Encouraging Creativity in the Classroom MacKenzie Riley Young | March 29, 2021

Master’s in Education student and music educator Josh Bickford MS Ed ’21 has been inspired within his ED 550 Teacher as Researcher course here:

“I have grown a lot as a teacher while being a student at Thomas College. I have developed a lot more confidence, but I have also witnessed a very big change in the way that I teach music in the classroom. The classes, although not specifically about music, have been applicable to my teaching experience,” he said.

Josh teaches music in the RSU 18 school district. His research question for the ED550 course is: “What best instructional practices can be implemented to best encourage the development of creative expression through composition in my Kindergarten music class?” 

Throughout the research process he had a lightbulb moment: “I realized two things, one, that there was no common culture that my students were coming from and that, because of that fact, they were not being immersed in a musical culture that valued music notation or group singing,” said Josh.

He realized when he was a kid, he was involved in public organizations that created a shared culture of music – singing from songbooks with real notation. Josh’s students today don’t have that, so often they don’t come from a culture where they make their own music.

“Then, the questions that came into my mind were, is reading notation still important? How do I get my students excited about that? Should I even try to get them excited about that or should I pursue other, non-western-based avenues of music creating with them so that they will have the lifelong tools to go out and be active music participants? How do I encourage them to become active participants rather than just passive listeners and consumers of someone else’s recorded music?”

As a result, Josh has tried to break out of the mold of focusing on performance in his own teaching practice. He finds this gives students more specific ways to be creative.

“Creativity and music composition puts the power of music and creating in the hands of students,” said Josh.

“The research for my capstone was, I discovered, a way for me to actually look at my practices, look at my teaching decisions and creations, and to honestly look at the benefits and effectiveness of those creations, decisions, and practices,” he said.