The Humpback Whale of a Transition – Another Article

Okay, another article review for today.  Today I will be checking out an article on the transitions from primary to secondary school.

Nigel A. Marshall & David J. Hargreaves (2007) Crossing the humpback bridge:
primary–secondary school transition in music education, Music Education Research, 9:1, 65-80

This qualitative article focuses on 75 students in two different times: right before they transition, and on year after their transition into secondary school.  Marshall & Hargreaves refer to this transition time as the humpback bridge humpback bridge

referring to the lack of change in efficiency.  Taking from a 1985 publication (Steed & Sudworth), in which it is pointed out that students cannot see the other side of the bridge before the transition.  This article points out that we have seen an improvement in transitions in the music world.  Much of this improvement can be attributed to:

  • joint concerts
  • joint projects
  • administration of instrumental lessons
  • joint planning formats between primary & secondary teachers

Marshall & Hargreaves provide information from a 1996 study in which a member of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate (HMI) id’s 5 issues with the introduction of secondary school music including:

  1. categorization into ability groups based upon a superficial test
  2. The teacher asked students about their prior experience with music.  This yielded unreliable responses.
  3. Starting from Scratch – (I see this in some of my own colleagues)  Teachers noted that when students came from various programs, they just needed to start all over again, treating the students as beginners.  This seems to be a huge issue!  Who would want to be treated as a beginner when they have been playing for years?!
  4. All Activities Praised – I might suffer from this one.  This led to students dumbing down their own expectations.  KEY: Allow students to evaluate themselves as well as the group.  Do not let them slack off!
  5. Limited access to fun activities/instruments – WHY?! Who in their right mind would do this?  Teachers in this scenario limited the students to lectures on dead composers, listening activities, learning notation, etc. and musicking was not seen for months… MONTHS!

Okay, finally we get to the aim of this article… “to ascertain whether the process of transition in music has improved in the two decades since Galton et al. (1980) carried out their study.

Interesting Results:

  1. 39% of students provided negative or indifferent responses to primary school music including singing in choirs and a lack of instrumental opportunities except for percussion.
  2. 68% of the students felt improvement in music lessons once they trasnferred to secondary school.
  3. 19% had an improved attitude toward music.  9% decreased.
  4. 43% felt that their expectations of secondary school music had not been met.
  5. 67% would have given up some of the “fun” in primary music in order to read music & develop keyboard skills!
  6. 93% of students were looking forward to secondary schools
  7. 72% of students felt judged or classified by their secondary school teacher.
  8. 51% felt that teachers assigned more time to students who already played an instrument, could read music, and took private lessons
  9. 54% of students felt more excluded when teachers tried to encourage and develeop an interest in learning instruments

Interestingly enough, students appreciated when they were encouraged to return to their primary schools.  Perhaps these were for recruiting concerts or lessons, or whatever, but this is certainly something that my entire pyramid can work on even more!

The most positive situations included when:

  • expectations were met and understood
  • Judgements were clear, fair, and understandable
  • students could build upon prior knowledge and music making!

I enjoyed reading this article and am quite pleased with the fact that it seems that transitions have experienced great improvements in the past few years.

P.S. – Yay for Day 3 of my 500 words or more.  Perhaps I’ll come back later today if I have enough time!

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