Music, School of


Date of this Version

Spring 5-2014


Adams, M. C. (2014). Student and teacher experiences with informal learning in a school music classroom: An action research study. MM thesis, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Music, Major: Music, Under the Supervision of Professor Robert H. Woody. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2014.

Copyright (c) 2014 Mark C. Adams


Despite the ubiquitous nature of music in the lives of adolescents, school music education rarely offers experiences with the informal music making practices that are used by their favorite vernacular artists. This action research study implemented informal learning practices into the formal learning environment of my current teaching position in a rural Midwestern community, to understand more about student experiences and the educator’s role in such a classroom. The qualitative research approach used in this study borrowed from grounded theory techniques. Data collection included twenty-five total interviews with nine first-year beginning instrumentalists. Interviews were conducted in three waves, where the second and third wave question developed through constant comparative analysis, representing the evolutionary aspect of a constructivist grounded theory design. In addition, field notes, observations, and in class memos were composed while instructing the students. All data were open and axial coded. Analytic products included dimensionalized examples, properties, and categories. The findings were divided into two sections: The Student Experience and The Teacher Experience. Within The Student Experience, data analysis of the final wave of interviews allowed four categories to emerge: Uses, Value, Practice, and New Skills Gained. Both The Teacher Experience and The Student Experience data suggests that when authentically placing informal methods into a formal environment, students are very capable of self- and peer-teaching when they are given a clear set of criteria, and the licensed educator does have a valid and meaningful role in this combined-methods classroom. Additionally, data analysis from the interviews suggests that students included new values in their definition of musicality after informal methods were implemented. The findings of this study are linked to this specific educational context, and future research in other settings (e.g., a choral ensemble) may yield dissimilar results. Additional research on this topic should include the sharing of new experiences, exercises, and ideas to benefit all teachers; especially those with a limited informal music-making background.

Adviser: Robert H. Woody