D. Michael Draut and Paul Broomhead, School of Music
Analyzing choir teachers’ perceptions of talking time has been a rewarding experience. I was able to collect data on how much time choir teachers spend talking during rehearsal; how choir teachers view the amount of time they spend talking; and how accurate their perceptions of time spent talking are. This study provided several answers and stirred my curiosity to develop additional questions.
I observed 20 choir teachers in Utah County – randomly selected from all three school districts (Alpine, Nebo & Provo) and teaching at the high school or junior high levels. I contacted the teachers, observed a rehearsal with the teachers’ largest mixed ensembles, and using a stopwatch, clocked the amount of time the teachers spent talking during the rehearsals. After the observation, I sent the teachers an online survey asking them questions about their talking time. I then reviewed the data from all 20 observations with Dr. Eggett, a statistician from BYU.
The results are interesting. Overall, the teachers overestimated their talking time by 10.5% – a significant margin. Junior High teachers, as well as Male teachers, significantly overestimated their talking time, by 18.8% and 14%, respectively; whereas high school teachers and female teachers did not. All groups (High School, Junior High, Male & Female teachers) reported that during the observed rehearsal, they think they talked significantly more than what they think a “successful” choir teacher talks – roughly 19% more. However, only High School and Female teachers’ actual talking time was suggestively greater than how much they think a “successful” choir teacher talks. The survey results show that there are no significant differences between teachers’ perceptions of talking time in general and their perceptions of talking time on the particular day I observed their teaching. All groups of teachers perceived their talking time in general to be about 14% above what they think a “successful” choir teacher talks – again, a significant difference. Junior High and Male teachers’ estimated talking time in general was suggestively higher than the actual amounts of time they spent talking on the day observed – an additional study would be required to confirm if this is significant.
Talking often has a negative connotation for choir teachers. Prospective choir teachers are repeatedly told to limit their talking time. “Less is more” is the catchphrase. Yet 75% of the teachers observed think they talked more than they actually did. Their actual talking time was significantly less than their perceptions. 95% of the observed teachers think that “successful” choir directors talk less than they did; however, 30% of the observed teachers actually met their own definition of “successful” (assuming that talking less is more successful). Past studies have mentioned that “successful” choir directors talk during 37.5% of the rehearsal on average. But in this study, 85% of the observed teachers believe a “successful” choir teacher talks less than that. In other words, it appears that these choir teachers’ believe they need to talk a lot less, yet their talking times are more congruent to a “successful” choir teacher than they think. These choir teachers talk less than they think, and more would consider themselves a “successful” choir teacher if their perceptions were more accurate. At the moment, these choir teachers tend to assume that they talk more than they do. Perhaps this knowledge can help prospective choir teachers better calibrate their perceptions to the reality, and maybe, help choir teachers feel more comfortable equating themselves with other “successful” choir teachers.