Music Learning in an African-American Girls' Community of Practice: "Smooth as Butter"
"Smooth as Butter": Music Learning in an African-American Girls' Community of Practice Professor Dawn T. Corso, Ph.D., Department of Teaching and Teacher Education, College of Education, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA The purpose of this qualitative study was to describe and analyze the musical content and learning processes apparent among African-American children in Tucson, Arizona. A group of girls participating in a summer program offered at a city neighborhood center quickly became the focus. The theoretical issues and conceptual frameworks for the research came from sociocultural perspectives of learning, such as Lev Vygotsky's constructivist view of learning through social interaction (1978, 1986), Barbara Rogoff's version of learning through apprenticeship (1990), and Jean Lave's and Etienne Wenger's ideas of learning within a community of practice (1991). The results of this study lead to several arguments regarding learning. First, children learn music and dance by participating to varying degrees within a community of practice. Individuals within the group serve as sources of information and skill based upon their own expertise and interest creating an environment of reciprocity and shifting leadership. Furthermore, the bonds of friendship strengthen these communities of practice by providing pre-established common ground, intimacy, and concern amongst members. Finally, although specific musical abilities might not be chronologically developmental, engaging in particular musical activities is. The implications of these findings would be of most use to those individuals interested in sociocultural theories of learning, especially regarding non-schooled contexts of learning through activity, and developmental sequencing of knowledge and skills, specifically those related to music and dance.
Keywords: Music and Dance, Informal Learning, Communities of Practice, African-American Girls, Sociocultural Learning Theories
Dr. Dawn Corso
Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Teaching and Teacher Education College of Education, University of Arizona