The University Record, October 5, 1992

Videos help music teachers improve teaching style

By Nicole McKinney
Record Special Writer

When students sit glassy-eyed during music class, it may be because the teacher talks too much, say researchers at the School of Music.

In music education, children tend to learn better from teachers who use non-verbal or a mix of verbal and non-verbal teaching styles, says music education Prof. James O. Froseth.

Froseth, with graduate assistants Molly A. Weaver and Joan E. Linklater, spent a year in Flint elementary schools investigating verbal and non-verbal teaching methods and their relationship to learning style preferences and music achievement among students in culturally diverse school environments.

The ongoing research project represents a partnership between the U-M, Flint Community Schools and Yamaha Corp. of Grand Rapids, which funded the project under the National Music Education Research Project.

“We want to develop effective teaching strategies for the 1990s, specifically directed toward establishing equity in music achievement,” Froseth says. “Research indicates that instructional modes, methods and strategies can significantly affect student achievement.”

While the primary mission of the project was to determine learning-style differences based on cultural diversity, the study found no difference in preferred learning styles among children of different ethnic and racial backgrounds. Instead, Froseth says, the researchers discovered a tool for teacher self-assessment in music education.

Five vocal and instrumental music teachers and 20 students served as subjects for the study. The instructors videotaped themselves once a month teaching music classes with four randomly-selected students. The teachers analyzed the tapes and classified their teaching styles to determine the relative effectiveness of their use of verbal and non-verbal teaching behavior.

The teachers also videotaped the students and classified the students’ responses to their teaching behavior. The object was to determine if differences exist in response to verbal and non-verbal instruction, and Froseth says there is a measurable difference.

“This study is unique in that the teachers generated the data. It was based on what they themselves were doing, and their own perceptions of what was going on in the class.”

Many of the teachers, in viewing their videotapes, found that they talked too much, Froseth says.

“All of the teachers felt enhanced awareness of students’ preference for non-verbal teaching and are discovering that using words to teach music doesn’t work. The teachers are becoming more aware.”

“When teachers are talking, there is no way to know what kind of response they are getting from students,” Froseth says. “We’re talking real instructional leadership through modeling. Teachers have to lead.”