Lansinger Ankney, Kimberly

Master Jazz Teachers’ Noticing and Responses to Students During Improvisation Activities

The purpose of this multiple case study was to examine master jazz ensemble teachers’ in-the-moment perceptions and responses to students’ musical thinking during improvisation activities. The theoretical framework guiding this study was based on Jacob, Lamb and Philipp’s (2010) definition of teachers’ professional noticing and therefore examined what teachers noticed, how they interpreted what they noticed, and how they responded to students based on their interpretations of teaching and learning events. This study also considered how teachers’ noticing of student thinking in improvisation activities was informed by their teaching goals and different forms of knowledge. The study was framed around two research questions: (a) what do teachers notice in-the-moment about students’ thinking during improvisation activities?; and, (b) how and why do teachers respond to students in improvisation activities?

The design of this study embraced methods used for teacher noticing research in mathematics and science education aimed at capturing teachers’ in-the-moment perceptions of student thinking during classroom instruction. Three master jazz ensemble teachers on the secondary level wore a point-of-view camera on their bodies during instruction that enabled them to tag and save moments that seemed important in the teaching and learning of improvisation. The researcher then reviewed tagged moments with the teachers in stimulated recall interviews.

Findings revealed that teachers noticed students’ knowledge and skills, musical awareness, interaction, goal alignment, social and emotional development, and expressivity during improvisation activities. Teachers’ descriptions revealed that they saw a relationship between students’ knowledge and skills, musical awareness, and musical interactions such that knowledge and skills as well as musical awareness were considered necessary in order for students to have successful musical interaction in improvised performances. The relationships between these categories served as an evaluative frame through which teachers assessed students’ understandings.

Teachers’ responses to students included eight different techniques including technical or compositional critique; providing organizing metaphors; asking awareness, knowledge or comfort questions; or giving procedural direction or factual information. Each teacher used a variety of response techniques depending on their overarching, rehearsal, or in-the-moment goals. Their responses were also informed by pedagogical, content, pedagogical content, professional, and student knowledge. Master teachers demonstrated an ability to elicit students’ musical understandings, flexibility, and a keen responsiveness to students’ needs.

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