On best behaviour

Post forty-one in our (re)learning to teach music series. This is week nine of the collaborative blogging and we begin chapter seven. 

Mike Morgan @MikeMMusicED

I feel there is a better way to describe the behaviours. While the Didau’s comments could be considered rules (something the pupils should do) the learning behaviours could be considered more of competencies. These are skills we want the pupils to develop over time. If pupils can do these, they will develop academically.

I feel rules are an important aspect in the music room. Along with the likes of PE, Art, DT etc. Pupils are using and exposed to a lot of instruments. Health and Safety should be our number one priority. When you have a class of 30 pupils. I think having clear rules is the best way to keep everyone safe.

I feel the PEEL behaviours are something we should be instilling in pupils through our musical activities. These are aspects they should be developing through the musical learning. But the Didau rules should always be the basis for organisation in the classroom. Some may not work (everyone should work quietly is difficult in a music room) and I do feel can be reworded, but I do feel clear boundaries should be set to allow the competencies/learning behaviour take place.

Vaughan Fleischfresser @VFleischfresser

Class rules, expected behaviours, and learning behaviours in the music classroom tend to vary greatly from that of most other subjects. In fact, whenever a non-music subject teacher finds themselves in a music classroom, they often comment on the apparent chaotic and disorganised nature of the room. Any effective music teacher will take this as a compliment and see the passing comments for what they are. How one classroom looks and feels, should not be like that of any other classroom. Each classroom is, and should be, unique.

In terms of the Learning Behaviours identified in this chapter, there are a number that are vital for effective musical learning, in my opinion. The first is – Offers and seeks links between different activities and ideas, topics or subjects or between school and personal life. As we’ve all touched on throughout this collective blog, the links between how pupils engage with music at home, and how they engage with it in school, are vital. If we are to help ensure pupils develop a meaningful and lasting relationship with music, then the importance of fostering this learning behaviour is without question. Another is – Justifies opinions. I frequently say to pupils that it’s just as correct to like a piece of music as it is to dislike a piece of music, as long as they can give me musical reasons as to why. The is often, in the initial stages, a great challenge to them. However, over time, it becomes a wonderful platform for learning, and this is a learning behaviour that I believe to be of great importance. The final one for today is – Offers ideas, new insights and alternative explanations. This ties into my first point. If we’re developing a classroom and curriculum that includes, empowers, and develops the musical relationships that pupils have with music, and each other, then we need to ensure they feel comfortable and informed enough to offer ideas and new insights.

In terms of ones that aren’t necessarily ideal to the music context, my eyes are drawn instantly to the Classroom Rules. For example – Work quietly. If our pupils are working quietly, then for me, they aren’t learning music. In terms of the Learning Behaviours, there are also some that aren’t necessarily ideal. For example – Checks personal comprehension. Unlike in some other subjects, there isn’t always a definitive answer, and sometimes there isn’t an answer at all, therefore it is often difficult for pupils to check their personal comprehension. Additionally – Plans a general strategy before starting. Depending on the musical activity, planning a general strategy before starting could be more detrimental than beneficial, depending on the pupil(s). Composing is one area that immediately springs to mind. Finally, one that I would possibly reword would be – Reacts and refers to comments of other students. I don’t think the word ‘react’ is most beneficial to musical learning, as we want to embrace and understand the reactions of all pupils. We don’t (and won’t) like all pieces of music and that’s okay. So, rather than ‘react’, I would possibly change it to ‘understands’ or ‘accepts’.

To quickly refer back to Friday’s reflection, I’ll certainly be focussing on Learning Behaviours more come August. What a fascinating area of thought, which I haven’t reflected deeply upon for quite a while. This blogging exercise continues to be the gift that keeps on giving.

David House @House_dg

Behaviour codes, sets of expectations and rules are found in every school and in most classrooms. Usually these arise from discussion and debate within the school itself. It is interesting to read the generic versions in the chapter and note how tricky it would be to use these exactly in music lessons. From the list given by Peel I would add a willingness to take risks – learning from having a go, getting things wrong and trying again is so important. In a music lesson context risk taking means stepping out into the unknown when learning to play a piece, trying both hands together even though you are uncertain about completing, then in compositional terms it links strongly to imaginative work – moving away from the formulaic.

With Didau’s list of “rules” I like the fact that there are just a few and relate to safety and respect for others. I can imagine them being translated into specific contexts. From a musical perspective I would replace work quietly with “work with focus”. Prof. Robert Coe has presented many excellent talks, one of which discussed “poor proxies for learning” and amongst these was the aspect of working quietly – as was engagement in the task, to me this is challenging as a class of students all singing or playing together would be something which musical music lessons would aspire to but it is perfectly possible that nothing has been learned in that situation unless that learning is pointed out by the teacher.

Ewan McIntosh @ETMcINTOSH

I think that pretty much all of the learning behaviours and classroom rules make sense within a music classroom environment. Lots of the behaviours shown in box 7.1 are good for a musical classroom as they all lots of creativity such as no 10 ‘offers ideas, new insights and alternative explanations’ which I see as creating something new in the context of the musical work. The classroom rules are also sound but would need a bit of tweaking. Rule 4 is a good rule but I would change it to do not disturb others music making. There is nothing worse in a lesson than the group with the 1 pupil who has to hit/ play/ sing as loudly as they humanly can to get attention; it just raises the noise level and then everyone else gets louder to compensate. I would say that 7.1 no’s 1,3,4,6 and 8-12 are vital for good musical learning and all of 7.2

Steven Berryman @steven_berryman

Taking the editorial privilege to read the responses for today and reflect on our collective wisdom that is shared. How we manage and mitigate the noise we aspires to create in the music room is a big part of the job, and it is reflected in the dedicated chapter in Learning to Teach Music in the Secondary School. We might be challenged by a non-Music teaching colleague by being asked “is it really learning thought if they’re having fun?” or “it just looks like a cacophony of activity… is that really a lesson?” or “are they learning anything”. There is the health and safety aspect to what we do, as well as getting the right balance between the freedom to create and the necessary classroom management to instil and foster a productive atmosphere. Like Vaughan says, we can’t expect a musical room to be quiet. I’ve visited schools where a culture of quiet disables productive dialogue in lessons, and music(al) lessons might become knowledge heavy (the kind of knowledge we value the least in music). 

I agree with Mike – boundaries are important. We need to agree ways of working that enable the classrooms we have to be productive and musical. These ways of working will be different for different teachers and different schools, and there likely will be a noticeable shift in the ways of working pupils see in other parts of their school. We do want to consider how the expected ways of working hinder or enable music(al) learning, and be brave to champion our curricular needs with senior colleagues when behaviour policies encroach on our ambitions for the subject.

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