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Challenges and Possibilities for Improvisation in Music Education: A symposium presenting different aspects of improvisation
Örebro University, School of Music, Theatre and Art, Örebro University, Sweden. (Aestethics, Culture and Media)
Örebro University, School of Music, Theatre and Art, Örebro University, Sweden. (Aestethics, Culture and Media)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3758-7541
Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki, MuTri doctoral school, Helsinki, Finland.
University of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Scotland.
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2016 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Improvisation holds a problematic position – in music education as well as in music education research. According to music education syllabi in most European countries, improvisation is a part of the subject content and, as such can even be even mandatory. Previous studies have, however, shown that music teachers find it difficult to incorporate improvisation activities in their teaching (e.g. Ferm Thorgersen & Zandén 2014; Whitcomb 2007). As a result, the concept of improvisation has received an increasing interest from scholars and educators. Yet, at present it is an under developed field in music education contexts.

This symposium brings together researchers in music education with special interests in questions related to research in improvisation and improvisation pedagogy. All presenters conduct research on improvisation in music education, based in either ethnography or participating action research. In addition, the researchers represent four European countries – Finland, Norway, Scotland and Sweden – where new curricula quite recently have been introduced. According to these, improvisation activities are expected to take place in music education and the common argument is it is assumed that improvisation can develop creativity and in turn nurture a critical mind (Gonzales, 2015). Similar ideas are apparent in key documents related to education and training in Europe (see e.g. OECD, 2013). Music education research is, in other words, confronted with several challenging questions about the role of, and assumptions about, improvisation.

This symposium focuses on how we can understand improvisation in educational contexts. Within this symposium, we will address a number of fundamental questions designed to take the audience to the heart of current debates around improvisation. Two main questions guide this symposium:

   How can we theoretically understand improvisation in an educational context?

   What are the implications and challenges for music education research on   improvisation?

Firstly, we will present a literature review of improvisation in music education research, setting the background and illustrating the current situation. We will then consider particular challenges and/or possibilities music education researchers and music educators perceive and encounter. Following this, we will discuss different visions of improvisation pedagogy which have emerged from the music education research.

Secondly, the symposium will bring forth and reflect on new methodological approaches to research improvisation exemplified in three different educational environments: kindergarten/preschool, elementary school and adult education. Approaches to free improvisation will be presented instrumentally and vocally, as well as individually and collaboratively. Importantly, the concept of free improvisation is suggested to include social, visual and bodily engagement with potential forcreating a space for facilitation of individual and collaborative creativity. Also original methodological and theoretical constructs that have been developed will be presented, constructs, which delineate the strengths that participants may build through practices of free improvisation,

We suggest

   key approaches and methodologies in music education research, and in teaching music through improvisation, which are drawn from research and practice, thus benefitting both music education research and future teachers

   that approaches to teaching music through improvisation have potential benefits in broader music education and developing these is an important research priority

   that as interest seems to be growing amongst music educators in utilising improvisation in music education, effective teaching materials and robust methods of delivery are needed

   the importance to advance theoretical and critical appraisals for comprehension of practice and research concerning improvisation in music education.


Gonzales, Anita (2015). (Pre-)Scripted Creativity: An Examination of the Creativity Movement in Spain’s Contemporary MusicEducation Literature. Paper presentation at ECER conference 2015

Ferm Thorgersen, Cecilia; Zandén, Olle (2014). Teaching for Learning or Teaching for documentation? Music teacherśperspectives on a Swedish curriculum reform. In British Journal of Music Education. September 2014, pp1-14. DOI:10.1017/S0265051714000166

Education Scotland, Curriculum for Excellence, http://www.educationscotland.gov.ukhttp://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/nqmusic/learningandteaching/composingskills/index.asp 2016-01-10

Finnish National Board of Education (Utbildningsstyrelsen) (2004). National core curriculum for basic education (Grundernaför läroplanen för den grundläggande utbildningen) http://www.oph.fi/lp2016/grunderna_for_laroplanen

Finnish National Board of Education Utbildningsstyrelsen (2014). National core curriculum for basic education (Grunderna förläroplanen för den grundläggande utbildningen Föreskrifter och anvisningar 2014:96)http://www.oph.fi/lp2016/grunderna_for_laroplanen

National Agency for Education (Skolverket), (2011). Curriculum for the compulsory school, preschool class and the recreationcentre 2011. www.skolverket.se/publikationer

OECD (2013), PISA 2012 Results: Ready to Learn: Students’ Engagement, Drive and Self-Beliefs (Volume III), PISA, OECDPublishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264201170-en

Whitcomb, Rachel (2007). Improvisation in elementary general music: A survey study. The Kodály Envoy, 34(1), 5-10.

Winner, E., T. Goldstein and S. Vincent-Lancrin (2013), Art for Art's Sake?: The Impact of Arts Education, EducationalResearch and Innovation, OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264180789-en

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URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-52884OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-52884DiVA: diva2:1033963
European Education Research Association (ECER 2016), Dublin, Ireland, August 22-26, 2016
Available from: 2016-10-10 Created: 2016-10-10 Last updated: 2016-10-11Bibliographically approved

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Larsson, ChristinaGeorgii-Hemming, Eva
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