The tacit dimension and pedagogy

In the past ten years England has adopted the term pedagogy. It has become part of the contemporary way of speaking about what teachers do. Robin Alexander (2004) encourages us to think of pedagogy as:

“The core acts of teaching (task, activity, interaction and assessment) [are] framed by space, pupil organisation, time and curriculum, and by routines, rules and rituals. [They are] given form, and [are] bounded temporally and conceptually, by the lesson or teaching session” [1]

In Alexander’s view a pedagogy embraces explicit social values, the kind of relationships desired within a democracy, for example. Pedagogy is not simply a matter of teaching and learning strategies to be employed in the name of musical engagement, but rather a matter of finding ways of teaching and learning that have their source in beliefs and values about the kind of society we envision, the kind of pupils and the kind of schools we want. A pedagogy simply for musical engagement tells very little and is entirely without meaning or ethical purpose.

A pedagogy for musical understanding likewise will tell very little unless it arises from some serious consideration of values. If we stay with the contention expressed in last week’s blog that tacit knowing is

  • a critical aspect of our personhood;
  • that it forms the basis for finding significance and meaning through musical participation;
  • that it is rooted in our existence in the world;
  • that it gives integrity to other ways of musical knowing and understanding;
  • that it enables interpretation and critique by allowing for multiple perceptions of reality and the formation of flexible and fluid conceptions of musical reality, then there is a case for developing associated pedagogic principles. So what might they be?
  1. All musical educational events would promote feelingful bodily involvement which would be recognised as a foundational form of understanding;
  2. We would be teaching for intuitive insight, helping students to know what feels right, what makes sense and achieves coherence;
  3. We would avoid excessive focalisation (hostile to personal meaning-making);
  4. We would be open to meaning unfolding through the perceptions of our students as well as our own;
  5. These kinds of musical events would connect with personal concerns and human interest;
  6. We would reject objectivist approaches, taxonomies of objectives and the declaration of predetermined outcomes, all of which are likely to negate 1-5 above;
  7. We would allow for, look for, earnestly seek out and nurture the arising and construction of propositional knowledge, knowledge that could be declared and contested;
  8. The gathering of propositional knowledge would be valued highly in the forming of fluid and flexible conceptualisations that could be applied to ongoing music making;
  9. Music made would in the first instance be viewed as sui generis rather than being the servant of existing forms and conventions;
  10. We would, in putting expressive problems and worthwhile materials in the way of our students, expect them to ask questions, become curious and find their own expressive problems to solve.

Thus a value position is established.

Next week: questions arising.


[1] Alexander, R. (2004) Still no pedagogy? Principle, pragmatism and compliance in primary education. Cambridge Journal of Education, Vol. 34, No. 1, 7-33.




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