At the recent ISM ‘Guide to Progression, curriculum and assessment’ day we had plenty of opportunity to talk and think around the topic in the light of a new National Curriculum. (Thank you Alison.) This involved thinking about the values and vision that we hold for music teaching at Key Stage 3 (age 11-14).
Before I sounded forth in our small group discussion I did say that I had had a long time to think about this. I should have added that I have enjoyed the privilege of bringing together the ideas generated by the classroom research of secondary school music teachers. This has involved a dialogue between my evolving ideas, their ideas and reflection on the realities of the classroom, what works and what might work better. And what is thought to be worthwhile in the name of a music education.
My current conclusion to the question comes out something like this. It is a series of generalizations or if you like, principles.
Each class is thought of as a community of music-makers. Fundamental is that the class take it as given that they will be sounding out music together for much of the time as singers and players. They will learn to ‘face each other’ musically.
Great store will be given to the climate of the classroom where every person will be heard musically and known as a shaper of the curriculum that will unfold.
This will involve establishing ‘voice protocols’ that contribute to the social dynamics of the classroom, the subtleties of pedagogy and the growing trust created between teacher and pupil, and pupil and pupil.
In this way the pupil understands that the teacher will be both facilitator and mediator.
By mediator I mean that the teacher is respected for knowing good musical places to go, for being much of the time ‘the more knowledgeable other’.
The teacher goes beyond facilitation and brings to the classroom what will take pupils to musical places unimaginable. The teacher as well as the pupil will be a mediator of culture.
For the teacher’s part there will be a reserve of powerful stimulants and strategies that can be called on.
Criteria for assessment are constantly negotiated and focused on what really matters here and now, what is important to making music well.
The climate of the classroom will be as important as almost anything else.
All this is an ideal and a good place to start.