Learning and Unlearning: New Challenges for Teaching in Conservatoires

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McWilliam, Erica
Carey, Gemma
Draper, Paul
Lebler, Don
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Assoc. Prof. David Forrest

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2006
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This paper takes up the challenge of Erica McWilliam's recent call for educators in general to focus on the importance of 'unlearning'as well aslearning and thence applying this challenge to teaching in the Conservatoire. It does so by indicating what the value and limits are of traditional pedagogy in the Conservatoire. For young people who will increasingly experience a 'portfolio career' they will need to 'unlearn' and 'forget' certain practices processes and at the same time learn and embrace others. Getting the mix of learning and unlearning right will be more important for new generations of learners than merely sticking to time-honoured habits that mark a former stable social world. The implication is not that the Conservatoire should throw out long-term teaching techniques, but rather that it will need to be more open to innovative pedagogical possibilities if it is to work against the current trend of a shrinking clientele and audience for its expertise. The presentation provides a rationale for a new conceptual architecture in teaching (mixing learning and unlearning) before moving to consider how the Conservatoire might experiment cautiously with this imperative. Examples are given of such experiments already happening within a Conservatoire in Australia. Because the appeal of excellent musicianship is universal, and the image of the music teacher is so culturally familiar, it is tempting to assume that the traditional 'master-apprentice'pedagogy of the Conservatoire is unchallenged and inviolate as thelegitimate method for music teaching. This paper challenges 'master-apprentice' pedagogy by opening up issues around the value and limitations of traditional pedagogy in the Conservatoire for a generation of young people who experience the world very differently from their 'baby boomer'teachers. In doing so, it takes up the challenge of Erica McWilliam's recent call for educators in general to focus on the importance of 'unlearning'as well as learning (McWilliam, 2005a), and applies this challenge to teaching in the Conservatoire. The argument is that unstable social futures will require learners of all persuasions to 'unlearn'certain practices and processes at the same time that they learn and embrace others (Bauman, 2004). Getting the mix of learning and unlearning right will be more important for new generations of learners than merely sticking to time-honoured habits that mark a former stable social world. The implication is not that the Conservatoire should abandon long-term teaching techniques, but rather that it will need to be more open to innovative pedagogical possibilities if it is to work against the current trend of a shrinking youthful clientele and audience for its expertise and an expanded creative workforce from which it is estranged.

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Australian Journal of Music Education

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2006

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1

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Education

Psychology and Cognitive Sciences

Studies in Creative Arts and Writing

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