Teaching Habits of Mind

The Ensemble seeks to connect and inform all people who are committed to ensemble music education for youth empowerment and social change.

Teaching Habits of Mind

Lorrie Murray, Director, Bay Area Music Project


Nearly a decade ago, I helped transform a public elementary school in Alameda, CA into an arts-integrated elementary school, Maya Lin School. Through this, I learned about the Studio Habits of Mind (SHoM), a framework for learning. Developed by a team of researchers and educators at Harvard’s Project Zero, the eight SHoM are: develop craft, engage and persist, envision, express, observe, reflect, stretch and explore, and understand arts worlds.

Bay Area Music Project formed two years later in Alameda, and partnered with Maya Lin Elementary to provide intensive music education after school. Although the principles and practices of SHoM were originally formed in the context of visual arts education, I observed that our teaching artists were instinctively using some of these practices in their ensembles already.

During a virtual collaboration between our choir and children from Haiti in 2016, I realized we could incorporate SHoM more intentionally. Our goals included promoting student engagement and creativity, and helping students to appreciate the interconnectedness of children from around the world. SHoM provides a common language and guidance throughout the process, which resulted in a broader, deeper understanding of our collaboration by our students.

SHoM helped empower our students to demonstrate and extend their musical understandings. For example, our beginner violin students learned SHoM dispositions through the paper violin project at the beginning of the year. Because art is a familiar medium of expression for children, this allowed the teaching artist to encourage respectful peer-feedback discussions.

At the midway point of the project, the studio habits of “envision” and “observe” were reinforced during a paired, peer-review exercise called “the ladder of feedback.” Through this process, students provided and received constructive feedback, resulting in positively making adjustments to their work. These skills translate to the creative process of giving and receiving feedback and setting goals to make improvements in their ensembles.

Although we are fortunate to partner with a school already implementing SHoM as part of its culture, it is adaptable to any music program. SHoM is an opportunity to view teaching through a different lens and empower students to view themselves as critical-thinking artists.


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