Texas A&M University-Kingsville

A&M-Kingsville Music Educators Share Success in Retaining, Teaching Their Students at Noted Conference

KINGSVILLE - March 09, 2009

Contact: Jason Marton
jason.marton@tamuk.edu or 361.593.4143

Varying teaching methods, getting immediate feedback key techniques

For the last several years, clarinet professor Dr. Nancy KingSanders and assistant professor of flute Dr. Naomi Seidman of Texas A&M University-Kingsville have been trying to figure out what makes a music student stay in the university’s music program and what makes them quit. In that time, they found some valuable answers that they were asked to share at the Ninth Annual Assessment Conference at Texas A&M University in February.

“As advisors in the music department, we noticed that we were not retaining all of the students that we had recruited,” said KingSanders. “There were several factors contributing to the attrition, but the primary factor for students leaving the Texas A&M-Kingsville music department was a direct result of the student not understanding the concepts presented in some of their music courses.”

Upon studying and speaking with their students, Seidman and KingSanders noted similarities among them as far as how they had been taught music theory—the basic knowledge needed for music performance—in junior high and high school. The first similarity was that most students had been taught by hearing alone.

The two felt that other teaching methods could be incorporated as well to get the students to understand music theory, such as more visuals and hands-on, practical lessons. After finding agreement in texts such as The Professor’s Guide to Teaching Psychological Principles and Practices by Donelson R. Forsyth, Learning and Teaching Research-Based Methods by Donald P. Kauchak and Paul D. Eggen, and Toward a Theory of Instruction by Jerome Bruner, KingSanders and Seidman began changing their lesson plans.

Their research led to other changes in their lesson plans, including having the students work together in groups, and incorporating regular, immediate feedback as they taught. “Giving the students immediate feedback helped us and the students to know why they did not understand the concept and if they needed to have a different learning style used to present the concept,” said KingSanders.

The results of these changes? “The student test scores improved immensely,” said Seidman. “In addition, the students felt more comfortable asking questions because we worked in group settings to instill confidence in the students discussing their answers and asking questions, as they received immediate feedback about their responses.”

By relearning music theory, KingSanders and Seidman saw an overall improvement in the student’s music performances. They later saw increased retention in their flute and clarinet classes.

The faculty members shared their results with the organizers of the Ninth Annual Assessment Conference at Texas A&M University. The two were then invited to share their findings at the conference, where KingSanders and Seidman were the only two music educators selected to present.

Even though their teaching methods were used with music theory, KingSanders and Seidman stressed at the conference that their techniques transfer to a host of different fields. “Our work could definitely be transferred to other subjects,” said KingSanders.

“For example, some math concepts could be presented in a visual manner, especially word problems or fractions. Foreign languages also could use pictures to illustrate meanings of words. Also, the immediate feedback concept of telling the student during a pre-test which problems he missed, and making certain that he understood why he missed the question, could be used in any subject.”

Next up for the two faculty members is to gather more statistics about the music department retention rate. In addition, they plan to begin the immediate feedback approach to their students’ learning as soon as the students arrive at A&M-Kingsville.

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