Thursday, September 6, 2012

Feedback and Response to The Australian Curriculum: The Arts

Feedback and Response to The Australian Curriculum: The Arts

Debbie O’Shea, August 25, 2012

I would like to begin my feedback by saying that this document is a great basis for our National Curriculum.

There is one Glaring omission that MUST be addressed if this is to be a useful document.

Within Content and Elaborations, I see no mention of specific elements of music. Yes, we play, we sing, we move, we explore, we experiment… all great and necessary, but where is the content to be covered?
Allow me to illustrate my point:
In year 2 Mathematics we can see that we need to cover multiplication as repeated addition, and fractions of halves, quarters and eighths and tell time using the terms ‘past’ and ‘to’.
In Foundation to Year 2 Music Content Descriptions and Elaborations we have:
exploring the elements of music through playbased activities, for example moving or using voices and body percussion to experiment with sound and silence, fast and slow, long and short.
My question, what are the music elements that must be covered by this juncture?

Year One Mathematics does not just say ‘explore numbers’, it says specifically ‘Recognise, model, read, write and order numbers to at least 100’. Without listing this content, teachers/schools/systems might choose to cover numbers to 20 for year 1, or not cover any numbers, or maybe cover up to thousands with superficial understanding. Could they not?

Maybe my point is more easily illustrated in higher year levels?

Music Year 5 and 6 - Making
6.1 Select and discriminate between sounds and combinations of sounds to investigate the possibilities of sound

·         experimenting with varying combinations of sounds to create mood and shape ideas sing voices or available digital and acoustic sound sources
·         exploring music ideas, manipulating sound qualities, dynamics and articulation to use them in their own performances and compositions
·         identifying, remembering and recording pitch and rhythm patterns and phrases while singing, playing, improvising and listening to music

What sounds are they choosing from?
What pitch and rhythmic patterns are they using?
Making music at this point of a TEN year program, simply cannot be all be randomly generated,  off the top of their head, whatever notes I hit, whatever buttons I push!  
Of course this is not what is suggested by this text, but this is the problem, when nothing is specified, very little may be done.

At some point there has to be specific content listed that music be covered by specific junctures.

It is the role of this curriculum document to provide direction and ensure there is a national standard
The ACARA shape paper states that

“…all young Australians are entitled to engage with the five Arts subjects and should be given an opportunity to experience the special knowledge and skills base of each.”

So this document must make sure the special knowledge and skills are taught!

The paper also says:
“Learning in the Arts and the development of aesthetic knowledge are sequential and cumulative.
The new content, skills and processes specified in each band will be revisited in increasing complexity and sophistication in later bands.”

So it needs to specify that content, let’s build in the increased complexity and sophistication is ways other than adding appropriate verbs and adjectives to content descriptions.

Again the Shape Paper specifically says:
“Each subject in the Arts is unique, with its own discrete knowledge, symbols, language, processes and skills.”
Though the elements of music are listed (duration.pitch…) knowledge and symbols are not. Content must be specified in order to adequately inform teachers.

Lack of expertise within teaching staff cannot be used as an excuse to not list specific content.
Do we accept that a classroom teacher cannot cover fractions because they don’t understand them?
Do we accept that it is OK for teachers not to cover science because it makes them a bit anxious?
Do we accept that a teacher may not cover creative writing because they aren’t good at it themselves? NO!
If a level of up skilling and retraining of teachers, along with improving of teacher training is needed, so be it. If employment of specialist teachers is needed, again, so be it.
We simply cannot allow current deficits to dictate details of our National Curriculum.
I will conclude with a quote from a MEDIA RELEASE from Rose Naughton, Office of the National Curriculum Board entitled National Curriculum Consultation Begins Today, Friday 27 June 2008

National curriculum documents will make clear to teachers what has to be taught, what students
should learn and what achievement standards are expected of them.
So please, follow this intent and create a document that includes specific music content!

Music Teaching is a Stressful Job!!

I know that music teaching is a stressful occupation, particularly if, like me, you feel real commitment and passion for your subject and your students. So, when I came across this stress test, I thought I would share it with you, my wonderful Crescendo Community!
I am not exactly sure how it works, but this is amazingly accurate.
The picture below has 2 identical dolphins in it. It was used in a case study on stress levels at St. Mary's Hospital.

Look at both dolphins jumping out of the water. The dolphins are identical. A closely monitored, scientific study revealed that, in spite of the fact that the dolphins are identical; a person under stress would find differences in the two dolphins. The more differences a person finds between the dolphins, the more stress that person is experiencing.
Look at the photograph and if you find more than one or two differences you may want to take a holiday.