Moving Forward

As Paige mentioned a few weeks ago, there have been many big changes to our Voices Together Bass Connections Project. I think the uncertainty of the situation left many of us feeling rather unsettled, but now that we have made important decisions as a team, we are beginning to find our footing and make progress again.

We can now say with certainty that we are no longer implementing the Teacher Toolbox project, and will instead be focusing on measuring the outcomes of music therapy in classrooms in a different school district. We are working to refine last year’s measure of student outcomes, as they did not adequately capture the changes in the students. This past Wednesday, we had the opportunity to observe another music therapy session in a classroom setting. This experience was as inspiring and uplifting as the last one, but this time we also had the additional task of testing out last year’s coding scheme. This gave us a better understanding of the possible scenarios that could unfold and will allow us to have fruitful discussions as we refine the coding scheme over the next week.

Another significant change is that we will no longer be doing live coding in classrooms, and will be using videos instead. As with every choice we make, there are strengths and limitations – while coding from videos allows us to replay the session and pick up on finer details, certain aspects of social interaction are difficult to decipher from videos, such as eye contact and affect. It has also been tempting for us to be overly ambitious by attempting to include too many constructs and categories in our scheme. There are simply too many ways in which we can break down the constructs, and we need to constantly ask ourselves whether measuring a certain construct, such as the extent of prompting by the music therapist, is useful for our community partner. An outcome should be included if it is truly one that Voices Together has been working towards and would like to see changes in. Otherwise, this would result in unnecessary complexity.
Not being able to continue with our original project was disappointing for all of us – the team leaders, Lauren, and Yasmine worked tirelessly to come up with a great research design and worked closely with the school district and IRB to come up with this design. We also spent a significant amount of time on our original coding scheme that assessed  teacher behavior. Nonetheless, I’m thankful for an amazing team that manages to see opportunity in every setback and continues to stay positive and passionate. This has been a great lesson for all of us on the complexity of research in the real world, and I can confidently say that we have bounced back and are ready to move forward.

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