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Room at the Table: 2014 Michigan Music Conference Re- search Symposium Keynote Address


In the mid- to late 1980s, I pursued my doc- torate at Temple University. As a part of my coursework, I took a class in the design of research, another in the interpretation of re- search, and three semesters of a class called the reporting of research, during which the faculty and doctoral students provided one another feedback about the work that they were seeking to publish. In addition, I took two basic statis- tics courses in the Psychology department and a multivariate statistics course in the College of Education. That amounted to eight research- focused courses in my doctoral program. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly given the decade in which I did my study, qualitative research never once was mentioned in any of these courses.

During this time, I had the opportunity to work closely with Edwin Gordon, whom I consider to be one of the great minds in music education of the 20th century. He is an expert in the mea- surement of music potential and music learn- ing, and he has sustained a lifelong program of quantitative research around those topics, most of which is published in refereed jour- nals. His published aptitude and achievement tests manuals have some of the richest validity information and supporting research of any in music education. However, he also engaged in on-going, less well-known, qualitative in- quiry throughout his career. These qualitative pursuits resulted in some of his most important work that has changed the practice of music educators all around the world -- the develop- ment of his music learning theories. Every week he sat on the floor with children, working and playing with them musically and observ- ing what happened and how they learned. He sustained this exploration for decades. He analyzed those observations, incorporating his


Cynthia Crump Taggart

own insights into what they meant and explor- ing his “hunches” further in the classroom as they emerged.

Edwin Gordon would never call himself a qualitative researcher, nor did his qualitative explorations always meet the standards for trustworthiness that would be required in to- day’s publishing enterprise. Yet, these qualita- tive investigations informed an important core of his contributions to music education. Un- fortunately, because of the orientation of music education publishing at the time, he never even considered framing these investigations as research, nor would he label them as such. As a result, important work leading to some of his theories remains unpublished outside of the publication of the theories themselves. In retrospect, I profoundly wish that the insights from his inquiry process had been explicated to a greater degree in our professional publica- tions. The fact is that, even if he had pursued publication, he probably would not have been successful, given the nearly total dominance of quantitative research in all of the publication venues at the time. Yet, he never would have been able to develop his theories without gath- ering qualitative data and analyzing it on an ongoing basis. Fortunately for our profession, since that time the publication tide has turned, at least in some of our professional journals, and qualitative research has found a voice that is more widely valued and accepted as a means of inquiry within music education.

This paper is not designed to argue for one research paradigm over another. No matter which paradigm we pursue, no overarching research question is answered by a single study. Rather a single study only can gather evidence in a specific context, with a specific person or group of persons, viewed through the lens and


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