Published: Jan. 12, 2018 By

Ellie FalterH. Ellie Falter, a PhD Candidate in Music Education, will be presenting “The Pros of Wanting to Explore on Your Own: Pre-service Music Teachers (Re)experience play” at this year’s American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference in April 2018 in New York, NY. AERA is an internationally renowned organization associated with education-related scholarship, and this year its conference received more than 13,000 submissions.

Falter’s research grew from her work preparing undergraduate students to become future teachers of music and a Graduate Teacher Program workshop on Teaching-As-Research. She believes that to be effective in their future jobs, music teachers need to be able to incorporate play into their teaching. Unfortunately, she finds that many teachers-to-be have shown difficulty engaging in play, especially with music.

Considering that research suggests play can be an effective tool for teaching at the college level, Falter designed a 6-week play-based unit for her class, titled “Teaching General Music Methods I”. Her students engaged in, analyzed, and planned play activities that could be used with elementary students.

Falter received approval to perform human subjects research and used qualitative research methods to study the different ways her 21 students engaged in play and how their value of play changed. She collected data on student experiences and perceptions from short written responses, student drawings, video-recordings of the students engaging in and discussing play, and lesson plans. To analyze all this information, she used equally playful approaches: composing music, drawing, and writing poetry.

She found that her subjects were able to relearn how to play, experienced all facets of its essential characteristics, and developed a greater appreciation for its role in education. She plans to continue developing approaches to play in the college classroom, exploring play’s impact on her students, and sharing what she learns with other instructors so they can better teach their students.

Falter’s project advisor, Dr. Adam Blanford, directed the development of this Teaching-as-Research in Arts and Humanities (TAR-AH) Project. These projects assess graduate student teaching and the quality of undergraduate learning in the classroom, which allows the graduate student to reflect upon and improve his or her teaching. Dr. Blanford has recently completed an edited volume of Teaching-as-Research projects that are freely available on the Graduate Teacher Program website.

“One of the cool things about working with Adam is that if I needed help, he was there for me, but he was happy to let me take the lead because in our conversations he realized that I understood the research methodology. He was very responsive and helped me with questions and feedback for my write-up.”

Dr. Blanford has directed the development of over forty such classroom assessment projects at CU-Boulder with support from various sources such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), the international Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL), the Lucia F. Baker Fund, and the Graduate Teacher Program (GTP).

“Ellie’s project was original and a unique contribution to the body of classroom assessment projects that we’ve done,” Dr. Blanford said. “I was very impressed by her analysis of the data, and I’m quite proud of her for being accepted into such a prestigious conference.”