University of Southern Queensland PhD student Bonnie Green is looking at piano teaching practices and how they have either promoted or denied the creativity of those who go on to become piano teachers.
She is using QRIScloud for data and document storage and is thankful to have a free, secure system that readily aligns with the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, 2007.
Ms Green’s thesis topic takes this particular writer back to memories of learning the piano as a child in the 1980s. The elderly lady who tutored me thought it perfectly acceptable to strike my hands, albeit lightly, with a ruler for wrong notes played, probably because that was how she was taught. I also didn’t get to learn the rock and pop songs I was more interested in, instead being instructed in classical music — music I didn’t much care for. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t keep playing the piano.
Ms Green, however, stuck with it, despite her similar-sounding experience (minus the ruler), and began a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Music) degree at USQ in 2012, with piano as her major instrument.
“In my first year of my undergraduate degree, I was exposed to many different genres of music, including popular and jazz music. I was also given opportunities to be creative in music, through activities such as composition, improvisation, and arrangement. I soon found out that I really enjoyed these activities, and was good at them,” she said.
She began to think the way she was taught the piano through the “classical music tradition” of predominately learning scales, developing correct technique, learning to read music, and learning classical repertoire, stifled creativity. A view bolstered that year as she began teaching the piano at a local high school, largely applying the same classical teaching method she learnt, coupled with efforts to add in creative elements.
“I would incorporate such creative activities, but they seemed just like ‘extras’ on the side, and purely for the purpose of fun without having any educational value,” she said. “Exploring creativity didn’t seem a part of how music was taught, specifically within the ‘classical’ music tradition, so I found it really hard to incorporate creativity into the piano lesson. That led me to my Honours research, where I honed in on one aspect of the classical piano lessons—scales—and investigated how to teach these [scales] more creatively and musically.
“My honours research led me into my PhD topic, where I tried to position creativity as the central feature of the entire piano lesson. As I completed my literature review, I discovered that little was known of how this ‘classical’ teaching tradition, where creativity has been predominately absent, has impacted teachers’ creative identities in music — a perception of oneself as ‘creative’ in music. That is what my PhD research is investigating.”
For her research, Ms Green will collect qualitative data through semi-structured interviews with piano teachers throughout Australia, starting in October 2018. This data will be stored on QRIScloud, which she currently uses to store the chapter drafts of her thesis and other important documentation.
“Firstly, using QRIScloud has allowed me to store my data in a place that I know is secure. I do not have to worry if my data will be lost or stolen. Secondly, I have been provided with 150 GB of storage. I therefore have sufficient storage for my research data,” said Ms Green.
“Using QRIScloud has allowed my data to be stored in a secure place that readily aligns with the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research. Other cloud services, such as those using servers located offshore, may not readily align with the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research.”
Before learning about QRIScloud at a USQ ethics workshop earlier this year, Ms Green admits she did not have a good Research Data Management (RDM) plan.
“I was relying on other cloud services, such as Google Docs, as well as my PhD workstation hard drive and my USB. Through using the QRIScloud service, I am now appropriately storing my data.”
USQ-based QCIF eResearch Analyst Dr Francis Gacenga helped Ms Green form her RDM plan, including the use of QRIScloud as her primary research data storage space. “I contacted Dr Gacenga when completing my ethics application as the ethics team required to know my RDM plan,” said Ms Green. “Dr Gacenga’s assistance greatly benefited my understanding of a RDM plan and eResearch services that are available to me.”
Ms Green has largely been working alone on her project, under the supervision of Dr Rebecca Scollen and Dr Melissa Forbes of USQ’s School of Arts & Communication.
She hopes that music education sectors at all levels—primary, secondary, tertiary and private tutelage—will benefit from her research. “My research will uncover the ways in which music teaching practices have either promoted or denied the creative identities of students. Additionally, the research will suggest ways in which we can effectively promote creative identities in music education settings.”
She has already presented part of her research at this year’s Australian Jazz Improvisation and Research Network (AJIRN) conference held in Melbourne in June.
And she has a new love for classical music she never had before. “Through reading about the history of classical music, I have discovered that improvisation was a central feature of this style prior to the 1850s. Since discovering this, I have been teaching myself how to improvise in classical music, and have come to appreciate and enjoy classical music at a different level.”
It may be too late for people like this writer, but hopefully the piano students of the future will view learning the instrument as fun and creative, with no knuckle-slapping rulers in sight.