Thoughts on Research-Guided Teaching at the Department of Popular Music

The mission of advancing and further exploring the unity of research and teaching at the mdw’s Department of Popular Music is based on a discursive way of handling both knowledge and processes of knowledge generation as well as on intense exchange between researchers, teachers, and protagonists from various artistic fields. The ways in which research draws on experiences from teaching correlate with how realisations from teaching can be traced back to the development of research. The coexistence of research and artistic training at ipop gives rise not just to research-guided insights in the context of artistic and pedagogical training but also to research activities developed in close concert with real-life practices in popular music.

Researchers function as protagonists of university education in the way that they train learners’ occupational professionalism by means of the research that they do. And it’s precisely researchers’ perception of a fundamental responsibility to acquire and convey knowledge in and through teaching that makes the university as such a unique place (Brinckmann et al. 2002). Of central importance to the practice of research-guided teaching are processes such as the conceptualisation of how knowledge and/or research findings are conveyed. And here, one can observe a tendency to shift away from traditional models of the relationship between teaching and research. Traditionally, hierarchical structures of organisation have been dominant, with hardly any attention paid to questions of sociopolitical relevance or the responsibility of the subject in research and in processes by which knowledge is conveyed. So the function of students is for the most part limited to that of passive recipients of existing knowledge and findings that are ostensibly objective.

One of the foundations of research-guided teaching is instilling a fundamental attitude of inquisitiveness in students. It uses assigned problems and cooperation-oriented tasks to guide students in in their own research projects and also involves them in the research activities of their departments (Brinckmann et al. 2002; Brew 2006). And in keeping with the work of Mick Healey (as quoted in Jenkins et al. 2007), research-guided teaching can be described with reference to two axes and accordingly categorised among four types: Healey defines “research-led” teaching as the teaching of research content and findings. His “research-oriented” teaching centres on teaching processes of knowledge construction in the subject. “Research-tutored” teaching, on the other hand, has students write and discuss papers and essays, while “research-based” teaching features inquiry-based learning by actively involving students in ongoing research projects.

Encouraging students to deal critically with research tasks and providing them with insights into teachers’ own “research workshops” shows them approaches to concrete planning, concept development, execution, and follow-up work while also giving them opportunities to do practice-oriented work as part of research teams. Students also deal critically with their own levels of knowledge, which entails repeated scrutiny and applying methods of self-reflection. Alongside problem-oriented examination of their respective subject areas and/or disciplines, including perspectives on historically evolved and situated knowledge and thus also on the associated hegemonic structures, students are encouraged to explore interdisciplinary approaches as well as dimensions of difference, differentiation, and intersectionality. The possibilities of anchoring research-guided teaching at universities (Brew 2006) include workshops held by a given institution’s various schools and departments, events having to do with (transdisciplinary) research themes, and the establishment of working groups.

ipop defines itself as a place where the historical development of musical styles and genres in Austria can be dealt with in research and teaching—and during the current year, one framework within which this is happening is the module Wien Pop. Although our collective historical memory remembers mostly male musicians, students are shown how to devote their attention as researchers to the considerable number of women who were and are musicians. The project of historically researching these protagonists as well as engaging in critical reflection regarding mechanisms of exclusion as they relate to musical work done by women and queer individuals still exhibits great gaps where the popular music realm is concerned. With and eye to ameliorating this state of affairs, protagonists from the present-day scene are invited to the university: the 2018/19 acacdemic year, for example, saw figures including Mira Lu Kovacs and the band Dives act as discussion partners in the lecture course Ausgewählte Kapitel aus Theorie und Geschichte der Popularmusik [Selected Chapters from the Theory and History of Popular Music], headed by Magdalena Fürnkranz and Michael Huber. And the other way around, making use of the possibilities inherent in university teaching beyond university spaces can likewise open up new perspectives for those who participate. Trying out and putting into practice previously unknown, alternative, and perhaps even contradictory approaches makes possible new realms of thought. And it is precisely the provision of such spaces as well as research-based “rehearsal rooms” that, in the context of research-led teaching, is among the central tasks of university-level training.


Further literature:

Brew, Angela (2006). Research and Teaching. Beyond the Divide. Palgrave: McMillan.

Brinckmann, Hans / Garcia, Omar / Gruschka, Andreas / Lenhardt, Gero / Zur Lippe, Rudolf (2002). Die Einheit von Forschung und Lehre. Über die Zukunft der Universität. Wetzlar: Büchse der Pandora Verlag.

Gibbons, Michael / Limoges, Camille / Nowotny, Helga / Schwartzman, Simon / Scott, Peter / Trow, Martin (1994). The New Production of Knowledge. The Dynamics of Science and Research in Contemporary Societies. London: Sage.

Jenkins, Alan / Healey, Mick / Zetter, Roger (2007). Linking Teaching and Research in Disciplines and Departments. York: HEA.

Muckenhuber, Johanna / Schmidinger, Thomas / Tieber, Claus (eds.) (2010). Die Kunst der Lehre: Hochschuldidaktik in Diskussion. Berlin: LIT Verlag.

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