EDU 6526


African music ensemble class: A sample of inquiry/inductive instructional strategy

Kedmon Mapana

Seattle Pacific University

From November 28th to December 24th 2008, I attended a workshop on curriculum development for high school secondary education as a consultant in the subject of music. The workshop was organized by the Tanzania Institute of Education, formally known as the Institute of Curriculum Development. These week workshop was held in the Morogoro region of Tanzania. One of the reasons why the curriculum was to be revised was the concern that instructional strategies in Tanzania have to be changed from the traditional way of teaching which features the teacher dependent, lecture method to a student-centered way of teaching.  Many ideas were expressed by workshop participants, many of which were teachers. I remember one of the comments was that such a new way of teaching would allow a teacher to relax, since the students would be responsible for everything.  So, when I came to Seattle Pacific University to begin doctoral program, I had to adjust this perception. I had an opportunity taking the course of the survey of instructional strategies class. The Inquiry-based strategy of teaching was, in particular, based on a student-centered way of teaching. I realized that the fundamental responsibility for the success of this method is the teacher. The teacher does much more than the student to facilitate the learning process.  Also I realized that I had been using this method to teach my African music ensemble class at the University of Dar es Salaam without knowing that I was applying the principles of inquiry-based teaching. This realization prompted me to choose this topic.

Therefore, using a practical example from my teaching experience with the African music ensemble class, this paper will discuss the inquiry/inductive instructional approach: what it means, the procedures that are involved and why it is important. Then I will give some suggestions regarding what needs to be done in Tanzanian educational system.

The inquiry/induction strategy has been given many names, what Michael Prince and Richard Felder (2007) called “the many faces of inductive teaching and learning.”  Some of these are inquiry-based learning, collaborative teaching, participatory teaching, student-centered teaching, problem-based learning and discovery learning to mention a few. All these labels are on based a simple realization: that student should be involved in the process of learning and the teacher should faction as a facilitator. This approach is now well known globally, and many countries, including Tanzania, are trying to utilize it, shifting away from the traditional way of teaching involving the lecture/direct method where a teacher is the source of knowledge, and his/her work is to feed students the information that students are to absorb.

Felder and Prince (2006:9) suggest that, “in fact, probably the only strategy that is not consistent with inquiry-guided learning is the exclusive use of traditional lecture.” In this paper therefore, the term inquiry/induction based teaching will be used to refer to collaborative learning. I will focus on the African music ensemble class in which I taught students to work together by constructing knowledge themselves, based on their experience, as suggested by constructivism theory (Dell’Olio and Donk 2007:348).

Using collaboration, my students most often went through the process of generating hypotheses, collecting data, analyzing data, creating music performance, rehearsing, and presenting data for communication as conclusion. This process is supported by the literature which states that inquiry starts when students are involved in the learning through the systematic processes of hypothesis generating, experimental design, data collection, data analysis, presenting results and formulating conclusions (Dell’Olio and Donk 2007, Marzano 2001, Felder and Prince 2006 ).

Before discussing these processes, it is necessary to identify the aim of the African music ensemble course I was teaching. It stated that at the conclusion of the course, students should be able to demonstrate the ability to describe and perform the selected examples of the music of Tanzania. In order to attain this objective, students went through the following.

First is the process of generating hypotheses.  In this process, students in groups are involved in the conceptualizations of key words such as the type of music. Teaching the music of Tanzania is complicated by the fact that Tanzania has more than 120 ethnic groups and each has its own music a form. Also, terms those are widely used need to be identified. What is ngoma? Ngoma denotes singing, dancing, playing musical instruments. Also ngoma denotes a type of musical instrument, which is membranophone called a drum. In additional ngoma has a social function. Students normally predict answers based on their prior knowledge.

Second is the process of resembling for data collection. In this process, students normally are grouped into two or three groups of five to six people, depending on the number of students taking the class. Individuals assigned to groups are normally selected randomly. In their groups each student is required to provide one song from his or her own ethnic groups. This results in five or six songs for each group.

Third is data collection. After songs identification of the groups, students asked to review the literature and carry out a small survey to discover more details concerning their songs. Through their own experience as they read the literature and interview people, students are able to gather findings such as the following: Song title, region, ethnic group, category of music/dance, musical instruments involved, performance setting or how it is performed, costumes, and what social functions the songs serve. All the findings are then recorded and shared on a created chat.

Fourth is data analysis. In this process, each group of students does its analysis and presents its findings to the class. Critical questions are normally asked to see what the data mean. This process is what Dell’Olio  and Donk (2007:332) call is an intellectual activity because it moves students into higher level of Bloom’s cognitive taxonomy. At the end of this process, students present what they have discovered to the other students.

Fifth is music performance creation. This is a creative process. Students go back to their group and start using the findings to a musical performance. In this process, each student teaches these songs to others in the group, based on what he/she knows from his/her ethnic group. They rehearsal the songs and come out as how the findings say (original).

Sixth is the group presentation which is intended to encourage forming and extending ideas. In this process, groups perform and evaluate each other to see if the first presentation in their data analysis is really happening in their performances. Dell’Olio and Donk (2007:333) suggest that students must compare their results to the hypotheses they made at the beginning to find out if what they present is correct, and if is so, why? And, if not, why not? After the presentations, students ask questions give each other suggestions for improvement of the performances.

Seventh is the final presentation which involves communicating results. In this process, the groups come together and form one group. Students, facilitated by the teacher select two songs from each group and rehearse together. Additional thoughts from the earlier group presentations are incorporated by doing more research or practice. At this time, more creativity is involved, based on the fact that Tanzanian music has become more contemporary. Issues such as vocal training, dance movements, stage management and costume design are considered. As the culminating event, students present a final musical performance in a big concert. The whole University community and people from the city are invited to attend. The reason is to communicate to other people what the students have learned through the inquiry/induction process, an action that encourages retention of what they have learned.

The main reason why this approach is important, as suggested by Lane (2007), is that this instructional approach involves students in the learning process. By doing so, students get the opportunity to demonstrate their creativity, to better understand of concepts and to become skilled critical thinkers. This was true in my case. When I was earning my Bachelor’s degree at the University of Dar es Salaam, I enjoyed taking this course which I later taught. I was given the opportunity to demonstrate and develop what I knew. The result is that I did very well, and I was recruited as a Tutorial Assistant at the Department of Fine and Performing Arts. I think if I had not been given this opportunity that I would not be here today.

The inquiry/induction approach is also very important because it motivates students to work together. It encourages socialization. Students come to love each other and join together as a community comes into being.

In summation, the African music ensemble class has demonstrates how students’ involvement in learning, using the inquiry/ induction approach to instruction is important involving the process of hypotheses generation, data collection, analysis, creativity and communicating results. The aim is to let students develop their own knowledge through investigation with the teacher facilitating rather than lecturing. Therefore, the inquiry/induction instructional approach, in all levels of education in Tanzania, will help students think in both ways ( i.e., critical thinking) and not in the one way thinking fostered by the traditional way of teaching, using the lecture method. To attain this, teachers need to be adequately prepared to understand how the inquiry/induction instructional strategy works and not to simply to relax as it was perceived in Morogoro.


Dell’Olio , J .M. and  Donk T. (2007). Models of teaching: Connecting student learning with

standards. Thousand Oak, CA: Sage.

Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D. J., and Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works.

Alexandria,VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Felder, R. M., Prince, M. J. (2007). Many faces of inductive teaching and learning. Journal of

College Science Teaching. National Science Teachers Association. Retrieved on August 6,

2009 from

Felder, R. M. and Prince, M. J. (2006) Inductive teaching and learning methods: Definitions,

compositions, and research bases. Journal of Engineering Education, 95 (2), 123-138.

Retrieved on August 6, 2009 from

Lane, J.  (2007) Inquiry-based Learning. Penn State. Retrieved on August 6, 2009 From


About mapanakedmon2010

Kedmon Mapana is an Assistant Lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Currently, he is a doctoral student at Seattle Pacific University in curriculum and instruction with emphasis on music education and ethnomusicology.
This entry was posted in Instructional Strategie, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s