Alana Blackburn (University of New England) & Carol Johnson (University of Melbourne)
The challenges of not being able to hold in person music performance lessons during COVID-19 provided many music instructors with points of frustration. For the most part, music instructors in higher education particularly, were not prepared with technology skills to quickly shift to teaching music online (Joseph & Lennox, 2021; Joseph & Trinick, 2021). Tertiary music instructors know the value of providing their students with visual and verbal feedback during music performance lessons, but in the scenario of COVID isolation, the challenge for instructors and students of not being able to see the detail of hand positions, posture, as well as high fidelity sound, became the pain point for many.
Traditionally, in a face-to-face music lesson, music instructors provide students with visual and verbal feedback in the immediate moment (Blackburn, 2017). Their feedback allows for students to understand how to improve their time on tasks in a practice room, how to listen for uneven pitch within a musical passage, as well as providing students with their own performance examples of music passages or musical work the student may be learning. These are regular occurrences in a face-to-face music lesson.
Shifting into the online environment meant a rethinking of how feedback can be given to students both as a general aid, and formative assessment. One of the innovations explored by music instructors was the implementation of video feedback (Johnson & Blackburn, 2021). That is, the instructor created short, 3-to-4-minute audio-visual responses to uploaded videos of their students’ performance preparation. These videos not only targeted key student questions or concerns they were having during the week but adopted asynchronous approaches for conveying effective music instructor feedback allowing students to review the feedback multiple times, listen to instructor performances at slower speeds if necessary, and enlarge screen area to allow for clarity of finer detail including hand position, embouchure formation, and finger patterns. This was a game changer and not something done in the traditional music lesson.
A music lesson itself is a finite interaction between student and instructor. The cycle of student recording –> instructor response/feedback recording –> student recording –> instructor response/feedback recording is a feedback loop (see Figure 1) that has potential to be a critical learning activity when teaching music performance in an online format. Aiming to strengthen the music students’ self-regulation skills, video feedback is a teaching technology that has yet to be fully explored. Currently, there is limited research exploring the efficacy of video feedback for the development of music performance learning in higher education (Biasutti et al., 2022; Boucher et al., 2021; Johnson, 2022). With instructor experiences and anecdotal experiences of music students demonstrating stronger self-evaluation skills, improved listening skills and overall improved confidence and self-efficacy, this area is a burgeoning opportunity for exploration.
Now that instrumental and performance instruction has generally returned to more traditional models, the instructor video feedback loop for music performance lessons can enhance traditional face-to-face learning. By setting the student up with key questions to respond to in their own short performance videos (e.g., what were the two most successful outcomes from your practicing this week, what key problem did you explore in your practicing this week, how much time did you spend practicing this week, etc.) students learn to become self-reflecting learners and further develop their self-regulation skills in independent practice.
This project was made possible from the funding support of an ASCILITE/D2L grant.
Biasutti, M., Antonini Philippe, R., & Schiavio, A. (2022). Assessing teachers’ perspectives on giving music lessons remotely during the COVID-19 lockdown period. Musicae Scientiae, 26(3), 585-603.
Blackburn, A. (2017). Performing online: Approaches to teaching performance studies in higher education within a fully online environment. Australian Journal of Music Education, 51(1), 63-72.
Boucher, M., Creech, A., & Dubé, F. (2021). Video feedback and the self-evaluation of college-level guitarists during individual practice. Psychology of Music, 49(2), 159-176.
Johnson, C. (2022). A Framework for Teaching Music Online in Higher Education. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publications. https://doi.org/10.5040/9781350201880
Johnson, C. & Blackburn, A. (2021). Video feedback in tertiary music performance classes. Full paper. Proceedings from ASCILITE Conference 2021: Back to the Future, pp. 103-110. https://2021conference.ascilite.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/ASCILITE-2021-Conference-Proceedings.pdf
Joseph, D., & Lennox, L. (2021). Twists, turns and thrills during COVID-19: Music teaching and practice in Australia. Music Education Research, 23(2), 241-255.
Joseph, D., & Trinick, R. (2021). ‘Staying apart yet keeping together’: challenges and opportunities of teaching during COVID-19 across the Tasman. New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 56(2), 209-226.