Changing Our Tune: A Music-Based Approach to Teaching, Learning, and Resolving Conflict
Ippolito, Linda Marie
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The need for change within the legal profession and legal education is critical. To remain relevant and responsive to twenty-first century challenges and complexities the next generation of professionals must be creative, imaginative, and innovative thinkers. Emotional and social intelligence, the ability to collaboratively problem-solve, negotiate, and mediate complex conflict are essential skills needed for success particularly in increasingly settlement-oriented environments. Studies and reports have noted, however, that practitioners are lacking these key skills. How can these new perspectives and essential skills be taught and developed? This mixed methods research study involved five professional musicians and thirty-eight first year law school students. Data from musicians regarding effective collaborative music-making and most valued capacities for achieving optimal outcomes informed the design of a comparative teaching study that explored the effects of introducing a music-based metaphor and pedagogical approach to teaching, learning, and resolving conflict. The study provided insights into whether and how the musical ensemble metaphor might assist in shifting adversarial combative and competitive frames toward more collaborative, settlement-oriented mindsets and whether and how music-infused pedagogy might assist in developing enhanced skills and practice behaviours that lead to more desirable outcomes. Results from this initial study suggest that non-musicians in non-musical environments are able to learn from musical metaphors and concepts related to ensemble music-making and that such learning – cognitive, affective, and behavioural – translates into changed and more effective behaviour in practice. In simulated scenarios students exposed to the musical metaphor and other music-based learning appeared to outperform their colleagues not exposed to similar music-based learning. Engagement with music appears to reconnect people to their creative potential and lead them to see the efficacy of employing creative thinking in professional environments where analytical and critical thinking have generally been over-emphasized. There are indications that experiences with collaborative approaches to conflict have the potential to shift traditional norms and behaviours. This study and its results are of interest to those in the field of law, conflict resolution, those exploring arts-based teaching and learning in other professions, such as leadership and organizational behaviour, to music educators, and educators at all levels generally.