Music Education Researcher Takes Scholarly Study to the Classroom
Member Spotlight: Wendy L. Sims
This article originally appeared in the January 2017 Teaching Music.
Wendy L. Sims is the 2016 senior researcher for the Society for Research in Music Education. The award recognizes significant, long-term scholarship in music education. She is a professor of music education in the School of Music at the University of Missouri in Columbia and a member of NAfME. Sims notes that her career has combined classroom teaching and music education research. She is now in her 32nd year of teaching music education courses at the University of Missouri in Columbia. “I teach undergraduate courses in elementary and middle-level teaching methods, graduate courses in research and general music, and doctoral seminars.”
She continues, “I also volunteer weekly as the music teacher for preschoolers and toddlers classes at the university’s Child Development Laboratory. I enjoy the opportunity to teach this wide age range of students weekly!”
Sims shares some teaching tips from her research into effective music listening activities with children, “which have yielded some important teaching strategies that I implement in my teaching.”
- Making eye contact with the students while they’re engaged in a listening activity is critical to maintaining their attention.
- Small movements that relate directly to the characteristics of the music help keep the children on task to listening. For example, while they listen to “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Grieg, have the children “run” their fingers on their knees to show the rhythmic ostinato pattern, tempo, and dynamics of the music, imitating Peer Gynt running down the mountain.
- Teachers should be good models of attentive, polite listening and never talk over the music during listening activities. The use of nonverbal cues, call charts, listening maps, puppets, or other visual aids is more appropriate and effective.
- Although this might sound obvious, it’s amazing how tempting it is for teachers to do something during listening activities, such as check attendance or call out misbehaving students, rather than just stopping the music. I’ve often observed these teacher behaviors in classrooms, which is part of the reason I identified this as a topic to investigate.
Sims says that NAfME and the Missouri Music Educators Association (MMEA) have played a large role in her professional career. “I’ve attended national biennial MENC/NAfME conferences since the early 1980s, and have found them to be crucial for remaining up-to-date with cutting-edge research and best practices in the field, and very valuable for sharing and networking with colleagues. The Missouri Music Educators Association puts on an excellent, well-attended, yearly in-service conference that provides another significant venue for learning from workshops, teacher education meetings, performances, and a lively research poster session.”
Sims continues, “I constantly refer to NAfME and MMEA research and practitioner publications in my work as a music teacher educator and researcher, and assign readings from all these at some point in my courses for my college students at every level.”
Sims says her favorite thing about teaching is that “I feel so fortunate that I get to ‘go to school’ each day. I value learning both with and from my students of all ages, and enjoy watching them grow and develop confidence and independence as learners, musicians, music teachers, and researchers.”
She is an active researcher and writer, with articles published regularly in national and international journals such as NAfME’s Journal of Research in Music Education, Psychology of Music, International Journal of Music Education, and NAfME’s Music Educators Journal.
She is also the editor of the book Strategies for Teaching: Prekindergarten Music, and co-editor of the book Music in Prekindergarten, both published by NAfME.
In July 2014, Sims completed an eight-year term as editor of the Journal of Research in Music Education. She regularly presents research sessions and workshops at national and international conferences. She also was the music curriculum consultant for a PBS educational television series based on the Angelina Ballerina book series.