Music and Languages (formally Languages Other Than English or LOTE prior to 2005) are presently fighting for survival in the Western Australian curriculum at all levels due to curriculum pressures. There is an ever increasing need for teachers to become 'interdisciplinarians'. This study aims to investigate whether songs and music are being used as pedagogical tools in the teaching of Italian in Western Australia's primary schools. The study will also investigate Italian teacher's attitudes towards the use of music and songs in the classroom. The study combines both qualitative and quantitative methods, using both questionnaires and interviews to ensure triangulation of data. It will involve 255 primary schools across the state of Western Australia. 153 of the Department of Education, 15 from the Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia and 87 Catholic Education Office primary schools.
Main aim of the study
It is common practice for teachers to use songs/music in the classroom, particular in junior primary. Research literature contains positive statements about music as a cognitive, linguistic and affective enhancer and how it increases pattern memory, working memory, spatial temporal reasoning, eyesight, coordination, hearing, concentration and higher level thinking. However, due to curriculum pressures the learning areas of Languages and Music are presently fighting for survival in many Western Australian primary schools and there is an ever increasing need for teachers to become 'interdiscipinarians'.
This study aims to investigate if primary Italian teachers consider the Orff-Schulwerk approach (a music teaching approach) an effective pedagogical tool for the teaching of Italian in the upper primary context.
Orff-Schulwerk was created by the German composer Carl Orff in the 1930s. It is a multisensory approach which allows students to "feel the music and feel the language". If Languages teachers allow their students to 'feel the language' and 'feel what they say' it will help them to better understand relationships between what they say and read and between what they say and write.
Orff-Schulwerk incorporates music with movement, speech and rhythm. It employs the instinctual behaviours of children, such as; singing, chanting, clapping, creating, moving and performing. Is directed by hearing and prepares children for using music. This is also the direction which a quality language program should take.
Background of the study
The researcher is a Music and Italian primary school specialist. This study began as action research to see whether there were other Italian teachers who shared a similar background and who used music to teach Italian. Orff-Schulwerk is an effective approach for the researcher, could it work as effectively if used by non-music specialist Italian teachers? Music and Italian have played a significant part in the researcher's life. Proud of their heritage and growing up in an Italian environment filled with language, culture, tradition, song and music, it is from here that is born the vested interest in songs and music and the belief that music and language are essential ingredients in today's educational curriculum. Not only are they enjoyable but these learning areas provide many social, cognitive and educational benefits to students. In our "global" world it essential to gain insight and understanding of others in order to see oneself as a "global citizen". Music and Languages provides this insight.
Evidence exists that music is a valuable tool in supporting the acquisition of a second language, even if only as a supplement to the teaching programme. In contrast to these findings the Australian Primary Principal Association (APPA) does not consider Languages and Music to be one of the four essential core school subjects. Removing these learning areas from today's educational curriculum would result in students being neglected the opportunity to develop many social, cognitive, educational and neurological benefits which they provide.
Significance of the study
This study aims to raise teacher awareness of the potential of music and song, in effective language teaching. It aims to establish the extent to which specialist teachers of Italian use song/music as a pedagogical tool in Western Australian primary schools. It also aims to inform the practice of Italian language teachers in Western Australian primary schools. It is anticipated that the study will provide some empirical support for song/music as a vehicle for second language acquisition and provide Italian Language teachers with a strategy which enables them to increase song/music use in their senior classes as well as give them increased confidence in using song with these students. Finally, this study aims to encourage third parties to see the value and the power of music/song and the benefits that an interdisciplinary curriculum can provide.
Theoretical and conceptual framework
This study is a qualitative one. It is framed following the philosophy of phenomenology. It is naturalistic in its ontological stance and follows the epistemology that knowledge is acquired by constructing and interpreting phenomena. The applied methodology is action research. The study has been conducted in two phases.
Data collection methods used in the study includes; questionnaires, interviews, an eight week intervention, teacher professional development, weekly email contact with teachers and a focus group discussion.
Phase one consisted of the researcher conducting action research to find teachers who shared similar backgrounds and pedagogical stance to them. It aimed to answer the following research questions:
Phase two consisted of the researcher conducting action research with non music specialist Italian teachers in their classrooms to determine the responses to the following research questions:
- Do Italian teachers in Western Australian primary schools use music/song in their Italian lessons?
- How do Italian teachers in Western Australian primary schools use music/song in their Italian lessons?
- Why do Italian teachers in Western Australian primary schools use music/song in their Italian lessons?
- Do Italian teachers in Western Australian primary schools consider the Orff-Schulwerk approach to be a useful pedagogical tool with upper primary students?
- How well do Italian teachers in Western Australian primary schools consider the Orff-Schulwerk approach engages upper primary students?
- How do Italian teachers in Western Australian primary schools rate the potential of Orff-Schulwerk as an effective pedagogical?
The researcher invited all primary teachers of Italian to participate of which there are 215 in 255 primary schools across Western Australia across all educational sectors. 50 schools and 34 teachers were involved in Phase One of the study. Eight of those teachers were also interviewed. Phase two involved 6 primary schools and 7 teachers. It also involved 21 students.
The primary objective of Phase One was to find out if, how and why music/song is being used in Italian lessons. This data was collected via the use of mail out questionnaires to teachers and teacher interviews. These interviews were conducted both face to face and via telephone
Phase 1: Preliminary findings
Teachers stated that:
The primary objective of Phase 2 was to establish whether Italian teachers in Western Australian primary schools considered the Orff-Schulwerk approach to be a useful pedagogical tool with upper primary students. This data was collected via the use of an eight week Orff-Schulwerk intervention, a four hour intensive Orff-Schulwerk teacher professional development seminar, student pre and post intervention questionnaire, student pre and post intervention phone interview, weekly teacher email to enable the researcher to support, guide, advise teacher participants, teacher post-intervention exit interview and a teacher post-intervention focus group discussion. All interviews were recorded and transcribed by the researcher.
- They consider music a useful learning tool.
- 91% don't play a musical instrument.
- They are not overly confident using music.
- Approximately 94% of all responding teachers used song/music in some way as a pedagogical tool.
- They used songs/music frequently.
- They use song/music in the junior and middle years. Limited use of song/music in the upper primary years.
- There is a lack of suitable teaching resources for teaching Italian to English speaking Western Australian upper primary students.
- A specific support focus was needed in the upper primary years.
- 94% use music mainly for didactic purposes.
- They mostly use music to supplement existing knowledge, language learning, engage students.
Phase 2: Preliminary findings
Teachers stated that:
- It was a positive experience for all.
- They see the potential of Orff-Schulwerk.
- Orff-Schulwerk should be introduced at a young age so as seniors become used to it.
- More professional development is needed to increase confidence, ability and experience.
- Students remembered language taught.
- They wished they had more than 8 weeks for the intervention.
- They would definitely recommend it to their colleagues.
Constraints of the study
The researcher acknowledges the following constraints to this study:
- Principals not returning forms, not valuing Arts and Languages or research.
- Over crowded and demanding school timetables.
- Teachers withdrawing due to lack of confidence/self esteem, little faith that music can be used to teach an L2 or that music can help upper primary students learn Italian, the "I can't sing" attitude, having the understanding that music means singing, teacher vulnerability, not willing to take risks, teacher pressures leading to them not returning forms on time.
- Mail out questionnaires meant that the researcher compromised control over no response, respondent not understanding wording and confidentiality of response is unknown
- Telephone interviews did not allow researcher to view and interpret a respondent's body language.
- Not observing teachers administering the intervention in the classroom did not allow the researcher to determine if the teachers are actually administering Orff-Schulwerk intervention or how it was implemented.
- Student absenteeism when questionnaires were administered, interviews were conducted, missing intervention lessons, withdrawn from Italian class for the period of intervention due to parental request.
Limitations of the study
The researcher acknowledges the following limitations to this study:
- The intervention may be too short.
- Only a small sample of teachers and schools.
- Does Orff-Schulwerk help upper primary students acquire Italian?
- Does Orff-Schulwerk increase upper primary student performance (grades) in Italian?
The researcher hopes that this research will lead to the following areas for future study:
- Can Orff-Schulwerk be used to teach other languages to upper primary students?
- Does Orff-Schulwerk help upper primary students acquire a L2?
- Does Orff-Schulwerk increase upper primary students language acquisition?
- Does Orff-Schulwerk increase upper primary student performance (grades) in L2?
|Author: Annamaria Paolino is undertaking a PhD research project at Edith Cowan University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please cite as: Paolino, A. (2010). Orff-Schulwerk as a pedagogical tool for the effective teaching of Italian to upper primary students in Western Australia. In Proceedings Western Australian Institute for Educational Research Forum 2010. http://www.waier.org.au/forums/2010/paolino.html
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Created 25 Sep 2010. Last revised 25 Sep 2010. URL: http://www.waier.org.au/forums/2010/paolino.html
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