Case Study: Comparison of Music Students in 1997 and 2007 Perception of Their Curriculum and Self-Growth
By Maria Zellmer
Background for the Comparison
In 1997 I gathered opinions of my 255 general music students for the purpose of identifying their own perceptions of their learning experiences as they studied 1) keyboard, 2) opera, 3) guitar, 4) singing skills and 5) recorders. The results of the keyboard and opera units were offered in “Sixth Grade General Music Students’ Perceptions of Their Curriculum and Self-Growth” and submitted to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater as a partial requirement for the completion of my MME in 1998.
My original “guiding question” was “At what level would my students be aware that they have learned the information presented to them in music classes?” Even before 1997, I began this project to refine my class curriculum planning, and the assessments that accompanied them. As I refined the assessments, I also re-worked the lesson plans, and then refined the assessments, and so forth. My hope was to give my general music students something to carry with them for the rest of their lives, so that perhaps when they heard the theme from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (4th Mvt), or a TV commercial for an airline, or a luxury car, or a laundry freshener, or a cartoon, or movie themes, they would know the source of the “real” music!
Last fall, 2007, I “inherited” a class very similar to my 1997 teaching experience, and I again had the opportunity to give the same survey to my students after they completed a keyboard unit in the Exploring Music class. The outcome requirements of the keyboard unit were: 1) Identifying each key by name, 2) Play five-finger patterns, 3) Play triads from those pattern, and 4) Play two simple melodies, Ode to Joy and Kookaburra. The last two class periods were used for evaluations. Students who were ready to test volunteered first, giving more practice time and peer teaching to other students.
As I taught the “Exploring Music” class in 2007, I felt the situations were so similar, that a comparison to the 1997 study could be made. Keeping in mind this is “authentic” research data, the reader may find the results interesting, and perhaps could be inspired to do continuing research as to the level that students really DO perceive their own growth from the curriculums that we music teachers design!
The Survey Questions
There were four questions to this student survey.
- (1-a) What did you already know [meaning specifically about keyboard] and
(1-b) what [specifically] did you learn.
- Were the requirements of this class reasonable?
Too Hard Just Fine Too Easy
- Did you want more classes or more time?
Yes-I wanted more Right Amount No- I don’t want more.
- Rate this class. Circle your response.
Too Easy Fairly Easy About Right Fairly Difficult Too Difficult
Percentage Results of the Two Study Groups
Percentages will be used to compare these results, as the sample numbers are quite different. (255/44)
Percentages will be used to compare these results, as the sample numbers are quite different. (255/44)
The responses were gathered from direct words the students wrote on the surveys, and then grouped into categories.
Survey Question #1(a). What did you already know…..
|Listed in %||Everything||Nothing||5-Finger||Songs-melody||Pitch Names||Chords|
In 1997, about one quarter (24%) of the students responded that they already knew the material presented in the class. In 2007, only about one-tenth (11%) felt they already knew.
An equal number in 1997, about one quarter of the students (25%) reported they knew nothing before starting the class, but in 2007 twice that number (50%) reported having no knowledge of the class material when the class started.
The other category where percentages differed was in identifying pitch names. In 1997 a small percentage (5%) knew the notes by pitch names, and in 2007, 14% reported to already know pitch names.
Survey Question #1(b). ……and what did you learn?
|Everything||Nothing||5-Finger Pt||Songs-melody||Pitch Names||Chords|
Both survey groups reported the highest percentage of learning in the category of Songs (35% in 1997, and 36% in 2007). The 2007 group reported they learned Chords at the same high percentage, 36%, but in 1997, only 5% of the students reported having learned the chords. Another larger difference was that the 1997 group reported learning the Five-Finger patterns (27%) whereas the 2007 group only 5% reported learning them.
There was a difference between the percent of students who felt they learned Everything (all skills that were presented in the class), 14% in 1997 and 7% in 2007, (7% lower), and learned Pitch Names, 13% in 1997, and 5% lower in 2007 (9%) than in the original group.
Survey Question #2: Were the requirements of this keyboard unit reasonable?
|Too Hard||Just Fine||Too Easy|
Both groups reported with quite high percentages (1997-89%, and 2007-73%) that the requirements were “Just Fine,” however, the group in 1997 had only 4% thinking the requirements were “Too Hard,” whereas in 2007 a much larger percent of students, 27% felt the requirements were “Too Hard.” There were no students in 2007 reported the class requirements were “Too Easy,” and a small 3% in 1997.
Survey Question #3: Did you want more classes, or more time?
|Yes, want more classes||No more classes||Right Amount|
Both groups reported with high percentages that the number of classes was the “Right Amount” of classes or that they would want “More Classes.”
Question #4: Rate the class. Circle your response.
|Too Easy||Fairly Easy||About Right||Fairly Difficult||Too Difficult|
This question varied the most on percentage of students’ ratings. The two groups agreed the difficulty was “About Right,” 1997 (40%) and 2007 (39%). The other categories, however, seemed to indicate the 2007 group found the skills slightly more difficult, reporting “Fairly difficult” at 36%, and “Too Difficult” at 11%. The 1997 group leaned towards “Fairly Easy” (18%) and “Too Easy” (12%).
Comparing The Two Study Groups
The 1997 Original Group:
In 1997, the sixth grade students came from three feeder elementary schools in an affluent suburban area. This was the districts’ first year to reconfigure this grade level from elementary school, and place them into the middle school building. All students had been exposed to music classes at least twice per week. With parent input to the new placement, the district agreed to have the childrens’ elementary music schedule continue as closely as it had been, though now the sixth graders were thrust into a more mature school setting in the middle school.
In this new school situation, they were all required to take the general music class once each 6 days (I taught 12 sections (two each day) of the same curriculum that year). More than half of the students were also in band, chorus, or orchestra. This school schedule was changed after the third year to group sections consisting of students who were not in other (performing) groups, and the curriculum was re-designed to include only “The History of Rock and Roll.”
The 2007 Comparison Group:
In the 2007 study, the middle school was well established with seventh and eighth grade levels only. The Exploring Music class is designed for seventh grade students who were not in performing groups (chorus, band, and orchestra). There are six sections of classes that meet every day in music class for 12-week trimester, then rotate to art for 12 weeks, and then to consumer education for the third trimester. The seventh grade students have also entered the middle school level for the first time to become part of this more mature school setting. This school is in a somewhat rural district, but changing to a more affluent population. I observed that these seventh grade students were either “high level learners” but did not wish to be in a performing group, or were students who were not particularly interested in continuing any music study at all, and were, however, still required to take 12 weeks of “Exploring Music.” The curriculum included “Keyboard,” “Guitar,” “Theory” and “History of Rock and Roll.”
The Similiarities of the Two Groups: Why the Study Seemed Appropriate
The 1997 study gathered 255 sixth grade students’ responses to evaluating their own learning progress after seven sessions of basic keyboard instruction. The survey involved all of the sixth grade student body
The 2007 survey had a much smaller number of samples (44) of seventh grade students who were in a non-performing Exploring Music class. This class met every day for a trimester of 12 weeks. The outcome requirements for this keyboard class were the same for 10 teaching days of this unit as they were for the 1997 study group, 1) Identifying each key by name, 2) Play five-finger patterns, 3) Play triads from those patterns, and 4) Play two simple melodies, Ode to Joy, and Kookabura, (or another from the class instruction book), and the evaluation of each of the requirements.
Although the number of samples was very different, the age of the students was very close, and the keyboard curriculum was almost identical. This situation offered the chance to compare responses, and I felt this was too great an opportunity to pass up! The curriculum, too, was very similarly structured: 1) 7 to 10 days allotted for each different subject, 2) hands-on learning such as keyboard and guitar, 3) some observation of video information, and 4) each group of students was new to the building and they were adapting to the middle school setting. They also had the same teacher – me!
It was amazing to find that ten years after gathering the results for my original study, I had a great opportunity to compare results with another group of students. After tallying the responses from the new study group, it is my opinion that students come to Exploring Music (General Music) classes with less individual hands-on keyboard experiences than students in 1997, however, I believe I was able to ascertain, through the results from this survey, that a very high percentage of the students felt that they had learned and had grown in skills and knowledge from participating in the keyboard classes.
There is a need for more study in the area of student self-efficacy. There are studies on this topic focusing on high school and college age students, but few studies of fourth grades through eighth grades. I encourage more research studies, which attempt to identify students’ perceptions of their own learning in order to create valid teaching unit designs and accompanying assessments.
An Edited List of References From the Original Study, with Additional Source
Abbott, L. (1993). “Everything Matters.” Music K-8, Jan./Feb., 2.
Ames, C. (1992). “Classrooms: Goals, structures, and student motivation.” Journal of Educational Psychology, 84, 261-270.
Guskey, T. R. (1994). “Making the grade: What Benefits Students?” Educational Leadership, 52 (2), 14-19.
Levine, T., & Donitsa-Schmidt, S. (1996). “Student Perceptions of Classroom Climate in a Communicative Environment for Writing Instruction.” Journal of Research & Development in Education, 29 (2), 94-99.
Mailhoit, K., & Kobasigawa, A. (1997). “Childrens’ Perceptions of Purpose for Studying Different Subjects in School.” Journal of Psychology Interdisciplinary & Applied, 131, 641-655.
Pate, P. E., Homestead, E., & McGinnis, K. (1994). “Middle School Students’ Perceptions of Integrated Curriculum.” Middle School Journal, 18 (2), 21-23.
Wasserstein, P. (1995). “What Middle Schoolers Say About Their Schoolwork.” Educational Leadership, 53 (1), 41-43.
Original Study Source:
Zellmer, M. (1998). “Sixth Grade General Music Students’ Perceptions of Their Curriculum and Self-Growth.” University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
The 2007 survey group of students consisted of the two classes of “Exploring Music” I was teaching as a long-term Choral/Exploring Music substitute first semester, 2007. The other teachers on the music staff, Mr. Josh Werner, Mr. Matt Koscinski, both band, Mrs. Roxanne Carloni, orchestra, and to Mr. John Sczygiel, retired band teacher in Mukwonago all of whom were so supportive to my teaching assignment. Also, thank you to Mr. Mark Doome, Principal of Park View Middle School in the Mukwonago School District, Mukwonago, Wi.,
Maria Zellmer taught choral and general music classes in Elmbrook School District until 2002. She is a solo/ensemble adjudicator, Level 1, for WSMA, and a choral director/clinician for state level festival choruses. She graduated from University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and received her MME from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Shee was a 2003 Summer Fellow in Music Education at Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., and attended The Voice Care Network. She sings in the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus, is a member of MENC, WSMA, ACDA, WCDA, and a life member of SAI music fraternity for women. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org