TOPICS

TOPICS

Themes, Opinion, Policy, Innovation, Curriculum, and Strategies

for Music Education Praxis
The new MayDay Group publication, TOPICS, is intended to fill the gap between music education scholarship and practice (praxis, understood in its ethical and pragmatic sense).  In particular, it focuses on the “practice” (practical, praxial, pragmatic) side of the “theory into practice” and “practice into theory” problematic by publishing papers, articles, documents, and other texts that make a contribution to teaching praxis and praxial theory.  Thus, the focus of such scholarly articles will be on issues of relevance to music education praxis internationally, and the intended audience will be music education students, school music, community and private music teachers, and professors largely engaged with preparing and supervising undergraduate and master’s level music education students. These articles will also be of interest to doctoral students, who may also author them as part of their important bridging of the worlds of practitioners and professors. All articles will be aligned or consonant with the Action Ideals of the MDG, as published on its website
TOPICS is prepared to be media rich, and, thus, will accommodate video, audio, and graphic features.
  • The “Themes” (or “Topics”) in the title refers to theoretical thinking, analysis, and critique that has promise for successful and widespread application to the concerns of music education praxis: e.g., chorus, band, general music, orchestra, special needs students, music reading, composition, music listening, talent education, creativity, chamber musics, popular and other vernacular musics, music technology, scheduling, planning, assessment, class control, multicultural and world musics, urban issues, sociology of music education, community music education, and the like.  Such articles should advance critical analyses, arguments, and proposals concerning these and other topics relevant to practitioners of music education, including those engaged in community music and private music education praxis.
  • The “Opinion” (or “Observations”) in the title will feature articles that advance points of view, arguments, recommendations, and suggestions for “action for change” that are warranted by solid scholarship and well-considered theory but that have a decidedly practical/pragmatic focus of interest and relevance for teachers. These will not include articles advancing this or that theory or perspective in general terms, as though for its own sake, but articles that inform readers concerning down-to-earth issues, problems, and considerations that often get little attention in the kind of scholarship that focuses mainly on theoretical research and warrants. Papers in this category often will address the many questions raised in the MDG Action Ideals that are not susceptible to single or final answers.
  • “Policy” refers to principles, guidelines, and procedures that are central to implementing or operationalizing change, curriculum, instruction, evaluation, reflective teaching, and the like. While “policy studies” is a bona fide scholarly field on its own (see, e.g., http://maydaygroup.org/category/ecolumns/policy-in-music-education/and Education Policy Review), policies of all kinds, tacit or explicit, informal or formal, are at the heart of the everyday practices of all music educators.  Policy proposals of the kind that can be implemented at the local level in bringing about changes and improvement in the quality or quantity of teaching are of particular interest. Analyses and critiques of implicit policies and identification of tacit policies that often go altogether unnoticed by teachers (often to negative effect) will be particularly important. Accounts of policy changes that have resulted in marked improvement in the effectiveness or efficiency of instruction are especially welcomed. Certain policy aspects of music teacher preparation also can be featured in terms of their practical implications for school music. Questions raised in the Action Ideals of the MDG concerning that involve policy will be addressed by such scholarship.
  • The “Innovation” in the title refers to pioneering, leading edge ideas and proposals for change. In effect, they will be answering many of the questions about directions for change raised in the Action Ideals of the MDG. These are likely to involve some degree or kinds of theorizing, but not necessarily of the strictly Ivory Tower kind. Rather, innovative ideas for new kinds of programs, new ways of including more students, the potential of new teaching and learning media, and the like are what will be at stake.  The focus, then, would not be on innovation for its own sake, but proposals, pedagogies, and programs that hold forth promise for making a notable, positive difference in the everyday thinking of music teachers in all fields of endeavor. Articles concerning innovations in teacher education programs can also help inform collegiate faculty of promising advances taking place in other institutions.
  • Curriculum” will provide a needed focus for various kinds of curriculum theory and curriculum studies, a field too often ignored in music education and of special relevance for school music programs. Ideas and practices drawn from a variety of sources -philosophy, psychology, sociology, research, and the like – are of special interest. So, too, are curriculum designs that have the kind of local record of effectiveness that reveals their value for that particular situation; but that also hold forth considerable promise for informing and influencing the curricular practices in other schools and of other practitioners (e.g., home, community, and music studio practitioners). Slavish imitation of ‘what works’ adoption of a curriculum will not be the intent.  Rather, accounts that offer a wealth of possibilities for adaptation according to local needs will be welcomed.
  • Finally, the category of “Strategies” involves actual teaching protocols, general recommendations, principles, guidelines, and ‘nuts and bolts’ for improving instruction, evaluation, teacher accountability, student assessment, and the like.  Most definitely not acceptable will be prescriptive types of methodolatry; nor “what works” recipes; nor “best practices” that are proposed for adoption without regard for local variables and contexts; and not “teacher proof” or “canned” lesson plans. Rather, these strategies will have the form of action research findings, models, or protocols that are offered for generalization beyond their originating conditions and that are couched in sufficiently general, theoretical, and practical terms that they hold forth promise for adaptation that can benefit other teachers. Teachers everywhere have a lot of “good ideas” that – if offered as food for thought and as ‘tools’ that hold forth promise if chosen for the right reasons, at the right times, for right ends, and effectively mastered, used, and evaluated – can be helpful to other teachers.
It is altogether likely that many submissions will involve more than one of the above categories.
Submissions should be accompanied, though, by an indication of which categories are stressed, and reviewers will be alert to the degree to which these categories are at stake, and how successfully they are accommodated

General Criteria 

Submissions will be expected to be well-written, well-conceived, and to exhibit both (a) a coherence with one or more MDG Action Ideals and (b) an acknowledgement of existing theory and research findings relevant to the topics at hand.  Thus submissions will draw upon relevant scholarly research and findings, and will be largely concerned with helping put such research and theory into practice, or of promoting practices that can inform or validate theory.  TOPICS is intended, therefore, to be a platform for experienced, creative, and successful music teachers, in-service graduate students, and music education professors to share their ideas in ways that can stimulate and inform the thinking of teachers and professors elsewhere, including internationally.  Moreover, it is intended to give voice to teachers who are in-between successful teaching careers and university teaching; namely, to doctoral students whose theoretical papers and practical knowledge too often go untapped. TOPICS will thus be an opportunity for them to get feedback from teachers in the field, from professors other than those at their own institutions, and, of course, from reviewers.
The few papers that previously have been listed under “Resources” on the MDG website as “Theoretical Papers” will be archived as part of TOPICS.  But newly published articles will set the tone and meet the purposes set out for TOPICS.  It is also worth noting that many of the submissions for ACT that are not appropriate for publication there as “scholarship” often would make very appropriate contributions to TOPICS: these papers often deserve to be read but, given the present status of publishing in music education circles, too few outlets exist.  Similarly, “provocations” from MDG colloquia that are not appropriate for ACT or other journals might well meet the above criteria of TOPICS.
Editorial Board
A board of experts who have records of both (a) accomplished scholarship and (b) who are engaged directly in preparing school music teachers for the ‘realities’ of school music praxis, will review submissions. The Board will be sufficiently large that each submission can be reviewed by 3 reviewers without unduly burdening members: 15-18 would be a target size. An open call to members for applications to this board is offered below in which applicants indicate their backgrounds and interests. Reviewers will generally: recommend acceptance, acceptance with revision(s) (as recommended), rejection, or re-submission with revision (as recommended).  Criteria and feedback will be in accordance with the above-stated guidelines.
Publication
Publication will be on a site with a separate URL from, but also linked from the MDG webpage (www.maydaygroup.org), as ACT is at present. Production values will be to ACT standards though the ‘look’ will be distinct. Authors will be required to submit (or reformat) according to a set of format criteria. Volume numbers will be according to year, with all articles published during a given year being in the same volume. As articles are accepted and prepared, one at a time, each will be posted as part of the year’s issue. Each article will have consecutive numbering between articles per each yearly volume. Accepted articles should require very little copyediting, formatting (etc.), and authors will be largely responsible for the overall quality and impression-mechanics, style, content (etc.)-of what is published. On the other hand, of course, articles that are weak in mechanics, thinking, content (etc.) will not be accepted for publication.We hope that a dialog feature can be associated with TOPICS – either from the TOPICS site or the MDG site – that will afford the opportunity for readers to comment on articles, provide critical analysis and feedback and, in general, that will promote communicative rationality which moves towards greater consensus and agreement on (or at least greater understanding about) the issues discussed. That remains to be developed.
Editor
For the start-up phase, Tom Regelski will serve as editor, passing on the responsibility as soon as the publication becomes normalized. Darryl Coan has agreed to serve as associate editor, and a production staff has been assembled that parallels that of ACT in its responsibilities.
During this start-up period, discussion will be promoted concerning a policy for deciding upon a new editor, terms of office, and the like.
As the project unfolds during its start-up phase, the need for more production edits will be noted and policies developed accordingly.  But those who are interested in the ongoing agenda of the MDG, and who have time and interest to make the occasional contribution to the editorial process, please let us know.  We and readers will be deeply appreciative.  Without the volunteers who manage our website and ACT, and now TOPICS, we couldn’t make the impact that we have.
Call for Editorial Board Members
This announcement is targeted at those MDG members who we hope will volunteer to serve on the Editorial Board. Given the intended audience for the journal, most ideal would be MDG members who have current contact with undergrads, supervision of student teachers, master’s students, and doctoral students working on “topics” that meet the intended purpose of this journal. Senior researchers who can either pose their theories in praxial terms or can build on theory from the perspective of effective praxis, are certainly welcomed as editorial board members or submitting colleagues.Therefore, we invite nominations and self-nominations of those who are interested in committing themselves to this new project.  And by commit, is meant an abiding sense of connecting theory with praxis and praxis as feeding into theory! This includes school music teachers and professors whose main responsibility is teacher education. As mentioned above, special interest is devoted to doctoral candidates who are bridging the gap between their previous praxis and their scholarly research.Please send your indications of interest to me at tom.regelski@helsinki.fi, along with your particular field of interest within the TOPICS proposal (which, it seems by intention, applies to most).Once a list is compiled and in place, and seeing how many are interested, a proposal will be offered for terms of office, rotation of roles, and the like. Meanwhile, we hope enough will be interested to begin this project and make it as successful as ACT has been in its influence on the profession.