The implications of Ned Herrmann’s whole-brain model for violin teaching : a case study

Campbell, Velma-Jean (2008-12)

Thesis (MMus (Music))--University of Stellenbosch, 2008.


This study is concerned with determining whether the application of Ned Herrmann’s “whole-brain” model would impact violin teaching in any way. Our educational system places great importance on what has become known as the left-brain modes, that is, reading, writing and arithmetic, to the neglect of the socalled right brain’s cognitive abilities, such as, music, art, intuition and dance. Wellintentioned, yet ill-informed teachers teach learners in ways that make learning difficult or impossible, as they are unaware of how to determine and use the preferred learning style of each learner. When a learner’s learning style is not matched with the method of instruction, the learner’s discomfort level may be so great that it not only interferes with the learning process but it could also ultimately prevent learning from taking place. The researcher, therefore, set out to determine whether the use of whole-brain development would lead to any significant changes in the learning process. For a period of two school terms, case studies using action research were conducted on five of the learners that received instruction from the researcher. The research participants were so chosen as to make the experimental group as homogenous as possible. Data was collected qualitatively by means of diaries and was presented descriptively. Every week the learners received a printed copy of the homework exercises. They recorded their feedback weekly, in their diaries. The researcher, as the teacher of the learners, made weekly observations during lessons. During this research the process of triangulation was used. This process added validity to the study as information about specific aspects was gained from three different perspectives, namely, that of the learners, the teacher and the learners’ accompanists. The accompanists gave their feedback before the start of the research and again at the end. After applying Herrmann’s model for two terms, the following became apparent: • The learners practised more, were more motivated and there was a general improvement in their attitude. • The learners felt that having received a printed copy of the exercises, a whole brain exercise in itself, had helped them to know what and how to practise. • There was a significant change in the playing of the majority of learners (three of the five). • The learners, where significant changes were not apparent in their playing, indicated that their understanding of their practising methods and playing had increased. • The learners felt that they had benefited from the experiment as they all indicated that they would like future lessons to be conducted in the same manner. In view of the positive outcome of the research, and given that this was a pilot study, the researcher suggests that similar studies using larger numbers of learners and involving a longer period of time, be conducted. The inclusion of a control group would also render the findings more conclusive. The researcher also suggests that violin teachers become knowledgeable about learning styles and whole-brain learning if they wish to reach all learners and enable them to achieve their potential.

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