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Narrative Inquiry in Music Education


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Table of Contents

I.- Narrative Inquiry: From Story to Method.- Narrative Inquiry in Music Education: Toward ResonantWork.- II.- Prelude: Framing and Re-framing the Narrative Possibilities for Music Education.- Storying the Musical Lifeworld: Illumination Through Narrative Case Study.- Challenges in Storying a Musical Lifeworld - A Commentary.- The Importance of Being Henry.- The Interview as Narrative - A Commentary.- Filtered Through the Lenses of Self: Experiences of Two Preservice Music Teachers.- Layering Analytic Lenses: Considerations for Assessing the Narrative Text in Music Education - A Commentary.- Learning from the Learners: A Cooperating Teacher's Story.- Nora's Story and the Mirror of Music Teacher Excellence - A Commentary.- "Everybody Should Be Heard; Everybody Has Got a Story to Tell, or a Song to Sing".- Giving Voice to the Voiceless: Empowerment Through Music - A Commentary.- "G".- Narrative Inquiry as Reflection on Pedagogy - A Commentary.- Stories from the Front.- Narrative Inquiry and Indelible Impressions - A Commentary.- III.- Troubling Certainty: Narrative Possibilities for Music Education.- Charting Narrative Territory.- Postlude.


Psychology of Music 2009, 37: 504 Book review by David Baker, Institute of Education, Reading University M.S. BARRETT and S.L. STAUFFER (eds), Narrative Inquiry in Music Education: Troubling Certainty. New York: Springer, 2009. ISBN 9781402098611 (hbk) The editors (Margaret Barrett and Sandra Stauffer) offer Narrative Inquiry in Music Education: Troubling Certainty as an exploration of a 'turn' or newfound direction in music education research. This new pathway, they suggest, can exist alongside other methodologies such as the psychometric tradition that focuses on objective measurement. As a researcher involved with life histories and postmodernism, I am heartened by their position and book. It is a standpoint that values the many different approaches to music education research. The diversity in social science research has always been something very appealing to me. Too often, perhaps, we are simply offered an impasse between advocates of contrasting paradigms. Sadly, this is my experience of some university departments (but not all). By aiming to 'cultivate ground for narrative inquiry to seed and flourish alongside other methodological approaches' (p. 1) and 'to "trouble" certainty' (in the most peaceful manner) (p. 2), Barrett and Stauffer have produced an extremely valuable text. The book is not a straightforward read, however; it covers complicated theoretical and philosophical matters. Primarily, its audience will be postgraduate students, social researchers and staff members within universities. I am a tutor for a course attended by music teachers, some of whom continue to undertake Master of Arts degrees under my supervision. I sense that colleagues will enjoy this volume greatly, yet some students will glean more than others, particularly in respect of the epistemological dimensions. It is a worthwhile and constructive book, nonetheless, that draws upon the perspectives of a wealth of very dependable world authorities. Chapters are by captivating writers such as Graham Welch (Institute of Education, London), Jean Clandinin (University of Alberta) and Peter Dunbar-Hall (Sydney Conservatorium of Music). Narrative Inquiry is divided into three parts. Part I explores the origins of narrative research, making reference to fields of anthropology, psychology, historical studies and sociology. Barrett and Stauffer illustrate well how narrative research is respectful to those involved, beneficent to society, rigorous and resonant for its audiences. From my experience specifically with biographical research (2005a, 2005b, 2006), narratives can be highly resonant and powerfully catalytic also. Developing a narrative account can empower a storyteller to interpret, understand and change his or her own circumstances; the process also provides a 'voice' and elucidates the insider's perspective for others. I have collaborated with UK Local Education Authority employees to produce narrative accounts that delivered these benefits. This form of enquiry deserves its esteemed place in the social sciences and education. In exploring origins, though, Part I of this volume might have tracked paradigmatic shifts across time to the current position whereby narrative investigations are considered wholly acceptable. I reflect that single cases (Shaw, 1930; Thomas & Znaniecki, 1927) emanated from the Chicago School so fleetingly in the field of life histories, disappeared and then reappeared abundantly in 'paradigmatically favourable' times. That particular narrative technique was distrusted in its infancy. It appeared 'to provide no wider link to theoretical understanding [and] have little power of generalizability' (Faraday & Plummer, 2003, p. 34). Indeed 'the need to understand the nuances of ! experience at the level of the contextualised individual or group' has been overlooked in the past; as Graham Welch asserts in Narrative Inquiry (p. 57), though there is now a long tradition of this in mainstream education research (although less so in music education). Through framing Narrative Inquiry in terms of the wider history and diversification of qualitative research at the onset of the book (see Denzin & Lincoln's 'moments' (2000)), key differences would have been underscored between this 'turn' and other modes of investigation with regard to theory, quality criteria and intentions. In doing so, this excellent text would have become more accessible to less experienced audiences. Part II, the largest part of Narrative Inquiry, offers seven examples of studies by early-career researchers in music education; each study is accompanied by a reflective commentary written by a notable scholar. These contemplative chapters will, undoubtedly, enrich readers' understanding and stimulate further questions. The multidimensional approach of this part of the volume is particularly engaging and thought-provoking. The editors' promise is fulfilled, therefore, as readers are presented with extremely fertile ground for cogitation. Narrative research in music education will, no doubt, grow admirably under such rich circumstances. David Cleaver's piece (Chapter 3) is a good illustration of the tenor of Part II. Cleaver (University of Southern Queensland) provides the story of 'Jan Peterson' (a pseudonym). 'Jan' is a musically dedicated school student. We learn of a family script and trans-generational plot concerning participation in music (p. 41). Cleaver mentions hearing of these familial plots when working as a teacher (p. 42). He also discusses his wife's memories of music in the home in County Cork, Ireland. Graham Welch (Chapter 4) notes the challenge presented to readers: The sectionalisation of the text delineates different foci in the researcher's exploration of the topic. At one moment, there is sharing of insights into details of the participant's musical life, drawing on established qualitative methodologies ! This is contrasted with a more reflective view of himself and his own biography in relation to the participant [Jan], such as ! reflecting on the experience afterwards in conversation with his wife. This duality in the text challenges us to understand what each might be contributing to the other. (p. 59) Cleaver's chapter will resonate with readers' experiences. I identified traits of myself, both as a music student and teacher within the narratives in this book. David Cleaver's story of 'Jan' reminded me of childhood. The stories of Kaye Ferguson's student teachers, 'Anne' and 'Josh', reverberated for me as they struggled 'between performer and teacher self-views' (p. 99). Readers' own understandings will arise through marrying the constituent threads of presented research, evaluating their own biographies, and considering the accompanying appraisals. An injection of critique is a desirable quality in Narrative Inquiry; Welch, for instance, is not disposed to full acceptance of Cleaver's thoughts. He remarks: the portrayal of the mother harks back to a Durkhiemian functionalist viewpoint in which society is viewed as a system of social institutions and in which the child might be socialised ! into the dominant views of the value of music that are held by the family. Not all families are as supportive as in this particular case. Borthwick's doctoral thesis [cited in Davidson & Borthwick, 2002], for example, suggests that different children within a 'musical' family have diverse experiences and that these are not always positive. (p. 60) Jean Clandinin and Wayne Bowman (Brandon University, Manitoba) consider the subtitle 'troubling certainty' in their final chapters. People experience what might appear the same circumstances in diverse ways; accounts are unique and constructed. Narratives communicate the personal, the insider's viewpoint, rather than general and generic; they are useful for capturing lived experience. A political dimension is evident with narrative research as storytellers are afforded a 'voice' that might challenge dominant conceptions. Troubling certainty means using these unique voices to make music education 'more inclusive of the lives of all people, regardless of ! how they are positioned on the landscape. [The editors] ! imagine troubling as a way to give pause for thought' (p. 208). Certainly, this volume is successful in that respect. Part III consists of two superb chapters by Jean Clandinin and Wayne Bowman. Clandinin (Chapter 17) is concerned with the ways in which educators are prepared for 'wide awakeness' in their theory and practice. Prompting 'wide awakeness' means persuading educators '! to look beyond the familiar, to attend to ! alternative accounts of the ways in which lives are lived and storied in and through music and education' (p. 2).1 Bowman's chapter (Chapter 18) is a highlight, I feel. In his chapter, Bowman takes a step back from naive advocacy and asks probing questions of the possibilities of narratives. We are encouraged to determine whether or not mere resonance for audiences is enough. Is there a potential for mischief as well as affirmation? Furthermore, is it possible to embrace the particular without renouncing generality? These are absorbing and provocative questions. Narrative Inquiry in Music Education is a tremendous book that contributes splendidly to the field of qualitative research. It benefits from well-presented and conducted research alongside critique and stimulating reflection. The commentaries do 'provide us with a view, a window into the narrative accounts' (p. 3), with discussions that are both authoritative and revealing. Moreover, the substantive issues addressed by the early-career researchers are of great interest to music educators. I bid readers of this journal to consider the volume. N O T E 1. The term 'wide awake' comes from Maxine Greene (1995). R E F E R E N C E S Baker, D. (2005a). Music service teachers' life histories in the United Kingdom with implications for practice. International Journal of Music Education, 23(2), 251--266. Baker, D. (2005b). Peripatetic music teachers approaching mid-career: A cause for concern? British Journal of Music Education, 22(2), 141--153. Baker, D. (2006). Life histories from a music service: The past in inductees' present. British Journal of Music Education, 23(1), 39--50. Davidson, J. W., & Borthwick, S. J. (2002). Family dynamics and family scripts: A case study of musical development. Psychology of Music, 30(1), 121--136. Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2000). Introduction: The discipline and practice of qualitative research. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (2nd ed.; pp. 1--28). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Faraday, A., & Plummer, K. (2003). Doing life histories. In N. Fielding (Ed.), Sage benchmarks in social research methods, Vol. 2: Interviewing (pp. 33--54). London: Sage. Greene, M. (1995) Releasing the imagination: Essays on education, the arts, and social change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Shaw, C. (1930) The jack-roller. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Thomas, W. I., & Znaniecki, F. (1927). The Polish peasant in Europe and America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. David Baker Institute of Education, Reading University [email: david.baker01@btinternet.com]

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