Music Education: is it Time to Go With the Flow?

Bersh, Brian David
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University of Delaware
Professional development for music teachers often occurs in short, unrelated workshops-rarely enacting change in practice. Therefore, the purpose of this research was to investigate elements that contribute to effective, sustained professional development for music teachers. Specifically, this study is an examination of the efficacy of a 90 clock-hour, immersion-based professional development cluster on steel pan through the unique lens of flow theory. According to Csikszentmihalyi (1991), flow is considered to be an optimal state in which skill and perceived level of challenge match. In the present study, music teachers’ (N=33) experiences in the steel drum professional development cluster were documented. The cluster was a 5-day period in which music teachers were immersed in learning how to play and teach steel pan. Data sources were participants’ daily journal reflections (N=137 entries), videotaped rehearsals (13 hours), interviews (N=7), and results from a follow-up satisfaction survey (N=25; 65% return). Csikszentmihalyi’s indicators of flow were used to code the data. Prevailing indicators of flow found to exist for the participants were immediate feedback, chance for completion, and high levels of interest/motivation. Findings suggest that the immersion context fostered participants’ growth in knowledge and skill for playing and teaching steel pan. Findings also suggest that immersion-based professional development promotes flow and has many attributes of an effective professional development paradigm.