These past couple of weeks have definitely been interesting. Last week, we found out that the school district in which we had originally planned to conduct this project denied our application for research. As a result, we’ve spent the entirety of the last couple of team meetings discussing where we wanted to go from there. So far, we’ve decided that we will likely work with a different school district that is eager to have both the Voices Together music therapy program and us in their classrooms. Additionally, we’re making a big change to the project itself. Originally, we were planning on evaluating the efficacy of a teacher-training curriculum designed to teach educators how to use non-directive strategies in the classroom. However, the school district that we were planning on working with had different interests and expectations for our project. Therefore, we are now planning to evaluate student outcomes as a direct result of the music therapy that they receive from Voices Together. This will be a replication of the study that Bass Connections conducted last year and will help provide more evidence supporting the effectiveness of Voices Together. We are still debating on the best way to evaluate these student outcomes and have not yet finalized a new experimental design, but we will get there!
Working through this problem as a research team has given me a new perspective on research, especially research that is based in a community. I’ve realized that some of the most important skills you can have when working on a community research project are not directly related to the coding, the data, or the analyses, but are broader and more applicable to other domains. For example, when the school district rejected our application, our team began to problem solve. We needed to identify another school district, perhaps a district that does not have many research projects being implemented, that would allow us to begin this project. We also needed to identify which aspects of the original project’s design we wanted to keep and which aspects we wanted to save for a later time. Problem solving skills similar to the ones that we used in response to this unexpected challenge can be used in many contexts, and I’m happy that this bump in the road gave us an additional learning opportunity.
I’m confident that the decisions we have made thus far will create a great project and give us some data that will help our community partner, Voices Together, achieve their goals of expanding their program to reach more people. However, like the decisions we’ve already had to make, the decisions that we will have to make in the future will not be easy, and our project is still a work in progress.