform was put forward by pupils as the most influential factor that promoted a change in the way they engaged with learning. From the teacher-researcher’s perspective, the study also highlights the impact of action research on teacher thinking and practice, and explores implications for instrumental teachers.
Ellis, L.G. (2018) Agents of Change: A Multi-Layered Approach to Violin Learning and Teaching, Doctoral Thesis, Technological University Dublin.