“If the primary aim of music education is to help foster creation of the student’s self-identity, then informal learning is not only a good way to learn, it is the ideal way to learn” (Jenkins, 2011, pp. 194-5). As a music teacher and director of an El Sistema-inspired program focused on student empowerment, leadership and citizenship through music ensemble, this quote from Jenkins (2011) sparked my curiosity. If informal learning plays an invaluable role in a child’s education, why is this type of learning often absent from the school classroom? Can a school music classroom include informal learning as part of its learning environment?
As part of my Fulbright research, I am exploring the concept of informal learning through many different pathways. One of these paths has been through Dr. Theriaultʼs Informal Education course at the University of Strathclyde. According to Dr. Theriault there are three different approaches to education:
With the impact of the internet and social media on studentsʼ lives, informal learning aligns well with the environment of todayʼs learner and can be a solution for meaningful change within learning institutions. According to Beckett and Hager (as cited in Jenkins, 2011) information learning has six key features: organic/holistic, contextual, activity- and experienced-based, arises when learning is not the main aim, activated by individual learners (not by teachers), and often collaborative.
Lucy Greenʼs (2005) informal learning pedagogy is one of the reasons why I hoped to earn a Fulbright scholarship to study in the United Kingdom because this informal approach provides classically trained instrumental and classroom music teachers (i.e. me) with practical tools to successfully integrate informal practices of popular musicians into their teaching. According to Green (2013), “Informal approaches tend to involve a particularly deep integration of listening, performing, improvising, and composing throughout the learning process” (p. viii). Musical Futures was founded on Green’s model, which encourages student-driven learning, collaboration, and group performance. Through self-teaching and providing a relevant social context, Musical Futures helps students develop their musical identity and gives them an equal voice in the classroom (Wright, 2014). This March I will have the opportunity to take Musical Futuresʼ trainings and observe programming at Musical Futures Champion Schools throughout England.
In closing I want to thank Dr. Theriault for her friendship. She has met with me on a weekly basis and put me in touch with university staff and community members who could support me in my research.
Green, L. (2013). Hear, listen, play!: How to free your studentsʼ aural improvisation, and performance skills. Oxford: University Press.
Green, L. (2005). The music curriculum as lived experience: Children's “natural” music-learning processes. Music Educators Journal,
Jenkins, P. (2011). Formal and informal music educational practices. Philosophy of Music Education Review, 19(2), 179-197.
Wright, R. (2014). The Fourth Sociology and Music Education: Towards a Sociology of Integration. Action, Criticism & Theory for Music
This is a personal blog, sharing my experiences living in the UK from January - June 2019 as a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching scholar. This blog is not an official site of the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State. The views expressed on this site are entirely my own and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State, or any of its partner organizations.