Perceptual acuity and music teaching : tracking teacher gaze




Marcum, Travis Dixon

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Perceptual acuity is a central component of a teacher’s ability to structure successful learning experiences that lead to students’ accomplishment of proximal goals. Yet, to date there has been little research focused on this important aspect of teachers’ thinking. We used eye-tracking technology in a series of three studies to measure music teachers’ gaze in relation to moment-to-moment attention and instructional outcomes.

In the first investigation, we recorded an artist-level violin teacher and a highly skilled graduate violinist each teaching 5-min violin lessons to a student of their own and a novel student, and examined the frequency and duration of teachers’ visual fixations in relation to momentary instructional goals. Fixation targets and durations for both teachers were quite similar when teaching their own students. When teaching novel students, the artist teacher’s fixations resembled those in the lesson with the familiar student, but the graduate student’s fixations were much different and less often directed toward the targets that were related to momentary instructional goals.

A second investigation assessed the extent to which an auditory signal influences gaze patterns in music teaching. Eight expert teachers viewed a life-size video projection of a violin student performing a brief music excerpt, with and without hearing the sound of the instrument. We found no meaningful differences in teachers’ gaze between the two presentation conditions.

In a third study, four violin teachers (freshman, senior, graduate student, and artist teacher) each taught a 5-minute lesson to a familiar student. We identified the proximal performance goals in each lesson and examined visual fixations in relation to those goals. We found marked differences in the sequence and duration of fixations among the four teachers, with more experienced teachers fixating more frequently and for longer durations on targets relevant to their momentary instructional goals.

These data illustrate the utility of gaze analysis in illuminating the thinking of expert music teachers and provide insight into the deployment of attention among music teachers with varied levels of experience and expertise.



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