The purpose of this study was to identify and describe the strategies used by high school choral students during self-guided practice sessions. Six students were chosen from a pool of students who identified themselves as able to autonomously learn six measures of a Latin piece. These students were recorded as they practiced the first six measures of Gabrielli's In Ecclesiis. In addition to performing the six measures, students were instructed to verbalize their thoughts as they progressed through the self-guided practice session. When they felt satisfied with the level of performance that was achieved, the practice session was concluded. Observable data was recorded and compiled in the form of case studies, interviews were conducted, and verbalizations were transcribed verbatim and analyzed based on Ericsson and Simon's (1996) verbal protocol analysis procedures.
The case studies and verbal protocol analysis revealed that the students used strategies such as isolating skills, layering skills after isolated skills were mastered, and using repetition. Analysis of the verbal data revealed that students in the present study verbalized three primary types of thoughts: observations of the score, problem identification, and plans for future behaviors. Subsequent interviews illuminated other strategies often used in self-guided practice sessions: for example, three students mentioned that an auditory source from which to check text, pitch, and rhythm would have been appreciated. Interviews also gave insight as to the effect that thinking-aloud made on the practice session, and provided insight and suggestions for meaningful group rehearsals.
Future researchers might consider replicating the study with additional adolescent students who are able to employ self-guided practice sessions and thereby expand the knowledge base. Other similar studies may be longitudinal in scope, for example comparing the practice strategies of adolescents with professional musicians. Attention could also be placed on the students who are not able to successfully translate written music into performance. A comparison of successful and unsuccessful practice sessions may yield interesting information.