- Teaching General Music in Grades 4–8: A Musicianship Approach
In this recent addition to the world of texts for secondary methods classes, Teaching General Music in Grades 4–8: A Musicianship Approach, Thomas Regelski takes a new look at the challenging task of teaching the pre-adolescent and adolescent age group. This text brings together many of Regelski's earlier writing on topics such as the professionalism of music teaching practice, music education as praxial education, and the operationalization of critical theory in music education. His thoughtful work offers insights and challenges to pre-service and in-service teachers.
In the Introduction, Regelski provides a brief history of critical theory in education and describes how he applies critical theory to the profession of music teaching and the experience of musical learning. In this "new view" of education, teachers should seek to be transformative rather than simply transmitting a cultural status quo through status quo methods of teaching. Critical theory in teaching criticizes both the methods and the content in the light of context, student learning needs, praxis, and the situatedness of learning. He argues, as in earlier articles, against what he calls methodolotry: the tendency to adopt a method and follow that method unquestioningly. Rather, he proposes that teachers [End Page 121] should adopt a stance of reflective practitioner, becoming informal action researchers by questioning the value and effectiveness of instructional strategy and curricular content. (Sadly, once introduced, there is no more information about how to engage in action research, nor any encouragement to learn more about the subject.)
Educational content should be based on critical theory which, as Regelski argues:
. . . seeks to study the past, but in terms of its implications–positive or negative–for the present and, especially, as a basis for improving society and the individuals who constitute society. . . . [T]he past is evoked "critically" and selectively and new practices that will become traditions of the future will be initiated.1
The job of the teacher is to help students make critical judgments regarding music and the "good time" the musical experience contributes to the students' lives.2 Music classrooms should be considered music laboratories in which children learn through thoughtful, investigatory experiences. Music education should promote life-skills relevant to the student's world, teach functional musical skills, incite interest in unfamiliar musical experiences, and address the pre-adolescent and adolescent student's "need to achieve."3
In the first chapter, Regelski argues for "action learning," or learning in which the student is the principal actor. To support his argument, he cites findings in cognitive psychology, philosophical trends of pragmatism, utilitarianism, and humanism, transfer of learning theory, authentic learning and assessment, and constructivist learning theories. This myriad of ideas combine to form the essence of his argument: children in this age group need to develop intentionality in music-making to have a "good time" and instruction should always connect in-school musical learning with a student's real-world musical experiences. The value of action learning lies in the transfer of learning from the classroom to life after school:
It advances the skills predictably useful to typical adults throughout life: for example, recreational singing, music reading sufficient to church and community choirs, "making sense" of music and enjoyment through listening, and the like. It is not a survey of disconnected musical generalities, a superficial sampling of music "in general"; boiled down theory, history, appreciation: or the introduction to the "discipline" of music as a "subject" of study for its own sake. Instead, it promotes the broad musicianship skills and positive attitudes for "breaking 100" [as in bowling, the level at which one calls oneself a "musician"] that enable students to be musically independent and active outside of class and after graduation, and to want to be musically active as part of the life well lived [italics added].4 [End Page 122]
In the second chapter, Regelski provides an excellent summary of the physical, cognitive, and social development of children from age 9 to 14. Age categories are broken into upper elementary grades 4–6...