Peer learning using the Critical Response Process
Creating independent musicians
In one of the sub-projects of CEMPE's development project Teaching Principal Instrument in Groups ten vocal students on the bachelor programme in music education are working with their tutor Kristin Kjølberg to explore how peer learning and reflective feedback can help foster such ownership.
”The love of the art is so great that we can put up with any kind of critique, right or wrong, in order to develop as artists” (Liz Lerman, founder of Critical Response Process)
The sub-project is linked to the Norwegian Academy of Music's strategy plan I samspill. Strategi 2025 : “The studies help develop the students' independence and artistic identity. The students should take the lead and identify goals for their own development. We should stimulate the development of artistic identity and critical reflection.”
Critical Response Process
The group meets every three weeks. The group has adopted peer learning as its methodology – more specifically Liz Lerman's Critical Response Process (see facts at the end of the article),” says sub-project manager Kristin Kjølberg.
Music students develop their artistic competencies and identity together with the instrumental teachers. As students they are undergoing a constant learning process in which receiving feedback is a key component. Feedback can also come from fellow students, but predominantly it comes from the teachers. The feedback can be in the form of advice, suggestions or possible solutions, although clear instructions, prescribed approaches and critiques are also types of feedback.
“The way in which the feedback is given has a major impact on the students’ motivation to go back to their practice room to try to develop their artistic competencies. Feedback is intended to be constructive and edifying, and it will often inspire devotion and motivation. However, it can also have the opposite effect. Most musicians will have experienced feedback that makes them overwhelmed, confused, dejected or sidelined,” says Kjølberg.
By working together as equal participants, the students have developed the self-confidence and courage they need to reflect on, and create, their own roles as musicians.
Discovering own knowledge and creativity
Music students need to develop a distinctive artistic identity if society is to benefit from musicians who create, invent and innovate rather than replicate and look backwards. By working together as equal participants (peers), these students have developed the self-confidence and courage they need to reflect on, and create, their own roles as musicians. One student participating in the project says:
“I don't think there has been any other situation during my studies where I've had such a great opportunity to discover my own tacit musical knowledge. Here I get to explore and show how much skill I actually have.”
Many of the students feel that the structured way in which feedback is given helps them experience achievement and feel more creative when they practise. They are also assuming greater responsibility for developing their artistic material and artistic skills. They say they are becoming more confident, asking more questions, and taking more control of the process of becoming professional musicians.
At the start of the project many of the students felt that they wanted to see more teacher-led instrumental tuition and would often ask for specific instructions from their teachers. They are now saying that they prefer to engage in a dialogue with their teachers. They have grown in confidence and contribute to their own development, and they feel better able to engage in such dialogues with teachers about possible options and challenges and to suggest solutions. One student on the project expressed it thus:
“It's very difficult to take control of your own development, because I've always been given feedback from my teachers on what is best for me. To be honest, I've just followed my teachers' instructions. I've reflected little on what I wanted myself. During the last year I've become increasingly aware of how to listen to my own ideas.”
“With the support of Lerman, the group is working to further develop the Critical Response Process so that it can be adopted in other settings at NAM. The project will be continued in the next academic year. The students will be placed in two groups that will work together without a teacher present. I will monitor the groups along the way, but in my role as a researcher,” says Kjølberg.
She will also convene a group of NAM teachers who will use peer learning to practise their Critical Response Process skills based on a model from this student project.
About the Critical Responce Process
The Critical Response Process (Lerman and Borstel, 2003) is a method for giving and receiving meaningful feedback during creative processes. The method consists of four steps, and there are three roles that the participants can assume: artist , responder or facilitator . The process is designed to allow the artist, in collaboration with those giving feedback, to identify solutions to his or her artistic challenges and problems.
Step 1: Step 1 requires the responders to give feedback on what they found meaningful in the performance. Meaning could be that the performance was inspiring, compelling, surprising, interesting, different, though-provoking and so on.
Step 2: In Step 2 the artist asks artistic questions. The responders must give honest answers, but they must be to the point. In other words, it is the artist who decides which problems to address during this step.
Step 3: In Step 3 the responders ask the artist open, neutral questions. These questions should encourage reflection and help the artist to identify solutions.
Step 4: In Step 4 the responders give input and state their opinions. However, they must articulate clearly what their opinion is about and ask for permission to state it. E.g. “I have an idea for how to make the lyrics come across better. Would you like to hear it?” The artist may respond either yes or no to the question.