At the beginning of the school year, I conducted my first research study. This was definitely a trial and error experience, and I learned a lot about research methods, giving surveys, and gathering data.
My study is on Project Based Learning (PBL) in the music classroom. PBL is described by the Buck Institute as, "...a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge," (https://www.bie.org/about/what_pbl). I currently teach in a small independent school that is moving towards a PBL model for all of the Lower School classes. Our Head of Lower School asked that we teach in a PBL model all the time and this would include "specialist teachers" (art, music, PE, STEM, Spanish). I was very skeptical about the whole process especially because my experience with the PBL was limited; I had read one article on the topic.
Over the summer, as part of my course work at Ithaca College, I created a bibliography with all of the resources I could find on the topic of PBL and music (blog post about the bibliography coming soon!). I read as much as I could on the topic and met with my independent study professor to discuss research methods and what was best for my situation.
In the fall, I taught two sections of third grade music and did a comparison study with the two classes; one class was taught with the PBL model, the other with a more traditional model. Each class was given a pre and post survey about their thoughts and feels about their self-image as a musician and their knowledge about music. I collected the surveys and will be analyzing the data this summer as part of my independent study. On first glance at the data, it doesn't seem to suggest that teaching in a PBL model makes students feel like stronger musicians, increase their musical skills, or help them with their self-image as a musician. But we'll have to wait and see!