Sunday, December 10, 2006


With the candidates for our dean search coming in these last two weeks, we music faculty have been contemplating what kind of students we want to attract and how we want to teach them. Eric has researched entrepreneurship options at schools of music. I have been thinking about the academic skills I want to impart. One of my students asked why they need to learn library skills when they can ask a librarian for help. While an initial reaction is that the student was exhibiting laziness, the question could also be in pursuit of efficiency. We stress to our students that time management is very important. Now, bringing up efficient use of time is a double-edged sword. Librarian access is a limited resource. If a class of twenty is assigned research papers due in a week, all twenty will want help from the music librarian. Some of those twenty will have to wait several days to meet with the librarian, and if they wait several days to start the research, that is not an efficient use of time. But perhaps we need to be teaching our students how better to use the human resources of the university. Perhaps library instruction should focus on how to use the librarians, i.e. what types of questions the students should craft to ask. We have been wrestling with the design of our First Year Seminar in the School of Music. I think an important component should be on how the students should use professors, tutors, staff, fellow students. What are appropriate ways to ask for help from a peer, without cheating on the assignment? What is the best way to develop a relationship with a professor, and for what reasons?

As I think more about this, the more it relates to Eric's research about entrepreneurship. Carving out a market involves networking with potential funders, potential clients, potential workers. Making music involves dealing with audiences, fellow musicians, etc. Even research, that potentially hermetic practice, necessitates interactions with editors, program committees, collaborators. While there are facts and practices, the mysteries of the music discipline, that must be imparted to the students, there are also the joys of interactions that also should be taught, and the ethics that govern those interactions. (The latter could make a nice tie-in to the coming Ethics Center.) Life should not be lived alone.


scrupeda said...

Yes, asking the right person the right question the right way is a VERY helpful skill to learn early. I'm in my fourth year at university (Europe, so somewhere between undergrad and gradstudent for you), I am a mentor to our first-semesters, but I'm still struggling with those questions myself.

I would have been so glad if once somebody had told me.

Eric Edberg said...

Just found this post, as I have finally discovered how to use RSS and Atom feeds and have set up a Google Reader page.

You make a really good point--we need to give more attention to encouraging our students to make use of the human beings in our community of learners, and to develop a sense of how to do that appropriately.