UNESCO-NIE Centre for Arts Research in Education (CARE)

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Name of Author: 
Martin, Jeffrey Alan
Thesis (Ph.D.) National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University
Howard, John ; Tang, Yap Ming Kelly
Year of completion: 
Country of Research Data: 

Current educational opinion regards composing as one way to encourage musical thinking and develop general musicianship (Elliott 1995; Paynter 1992). Recent research seeks to support this claim by providing evidence of reflective thinking in the composing process (Christensen 1992; Davidson and Welsh 1988; Whitaker 1996; Younker and Smith 1996). However many of these studies are either general and exploratory, or focused in detail on researcher-devised compositional tasks such as tonal melody writing. There is still a need for more detailed accounts of the composing process in a naturalistic contexts. This study investigated the process by which eight tertiary-level music students completed assignments in an introductory composition course at the National Institute of Education, Singapore. Singapore is a particularly interesting context since students, even at tertiary level, have little or no prior experience with composition, and thus the process may be observed essentially from the beginning. The purpose was to describe the cognitive procedures used by the students in the process of composing. Verbal protocols, recorded by the subjects while they composed,m provided the primary source of data, although it was triangulated with other source of data, although it was triangulated with other souses such as classroom observation notes, scores/sketches and subjects' retrospective accounts. Analysis resulted in the development of a taxonomy categorising the general procedural and contextual aspects of students composing, and detailed case profiles of four individual subjects. Among the many findings revealed were the following : 1) subjects employed a varied and personalised set of procedures ; 2) discovery of ideas through enactive experimentation is an important aspect of the subjects' work; subjects maintained a critical view toward their decision during the process; and 4) subjects demonstrated a capacity for higher-level musical decision making despite a deficit in their understanding of musical concepts. In conclusion, the study also discussed certain implications for education and offered recommendations for further study.

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