Fall 2011 Wednesday Night Reading Group ☆

| September 8, 2011

A Wednesday Night Reading Group Announcement from Music & Education Assistant Professor Randall Allsup:

This study group is preparation for a forthcoming article about epistemology and qualitative research.  I invite all doctoral students and interested Masters’ students in attending this bi-monthly discussion group.

My preliminary thesis goes something like this.  The twentieth-century witnessed a profound epistemological turn in the field of social science research, particularly with regard to education and schooling.  This paradigm shift (this crisis for some) is revealed in the gradual legitimation of qualitative research.  Understanding this turn, and how theories and beliefs about knowledge and the nature of what is known shape everyday practices in classrooms and outside, is of paramount importance for music education researchers.

In this study group we will start with the question, what is epistemology?  What is knowledge?  Is it caused behavior as determined by antecedent conditions (Thorndike, Skinner)?  The results of a model we construct to give meaning and structure to regularities in experience (Dewey, Bruner)?  Or is it unstable, fluid, but extensive array of competence-building measures/discourses/stories that extend beyond the rational and instrumental (Lyotard) that are evoked through autobiography and narratives? (Greene, Miller)?

A theory of knowledge can be explicitly arrived at or intuitively felt, but is manifestly reflected in the shape of how and what we teach, as well as the conditioning environments of learning and its methods of instruction.  A theory of knowledge is in part a theory education, since education, which begins at birth, is (arguably) the developmental effort to increase the power, sensibility, and sensitivity of the socially-constructed human mind.  Education, as such, is larger than mere schooling, and encompasses all the conditions of knowledge-making.

The conditions of knowledge-making change (Lucy Green’s study of popular musicians, say, or the teaching and learning that takes place on-line), as well as what counts as knowledge (we will examine the postmodern critique of scientific knowledge).  Therefore the questions that drive qualitative researchers and their methods of answering those questions must change as well.

Illustrative Frame: Jerome Bruner.  Few living education researchers have spent more time thinking about the mind and how we come “to know” than Jerome Bruner.  By way of illustration, and as a theoretical starting point, our readings will sketch the arc of Bruner’s career, which moved in anticipation and reaction to some of the major changes in epistemology in the twentieth-century.  As one of North America’s major theorists and researchers, Bruner moved from a mid-century focus on the individual mind as the primary location of research interest to a wider concern for the ways in which culture shapes and motivates how and what is learned.  His initial foray into structuralism was a radical departure from the predominant school of behaviorist research, which narrowed purposeful or intended actions in favor of “caused” behavior.  In the 1990’s, in reaction to changing views on multiculturalism and education, he expanded his earlier work to include more emphasis on culture and qualitative ways of knowing.  In Making Stories (2002), he again readjusts his previous thinking and accepts a multifarious, even fractured, vision of knowledge, one where narratives and stories complicate a unified theory of mind.  Bruner’s shifts serve as illustration and theory, paralleling contemporary turns in the field of music education research, which has moved in the last fifty years from emphases on quantitative studies, to qualitative cases, and more recently to narrative research and philosophical reflection.

Our study group will require that you buy the books that we are reading.  The essays or book chapters we are investigating can be found in the e-reserves of A&HM 6971/005.  If you would like copies of these, please contact Chiao-Wei Lui at cl2388@columbia.edu.  Also, please RSVP if you are attending.

Thank you, Randall.

September 21, 2011, 7:00 – 8:30 pm – Russell Room 309

Bruner, Jerome (1960/1996). The Process of Education. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. (purchase)

October 5, 2011, 7:00 – 8:30 pm – Russell Room 309

Tyler, Ralph W. (1949). Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (purchase)

Bruner, J. (1966). Notes on a theory of instruction (1964). In Toward a Theory of Instruction. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.  (in 6971 e-reserve)

Bruner, J. (1979). Psychology and the image of man. In On Knowing: Essays for the Left Hand. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.  (in 6971 e-reserve)

October 19, 2011, 7:00 – 8:30 pm – Russell Room 103

Bruner, J. (1990). Acts of Meaning. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.


November 2, 2011, 7:00 – 8:30 pm – Russell Room 309

Bruner, J. (1996). The Culture of Education. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. (purchase)

November 16, 2011, 7:00 – 8:30 pm – Russell Room 309

Greene, Maxine (1995). The shapes of childhood recalled. In Releasing the Imagination. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. (in 6971 e-reserve)

Miller, Janet (2005). Autobiography and the necessary incompleteness of teachers’ stories. In Sounds of Silence Breaking. New York: Peter Lang. (in 6971 e-reserve)

Bruner, J. (2002). Making Stories: Law, Literature, Life. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. (purchase)

November 30, 2011, 7:00 – 8:30 pm – Location TBA

Lyotard, Jean-François (1979). The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Trans. Bennington and Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press. (purchase)