Dr. Rena Upitis and her research partners, Ms. Angela Ester of The Royal Conservatory and Dr. Philip Abrami of Concordia University, have been awarded a SSHRC Partnership Grant ($1,971,500) for their project entitled Transforming music education with a web-based portfolio tool. Additional funding from partners and collaborators brings the project total to approximately $3 million.
iSCORE, the first electronic portfolio designed to support music education, is the result of the team's research into effective ways to inspire and empower people to learn music. Learning more about the use of iSCORE as well as making it available widely throughout North America are the main foci for the team’s new 5-year project.
iSCORE: Unleashing the Potential of Effective Music Education
Effective music education has the potential to enhance the creative and communication skills that are key to a thriving economy. Further, music enriches the quality of life for those students who pursue music study.
However, although thousands of Canadians take weekly music lessons, traditional teaching often results in mechanistic practicing and superficial learning.
As a result, some students become disengaged and no longer play music after lessons have ended. Part of the reason for this disengagement may be that students are rarely invited to take an active role in directing their music learning. Another possible reason is that learning to play an instrument is not explicitly linked to other music-making activities, such as playing with a band or listening to music.
While it was only released last January, over 500 teachers are already using the free on-line tool, and it is expected to reach thousands teachers and tens of thousands students through The Royal Conservatory's professional development programs and its 300 Canadian and 90 US examination centres.
“Long-term funding for the project,” says Dr. Upitis, "will enable us to conduct a national study on the use of iSCORE in music education, to develop curriculum supports and teacher professional development modules, and to make the tool more widely available."
Dr. Upitis will steer the research on the use of the electronic portfolio in studios and classrooms. Using an experimental design, the researchers will compare 24 studios in three Canadian urban centres where iSCORE is used with 24 studios that do not employ an electronic portfolio. Research participants will include studio teachers, students, and parents.
Concordia University will use the research findings to refine the software throughout the life of the project. A concurrent project led by The Royal Conservatory will use the knowledge generated through research to support teachers through professional development opportunities.
The partnership aims to transform music education across North America, as "the digital nature of the tool allows the benefits to extend to students from urban centres to rural and remote communities."
Moreover, Dr. Upitis states that, “If the project proves successful, iSCORE may also be distributed through the conservatory systems in Europe and Asia, linking musicians and their teachers around the globe.”
Congratulations to Dr. Upitis and her team for making Canada an international leader in new digital tools that support music education. They deserve a standing ovation!
Students working on assignments and a student recording his piano playing for his teacher on iSCORE