Texas Tech University

Janice Killian

Professor
Professor School of Music
College of Visual and Performing Arts

Janice Killian

Learn more about Integrated Scholar Janice Killian in this question-and-answer session.

What are your research objectives and interests?

My research interests broadly include examination of effective music teacher preparation and research related to the adolescent voice, particularly in public school settings.

How do you feel your research impacts the globe?

My research involves the assessment of teaching techniques, and these techniques are beginning to receive a bit of global interest. Music education at Texas Tech has developed into a unique and increasingly well-recognized program. We emphasize learner-centered active learning by designing student experiences that create a need-to-know atmosphere in our classrooms, as opposed to teaching concepts and information they will need years later. For example, on the undergraduate level, our team of music education professors (Dr. Susan Brumfield, Dr. Carolyn Cruse, Jenny Dees, Dr. Keith Dye, Dr. Jacqueline Henninger and I) team-teach many of our upperdivision classes. One such need-to-know activity asks our students to compose music to fit the instrumental and vocal forces among their peers. They compose the selection and then follow the plan/teach/record/reflect model as they teach their peers. Both instructor and peer feedback is provided at each step, allowing students access to more feedback and us access to what students notice when they provide peer feedback. Then they repeat the process with a new composition. In other words, we facilitate the actual rehearsal of teaching. The following semester these same students follow the same procedures in public school settings. And this is all prior to student teaching. My research involving teacher preparation has revolved around evaluating the effectiveness of this procedure, the attitude of the students participating, the long-term effectiveness of our preparation among our alumni teachers, as well as a more micro-examination of the factors that contribute to the maturing of teachers.

On the graduate level, student-centered learning involves assignments in which students are asked to read research with the idea of designing their own projects, beginning with very small student-derived data collection and developing into full blown research projects. Further, our doctoral students are guided to propose and present their research in professional conferences, and to submit their research for publication. Thus much of their learning happens outside of class after they have acquired research skills (typically quite unfamiliar to music graduate students) while completing mini-experiments, then receiving much feedback both from me and from their peers about improving their designs and writing prior to submitting it for peer review.

Globally, I have had the opportunity to present this learner-centered philosophy and examples of student-centered projects in various conferences in England, Greece, Spain, resulting in invitations to present my research in Uganda and Brazil, and more recently have received video questions about our procedures from Australia, South Africa, and Ireland. Doctoral students and I are currently planning a May 2015 trip to Chengdu, China to teach classes in a Chinese university and plan to emphasize the hands-on, learner-centered process. We also, of course, will benefit from being able to observe Asian methods of teaching/learning music. It is a bit arrogant to call this global impact, but it certainly has the long term potential for being such.

What types of service projects have you been involved with?

On a national level, it is my great honor to be editor of the Journal of Music Teacher Education, the flagship journal on that topic in my field. In that position I get to speak to the profession via editorials, read the newest research in my field, and pass on this information to my students. Further I have the opportunity to consider topics and data that I might have missed had I not been carefully reading JMTE submissions. I also served as the immediate past chair of the Society for Research in Music Education, which is the oversight body of all things involving research for the National Association for Music Education.

I have served as a faculty mentor for the Texas Tech TeMPO program for the past two years. I am also a Texas Tech Service Learning Fellow for 2014-2015 resulting in two undergraduate courses with an S designation. These two classes are a block in which our undergraduates work with students in the schools, teaching individuals or groups identified by their band, orchestra, choir directors or elementary music teachers as needing additional instruction. Our students spend 16 days in three–hour blocks in their assigned schools, reflect on what they have learned about teaching and about student diversity, and complete several reflections and focused assignments on what the experiences have meant to them, what benefits they provided to the students they were assigned, to the teacher to whom they were assigned, and to the assigned school in general.

What are you currently working on?

Currently I, with doctoral student assistance, am working on two projects looking in a micro way at how young music educators develop and what factors might assist them to mature more quickly. Fuller and Bown (1969) in a seminal work, postulated that teachers move through three stages: self concerns, subject matter concerns and student concerns. We are very interested to see what factors encourage our preservice teachers to focus less on themselves and more on the students they teach. Our earlier studies have indicated a distinct increase in student concerns after student teaching (Killian, Dye & Wayman, 2013). So obviously experiences with students affect some preservice teachers. But experience is a notoriously slow way to learn. Our most recent studies (Killian, Liu, & Paul, 2014) look at whether focusing attention to the students in video music lessons affects how often preservice teachers mention students vs. teachers. Preliminary data indicated that those told to notice the student over a period of five brief videos, did so significantly more frequently than those without instruction. The gains, although significant, were short-lived, so our research will continue.

A second micro look at the Fuller and Bown teacher concerns model is currently underway (Killian, Laity, Wilson & Liu, 2015). We compared music students' unprompted written concerns with how strongly they were concerned about a list of issues which included both teacher-focused and student-focused prompts such as "whether students respect me" or " whether each student is achieving his potential." Preliminary results indicate that our students' intentions are to be strongly concerned about student learning, but their lists of actions indicate that they, like most preservice teachers, still focus primarily on themselves as teachers. Our future research continues to explore ways in which those who plan to be music teachers can be taught to attend to students earlier in their development as music educators.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I find my inspiration from my students, present and past. I'm a former public school teacher and I draw on those experiences extensively in my research, questioning whether the methods used to teach music are indeed the most effective. Now in higher education, I continue to draw on the question of what are the most effective instructional methods. In microcosm, I ask how teachers can learn to be better teachers, in general, or in a most specific aspect of teaching. After all, those small bits of verified data add up to a significant change in a larger sense.

What advice do you have for new faculty members about balancing the components of Integrated Scholarship—teaching, research, and service—in their careers?

Balance is a relatively easy thing if what you teach informs your research, and both involve service to the community or to the profession in some way. My advice would be to avoid thinking of these three categories as completely separate. In my case it is relatively easy because my research area is my teaching area. But I think in many cases, since we are all in a university setting that presumably involves students at some level, we might benefit from defining teaching more broadly. Don't we want our students to know more about our research? Doesn't that involve teaching?

So my best advice is to avoid thinking of teaching, research ad service as different topics. Allow, or even expect, one to inform the other.

Scholar background:

I grew up in a small town in South Dakota where, as is typical of many small towns I suspect, you could do everything, which is an excellent way to build confidence. I was a musician from the beginning, singing and playing piano and trombone all through high school and my undergraduate years. As an undergraduate I discovered that as a performer (misguidedly I thought I would be a great soprano) you perform occasionally, but as a teacher you perform all day every day in one way or another. And I discovered that it was so gratifying to watch someone else learn. At that point I was completely smitten and I am pleased to say I have been a teacher ever since. Undergraduate work and teacher certification (in Kansas, Connecticut, Minnesota & Texas) prepared me to be a general music teacher, choir director and band director. And I have spent years doing all three, mostly teaching middle school choir with changing-voice boys. Graduate school, with some remarkable mentors, opened the music research door for me, and now I find I can combine my two loves: teaching and research. My father used to advise my brothers and I to "Do what you love and love what you do." I'm happy to say that I am doing exactly that, and as I tell my students, I do indeed have the best job in the world.

  • University of Kansas BME (1968)
  • University of Connecticut MA (1973)
  • University of Texas-Austin PhD (1980)