Development of a Theory of Transfer in Musical Thinking and Learning Based on John Dewey’s Conception of Reflective Thinking
There is growing interest among music education researchers in determining the nature of, and enhancing, musical thinking One concern expressed in the music education literature is how musical thinking contributes to transfer of learning. This study attempts to address that concern by presenting a theory of transfer of learning in musical experience based on Dewey’s conception of reflective thinking.
Transfer of learning in musical experience is conceived as an ontological process whereby the individual interacts with the cultural and musical environment–through musical reflective thinking–for the purpose of constructing, and then continually reconstructing, a musical perspective. Instigated by some challenge to common sense musical beliefs, musical reflective thinking is characterized as a form of general thinking skill that operates both within and across different musical contexts for the purpose of making unfamiliar musical experience more familiar. Five phases of musical reflective thinking are identified. However, because musical reflective thought arises out of, and is guided by, affect, the manner in which individuals proceed through those phases is highly individualistic.
Ultimately, transfer of learning through musical reflective thinking contributes to the expansion of the musical self through the development of the musical reflective attitude. This attitude is characterized as a predisposition to think relectively in music; to critically examine and thereby refine, make more consistent and systematic, and to integrate musical beliefs; to enhance musical value; and to grow in musical knowledge. Musical reflective thinking is therefore thought to be both a means and an ends behavior.
Because musical beliefs and belief systems are defined by the cultural groups which carry them, transfer through musical reflective thinking is conceived as a social and reconstructive process whereby students’ previously acquired mass (i.e., uncritically examined) common sense musical beliefs are transformed into progressively more expert forms.