Music’s Lisa Koops writes about early childhood music education

Lisa Koops, associate professor of music, recently had three articles published on early childhood music education.

Her article, “‘You Get What You Get?’ Learner Agency in the Early Childhood Music Classroom,” was published in General Music Today.

In the article, she suggests that providing opportunities for agency—student choice or control—in the early childhood classroom could enhance student learning. One way young children demonstrate agency is through expressing color preference. Koops encourages teachers to look for opportunities to give children choices and control in the classroom, including selecting colors of classroom props or leading a conducting activity.

Another of her articles, co-authored with PhD candidate Christa Kuebel and Sarah Starr Alleman Smith, was published in Research Studies in Music Education. The article, titled “Mama’s Turn: A mother’s musical journey,” was a narrative inquiry documenting the musical journey of Sarah, a young mother taking piano lessons. The research questions explored how Sarah’s journey influenced her young children’s musical expressions, their expressed desires to participate in music outside of their current experiences, and Sarah’s experience of musical parenting.

Data for this study included Sarah’s lesson notes, iPhone videos of piano practice and family interactions, emails related to the project, interview transcripts from five interviews spanning 15 months, and an additional interview more than two years later.

In addition, Sarah wrote a 3000-word reflection in which she identified three principles from her piano lessons that she applied to other areas of her life: “focus and attention, small and do-able, and quality over quantity.” The authors explored the interpersonal dynamics created by Sarah’s becoming the music learner in the family, the tension between enjoyment and guilt of a leisure pursuit, as well as her application of the principles.

In the Journal of Research in Music Education, Koops had an article published titled “The Enjoyment Cycle: A Phenomenology of Musical Enjoyment of 4- to 7-year-olds During Musical Play.”

The purpose of this study was to describe children’s lived experience of enjoyment during musical play. Data sources included class video from 15 weeks of a 24-week extracurricular music class for 4- to 7-year-olds taught by the researcher, parent-filmed video of child participant music-making in home settings during the same period, and transcripts of exit interviews with parents and children. Participants included 12 children and four adults, all of whom had contributed to prior studies on children’s music-making in family settings.

Phenomenological data analysis followed Moustakas’ approach. Five elements emerged as hallmarks of children’s musical enjoyment and provided the textural description of “what” occurred during musical enjoyment, including active musical engagement, signs of physical engagement, a balance of familiarity and novelty, inclusion of activities allowing for student control or choice, and a safe and playful environment.

Structurally, participants’ enjoyment occurred in four ways:

  • within a balance of structure and freedom,
  • within a balance of community and individual expression,
  • as a cycle between children’s musical enjoyment and participation, and
  • as a springboard to musical risk-taking and musical agency.

Implications for practice and research are discussed in the article.