singing and social phobia

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My action research project. I received full credit on. This paper is an action research study exploring social phobia and learning how to sing as a way to address social anxiety. Journaling is also a key element of this paper as I asked my voice student to journal about his progress.


John Paul Sharp November 2012 Singing and Social Phobia:

an effort to confront anxiety through reflective writing.

Table of Contents Title Page Introduction Purpose and Intended Audience Research Questions Context of the Study Literature ReviewLiterature review questions Literature search procedures Literature review findings Quality of literature Gap in literature

MethodsSite selection and sampling Data collection methods Data analysis procedures Schedule Ethical procedures Checks for rigor

Research FindingsComparison of research to the literature review Limitations

Implications for Practice Conclusion References Appendices

IntroductionI am a professional singer. I write, direct and perform for professional and community productions in the stage, film and recording arts. In 2009, I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Vocal Performance at the University of Colorado Denver. I began teaching private voice lessons out of my home in April of 2012. A common problem I have discovered in my interactions with both students and even professional singers is a lack of confidence, or perhaps more accurately, a fear of failing at performing. One student in particular (i.e., for the purposes of confidentially, Lark) has a moderately severe level of social anxiety in terms of using and hearing his voice. He becomes anxious speaking to people in every-day situations at his food service job, in his classes as a student, and to familiar and unknown people in general. The main reason why Lark came to me and pays me for voice lessons is so I can help him conquer his social phobia by learning and practicing good singing. In many ways, this is a very tall order and I have a great responsibility to do whatever it is I can to help him achieve goals for crucial personal development. However, all I really need to do to help Lark, and all of my current and future students and colleagues, is establish a foundation on which we can learn to plan and initiate our own individual journeys as ever-developing, ever-learning singers. My own experiences learning how to sing and play the piano at the same time were fraught with stage fright and performance anxiety. My undergraduate professor and mentor taught me how to write and reflect upon my practices. In my case, I believe written reflections were an instrumental method for realizing emotional growth and skill progress through the journey of learning how to sing. In the past, I have asked students of mine to keep a journal, but none of them ultimately followed through. My proposed idea is for me to create more structure around selfwritten reflections for all my students so they are equipped to develop their own journaling skills and learn how to recognize their own progress.

Purpose and Intended AudienceI am fulfilling requirements for my Master of Arts in eLearning Implementation and Design at the University of Denver. I am also making a concerted effort to deliver to Lark the resources he needs to conquer his social phobia through singing. This research will be read by the faculty of The University of Colorado Denver for the purposes of reviewing my portfolio for key competencies in completing a Master of Arts in eLearning Implementation and Design. Other potential readers of this study are voice students and voice teachers of all experience levels and academic realms (e.g., college, private and public education). Anyone with an interest in journaling as a form of learning would benefit from reading this research study.

Research QuestionsAt the beginning of this study, my research questions were: 1.) If students write and submit self-written reflections specifically guided through four online surveys (i.e., journal), how will this method of communication affect their perceived progress as singers? 2.) If students write and submit self-written reflections specifically guided through four online surveys, how will this method of communication affect their perceived progress toward self-managing their anxiety? 3.) If I engage my colleague to participate in this study, how will this method of communication with her own students affect her perceived practices as a private music instructor?

Originally, I intended to have participation from a colleague and her students, but she was ultimately unable to participate due to time constraints. Also, Lark was my only student who participated. This changed my research questions: 1.) If Lark writes and submits self-written reflections specifically guided through online surveys, how will this method of communication affect his perceived progress as a singer? 2.) If Lark writes and submits self-written reflections specifically guided through online surveys, how will this method of communication affect his perceived progress toward self-managing his anxiety?

Context of StudyLark has come for weekly half-hour lessons over the last several months. In just the last two, he has shown major improvements in terms of becoming louder and somewhat comfortable using his voice in front of me. He sightreads rhythm extremely well and his overall tone is excellent. He suggested a song that he had already been working on before meeting me (Stop the Dams by Gorrilaz) and weve spent 40% to 50% of our lessons simply working on this song. Usually, Lark has only been able to perform about thirty seconds of the song. Sometimes, it can take more than 45 seconds for him to begin singing. I can see how hard he works to push through the anxiety in his mind and we have been working on breathing exercises where I ask him to symbolize his breathing as an empowering process (i.e., I am trying to enforce positive thought patterns in relation to breathing so as to replace the negativity associated with having anxiety). I can hear a level of monotone in Larks speaking and singing voice, which I believe is a direct result of his social anxiety. He can often take three or more seconds before he responds to questions and his answers are

delivered slowly and quite thoughtfully, yet disjointed by broken periods of silence. From observing how he sings, I can see and hear he is carrying physical manifestations of his anxiety in his shoulders and chest. I have asked him to immediately confront his anxiety when he is practicing. The moment he experiences hesitation, what thoughts are running through his mind? Lark tells me his anxiety is unreasonable, and to an extent, I would have to agree (i.e., it is what it is), but I also believe a developed discipline for thought management is not illogical or without merit. If Lark can place some thoughts to his anxiety, he has more opportunity for meaning-making; an important trait for applied learning. I have also asked him to take one or two lines from the lyrics of Stop the Dams and speak them aloud in his regular voice. Then he is to choose different emotions (e.g., angry, sad, terrified, annoyed, etc.) and speak the same lines, using his voice to make those emotions clear. I suggested he use a recorder to do this and listen to all the examples he makes. I told him the purpose for this exercise is to realize how much potential control he can have over the way his voice sounds. My intention for these exercises is for Lark to become more comfortable with his voice, inside his skin and develop more confident identities of his choosing. Even if it takes him awhile to speak, I am impressed with Larks ability to communicate with me in an honest, simple and straightforward way. He seems to have a great work ethic and I can tell he truly cares about learning how to speak and sing well. On my suggestion, he will be joining a choir at his college in 2013. When this study first began, Lark decided to change directions and work on writing his own song. While I believe he attempted all the suggestions I outline above, he generally focused on both songwriting and singing during the time I was collecting data for my research.

Literature ReviewAs I began the literature search for my action research project, I wanted to know how many other voice teachers out there have worked with students with the specific purpose of addressing social anxiety. How common is it for teachers to work with students suffering from moderately-severe social anxiety and what methods did those teachers use? In previous researches Ive performed, I know there is a great deal of information on musical performance anxiety, but how is this any different from social anxiety? What are the differences and similarities in definition between the two terms? Finally, how has reflective writing been used in educational realms? What are the benefits and pitfalls associated with using reflective writing as part of a teaching method? Is reflective writing already a popular method for teaching voice? Because of the great variety of questions I have, my literature search quickly became muddled and confounded. Eventually, I came to focus on the possible benefits of reflective writing as a way to progress and improve student efforts to learn. Literature review questions 1. What differences, if any, are there between musical performance anxiety and social phobia? 2. How can reflective writing benefit learners of singing? 3. Is journaling an effective cognitive behavioral therapy strategy?

Literature search procedures In past experiences performing more formal studies, my priority for finding resources have always started with the Auraria Library online search of scholarly studies. If several attempts with different keywords failed to produce studies relevant to my questions, I then would use Google Scholar and the general web-at-large. This is the method I have chosen for this action research literature search. Because I live in Seattle, Washington and the Auraria Library is in Denver, I had to make use of articles, books and studies that were available in online format. My preference was to seek studies per


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