Dobbs, Teryl

Discourse in the Band Room: How Talk Shapes Teaching, Learning, and Community

This study investigated how the naturally occurring talk within an instrumental music performance classroom shaped the teaching and learning of music. Additionally, the study sought to understand how the young musicians involved in the study came together in forming a social community. Two complementary ethnomethodological strategies, discourse analysis and participant observation, were employed.

Two specific classroom contexts were investigated: (a) the large group ensemble class and (b) the small group technique class. The classroom contexts were parsed according to the programmatic needs of the research site’s band curriculum: Advanced, Intermediate, and Beginning Concert Bands. During the course of the investigation, the researcher maintained the stance as a fully involved and active participant within the study.

Large group ensemble classes and small group technique classes were both audio- and videotaped with every utterance, including the researcher’s, being submitted for transcription and analysis. Each videotape was subjected to the inscription of field notes. Five categories emerged from the analysis of the field notes: (a) teacher talk and actions, (b) student talk and actions, (c) talk and actions related to music, (d) talk and actions related to social/community building, and (e) talk and actions related to carrying on school/administrative business. Transcripts of the classes were also submitted to a performative discourse analysis based upon Austin’s (1962) speech act theory. Each utterance was coded according to its function within the classroom context in which it occurred. Families of speech acts emerging from the data included representatives, directives, commissives, expressives, and miscellaneous speech acts.

A discourse pattern emerging from this study’s employment of speech act theory includes a discursive feedback loop illustrating student knowledge and comprehension of musical concepts (musical uptake). Additionally, a repetition device emerged that served to frame a verbal involvement strategy, reinforcing both curricular knowledge and the building of social relationships within the classroom. Differences in discourse patterns were found between the ensemble and small group contexts, as well as differences in discourse patterns and speech performances between teacher and students.

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