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Summer 1994

Research Magazine > ARCHIVE > Summer 94 > Article

Variations on a Theme
by C. Melodie Taylor

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but when teaching, flattery may get you nowhere.

Research shows that many student teachers disregard the theories they learn in school and imitate their supervising teachers instead. "And that may or may not be a good thing," Mary Leglar said.

To counteract this tendency, Leglar wants to provide students with lots of good teaching examples "so they won't take the path of least resistance," said the coordinator of undergraduate music education at the UGA School of Music. Leglar developed two interactive videodisc programs that "help students understand that there are as many styles of teaching as there are teachers and that certain underlying principals apply to all teaching," she said.

To see those principals in action, students observe teachers in public school classrooms, but students may only get to see a limited repertoire of teaching techniques. That was one of many problems Leglar experienced. Others included: scheduling enough time for observation, dealing with a shortage of master teachers and school programs for students to observe, and insufficient funds.

These frustrations led her to create interactive computer programs that enable students to see and analyze unrehearsed clips of teaching techniques from teachers in a variety of settings around the country --from Indian reservations to inner city classrooms.

After amassing and editing stacks and stacks of videotapes, she recruited many top music educators nationwide to evaluate the quality, validity and appropriateness of her videotaped examples. They ran experiments with their own students and submitted their comments to Leglar who incorporated their suggestions. She also asked her colleagues to test the effectiveness of the interactive component of the program. "Of course, the real research is when I run my students through these programs," she said.

Among the music educators around the country who are singing the praises of Leglar's programs is Eunice Boardman, who chairs graduate studies in music education at the University of Illinois. "We plan to use these programs to help students learn observation techniques and how to look for good teaching," she said.

As for students, preliminary evaluations showed 95 percent of students liked Leglar's interactive programs -- Music Teaching and Lesson Planning -- which were developed for the Macintosh computer with technical assistance from the instructional technology department of the UGA College of Education.

UGA Music School Director Ralph Verrastro said Leglar's work is important because "it's so difficult to train teachers and so expensive to provide field experience, and these programs take available technology and apply it to an area where it is really needed. Her work is making an impact that goes well beyond the four walls of the classroom."

Leglar and colleague David Smith of the School of Music plan to test the programs on their students this fall. She also plans to follow her students once they get classrooms of their own to see if they practice the good principles they've learned through these programs. The research also will continue with the study of the students of those teachers.

"If prospective teachers see many, many styles, they can more easily form their own style," Leglar said. "There's a great difference between playing notes and making music; there's an equally great difference between holding class and reaching somebody's mind.


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