This study investigated music pedagogy and curriculum in early childhood education. The project focused on 1) what is Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) and 2) how can the classroom music teacher implement developmentally appropriate practice in the music program? It was composed of three parts: 1) the creation, 2) implementation and 3) assessment of music learning centers within the classroom for kindergarten children.
The second part of the study, the implementation of learning centers, described not only how I changed the learning environment and how I incorporated play centers into the kindergarten curriculum, but also offers music teachers in limited environments suggestions for implementing developmentally appropriate practice. Beginning in September 1994, for nine consecutive weeks I incorporated music centers in my classroom based on the theme of Mother Goose rhymes and songs. Each weekly 35-minute music lesson was divided into 10-15 minute blocks of time. The lessons began with a large group activity, followed by free play centers, and closed with a large group meeting or final activity. Four classes, with a total of 100 kindergarten children, participated. Each kindergarten class was videotaped for a total of 36 videotapes with 21 hours of recorded time in all.
One class was chosen for the third part of the study the assessment of developmentally appropriate practice, learning centers and children’s behaviors exhibited while playing in the centers. All nine tapes of that class were viewed. The children’s behaviors were transcribed and categorized according to the stages in the learning cycle as described by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Demonstration of awareness, exploration, inquiry, and utilization in children’s dramatic play, aesthetic creations, musical skills development, and thematic goals achievement were recorded.
In both learning settings (large group and small group/individual play) the children exhibited behaviors characteristic of awareness, exploration, inquiry and utilization – the four stages of the learning cycle. However, there was one noticeable difference in the children’s learning for the two settings. In the teacher-directed large group activities, the learning was initiated by the teacher in the stages of awareness, exploration and sometimes inquiry. In direct contrast, the children initiated the learning when they were in the small group and individual free play centers.
More research is needed in the area of early childhood music education. What are the spontaneous musical concepts that can be learned through operative learning and could there be specific “toys” or play materials built to teach these musical skills and concepts? Will centers promote successful learning at other grade levels? What kind of musical behaviors in the learning cycle exist for children before or beyond kindergarten? Orff pedagogy, the learning cycle including improvisation, and the Orff media have characteristics that coincide with developmentally appropriate practice, but are there other connections? I recommend more research in studying the musical behaviors of very young children in an Orff setting to find the connections between developmentally appropriate practice and Orff Schulwerk.