Between practice and research: The Honours undergraduate experience at an Australian conservatorium
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The Honours undergraduate degree in Australia holds a unique position in the higher education landscape. Nether entirely a 1st cycle undergraduate activity nor acknowledged as a research award (AQF, 2013), fourth year dissertation-based programs serve both as a professional qualification and as the primary PhD entry criteria across the sector (Kiley, et al., 2011). In the creative arts these factors take on additional significance given a core focus on craft and the development of practical skills and creative artefacts. This is notable given recent exponential growth in arts-based higher degree research enrolments where practice-led investigations position creative works alongside exegetical texts (Harrison & Draper, 2012). This paper examines experiences in Honours training at a conservatorium of music in Australia. Given the 'in between' nature of these programmes, we posit that there is much to be learned by better understanding this transitional space in order to inform higher degree research training pedagogy, and in terms of professional outcomes for musicians. Relevant undergraduate features include: the still-fresh focus on craft /practical processes; the widespread use of blended learning and digital technologies across the cohort; and in how the Honours community may reveal insights into the progression from so-called 'undergraduate thinking' to 'research thinking'. The project utilises a case study methodology to interrogate a number of music-based Honours projects. We present data from coursework teachers, students and dissertation supervisors during the formative stages of the Honours first half year, from developing a proposal through to 'confirmation' where a detailed research design /argument is examined and assessed. While final submission formats of prior projects are available for comparative purposes, here we are centrally interested in the early thinking and evolving negotiations which take place en route. Subsequently we argue practical arrangements for the on-going design of music Honours programmes in terms of professional outcomes, while at the same time informing links across the research training continuum in all 1st, 2nd and 3rd cycles of university music teaching.
Proceedings 5th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
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Performing Arts and Creative Writing not elsewhere classified