Does Knowing About Research Help Teachers?

One of the biggest challenges faced by researchers is getting their results into the hands of practitioners–the teachers in the field.

Cornelia Yarbrough, Harry E. Price, and Judy Bowers looked at a single aspect of music teaching to determine if the results of research would affect music educators’ teaching behaviors if the educators knew about the research.

In their study, published in Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, Yarbrough and her colleagues used sequential patterns of instruction, a three-step process that had been proven by many years of testing to be a component of effective teaching:

  1. Teacher Presentation:  The teacher presents the material to be learned and gives directions or models what’s desired. 
  2. Student Responses: The students respond, perform, or otherwise reveal understanding (or lack thereof). 
  3. Reinforcement: The teacher reinforces the learning by providing feedback. 

Twelve experienced teachers in the study were asked to “Conduct at 12- to 15-minute rehearsal that demonstrates the best teachings skills you have at this time.” The subjects were videotaped.

The teachers were then critiqued and participated in a session in which they practiced what they had learned from the teaching workshop. They also watched a sequential patterns training tape and learned how to recognized sequential patterns.

At the beginning of the study, the professed values of the teachers didn’t always seem to correlate with their teaching behaviors. “However,” say the authors, “after research results were presented to them in an understandable way, and after they had opportunities to practice research-based techniques in a positive environment, these teachers, these teachers were not only able to value that research, but were also able to translate those values into observable behaviors.”

Looks like you can teach an old dog new tricks—and it’s proven by research!

All three of the authors of the 1991 Update study described here, “The Effect of Knowledge of Research on Rehearsal Skills and Teaching Values of Experienced Teachers,” are NAfME members. At the time of publication, Cornelia Yarbrough taught at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge; Harry E. Price taught at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa; and Judy Bowers taught at Florida State University.

Ella Wilcox, March 16, 2011, © National Association for Music Education