Mary Beth Gicking - Success Story

Mary Beth Gicking HeadshotI was pleasantly surprised to find myself in the position to do research in the classroom during one of my M.A.T. courses during my first spring semester as a graduate student at SU. The class was a secondary methods course taught by Dr. Louise Anderson and included only myself and one other undergraduate student. We were studying student-to-student interactions in the secondary music classroom. Observations took place in each of our field placements, which included a high school choral classroom and a middle school band classroom.

First, we described which types of interactions we would be tallying, including helping, social, distracting, leadership and criticism. Separately at our placements, we tallied each interaction type throughout the semester each time we went to observe. We were striving to compare the quality and quantity of student-to-student interactions in middle school band and high school chorus as well as infer what the data may suggest of the classroom environments created.

Much research has been done on student-to-teacher interactions, but less so on student-to-student. It has been long understood and perhaps dreaded by some that secondary school students are very social creatures. This socialization can benefit or hurt the classroom environment. Peer relationships are important, and it was interesting to compare each level (middle and high school) as well as each ensemble environment (band and chorus). A wider spread of interaction type was found in middle school band compared to high school chorus, with at least 20 of each type observed. There were significantly more social interactions in high school chorus compared to every other interaction type. There was no significant difference found between the number of total interactions in middle school band and high school chorus.

Overall, we certainly observed secondary students being their social selves while also getting some insight on the quality of these interactions. The differences found in collection bring up questions of cause as well as correlation. Does the collected data reflect the age group, classroom type, teacher or perhaps some combination? We cannot tell for sure with just our data, but it nonetheless opens up the door for more research and further exploration of student-to-student interactions as well as the environment of music classrooms.

The next steps in my career after completing my graduate program include teaching. I currently teach two-year-olds at a local preschool and plan to continue doing so for a while. I am glad I took the time in my life now to pursue this degree, and I know it will serve me well as life marches ever forward. I was not necessarily expecting my own past research experience to come in handy as much as it has during my time in the M.A.T. Program; I know now not to underestimate the helpfulness of my upcoming graduate degree!