HED: Best Practices in Challenging Times

Back in August, my institution held its annual Faculty Institute as a virtual conference. I had reservations at first, but later found it to be outstanding! The upcoming 2021 AMEA Conference will also be held in a virtual format. Based on my prior experience, I am confident in saying that the 2021 AMEA Conference may be the best conference that you have ever attended!

We’ve included all of the elements that you’ve come to expect at a “first-rate” music conference. There will be two General Sessions with awards and keynote speakers. Our exhibitors will be there and you will be able to interact with them via Networking Lounges. There will be a Research Poster Session and an HED Recital. In addition, there will be a virtual happy hour that we are calling “Cocktails with Colleagues.” But just when it couldn’t get any better, we are hosting six presentations that will enlighten and inspire you. These sessions will focus on best practices in a variety of music education areas. But wait, there is more! For the price of admission, you will also have access to three pre-recorded bonus sessions. Kudo’s to the AMEA governing board. They have certainly covered all of the bases!

There is still time to get involved. Research poster applications are being accepted until Nov. 2. Go to the myamea.org website and click on Dr. Jane Kuene’s box with the title Research Poster Update for details. Applications for the HED Recital will be accepted until Nov. 15. Contact Dr. Carly Johnson at cjjohnson@alasu.edu for more information.

HED Studio Instructor Survey

In mid-September, we sent out an informal survey to 191 studio instructors across Alabama to investigate the impact of the COVID pandemic on college-level music instruction. We received responses from 38 instructors. Some responses were anticipated but others provided interesting insights into the future of music education.

Results indicated that most instructors utilized a combination of virtual and in-person instruction (63.16%) while some taught completely online (26.32%) and others taught completely in- person (26.32%). A majority of instructors used Zoom (68.42%) to interact with their students, a few employed Google Meet (7.89%), and no instructor used Microsoft Teams. Individual instructors reported using programs such as Rock Out Loud; Facetime; Facebook and Zoom; and Cleanfeed. As expected, many instructors incorporated hardware devices such as microphones, mixers, digital to analog converters, and various recording devices into their instruction. The collection of brand names and models, however, was beyond the scope of this investigation. In addition, instructors utilized web-based programs such as YouTube (51.35%), SmartMusic (13.51%), FlipGrid (5.41%), and others like GoReact, OBS, DaVinci Resolve, Cleanfeed, Logic – Final Cut Pro, and Loopback to support their instruction.

Some of the more interesting findings may have come from the instructors’ responses to two open-ended questions: “Have any unforeseen benefits come from your virtual instruction? and “What information would you like to share with others about your experience? Responses to the first question organized themselves into four emergent themes (a) Instructional Environment, (b) Self-Evaluation, (c) Attention to Detail, and (d) Learning about Technology. Instructors felt comfortable working from home, noticed that introverted students talked more in the online format, used lesson time more effectively, and dealt with fewer student absences. They also recognized the benefits of having students evaluate their own recorded performances. Students put more effort into their lesson preparation resulting in greater progress. In addition, instructors witnessed an increase in their students’ attention to detail. Vocalists paid more attention to diction while instrumentalists focused on nuances such as hand position. The instructors themselves acknowledged development in their ability to deliver more concise

and effective verbal instruction while the students improved their skills in turning verbal instruction into physical execution. Finally, the pandemic forced instructors and students to learn more about technology. Both found new ways to utilize technology and increased their fluency in a variety of applications. For example, instructors learned to record their instruction, create pedagogical videos, and store PowerPoint presentations for future use. They also learned that guest artists can be included in their lessons easily.

Responses to the second open-ended question (What information would you like to share with others about your experience?) provided further insight. The instructors came to accept the benefits of online instruction and acknowledged that a combination of virtual and in-person instruction worked better that only online or only in-person lessons. Several took the time to remind us about the importance of remaining positive and flexible in these challenging times.

Keep in mind, the results of this survey are limited to its participants and do not generalize to a larger population. All opinions are my own. These findings, however, provide insight into the changes that are taking place within institutions of higher education across Alabama. Further investigation is warranted.

I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Eric Perry, a doctoral graduate assistant at the University of Alabama, for his help in constructing and administering the survey. He handled the technological “nuts and bolts” turning my ideas into reality. This survey would not have been possible without his efforts. Additional words of appreciate go out to Dr. Carl Hancock for introducing me to Mr. Perry. Thank you, Carl!

I look forward to seeing everyone at the conference.