Since many of the musical experiences, especially in the western repertoire of classical music, are characterized by a strong and defined hierarchy -an example above all: the symphony orchestra with its fixed roles-, thinking about the Lab 6's culture of pedagogy, the first question was: 

Are improvisers good candidates for cooperative learning models? 

The tradition of cooperation in the musical world is centuries old. This is why having musicians learn to manage improvisation in a cooperative learning environment is a natural if not ideal educational solution. 

The Lab 6 has been mostly based on the cooperative learning[1] (CL) as a pedagogical strategy concerning many aspects to improves students learning trough their own collaboration and working in team. 

The first aspect is that learning is achieved by the group. This means that there should be a type of interdependence that assures the learning success of the group. All Lab 6's activities were created in such a way that each member of the group contributed equally and this is at once an aptitude that exists in an individual and also a requirement that can be insisted upon for the sake of the group. 

The second aspect includes both individual and group accountability. This represents the expectations placed on each of the two components: individual and collective. 

The third and perhaps most vital aspect, is that of team work. While most students have participated in some form of team activity in the course of their life, as well as in previous labs of the RAPP Lab project, team skills required to achieve a well functioning unit should be experienced. This aspect is closely related to the principle of interdependence in that team skills either facilitate or hinder interdependence. 

The final aspect concerns questions of leadership and evaluation that must occur within a group in order to assure work continuity. The flat hierarchy, which is a prerequisite for developing self-leadership, was pursued throughout the Lab 6 course. The formation of the groups was not organized by the teachers/facilitators: the groups formed spontaneously. It was not necessary to underline how necessary it was that there weren't groups made up of students from a single partner institution of the RAPP Lab project.

‘Musical improvisation, in particular, offers rich possibilities for developing a robust and alternative pedagogy that reaches across cultural and social divides, and that enables us to imagine what it might mean to achieve social justice and a meaningful sense of participation in community […] Improvisation demands shared responsibility for participation in community, an ability to negotiate differences, and a willingness to accept the challenges of risk and contingency. Furthermore, in an era when diverse people and communities of interest struggle to forge historically new forms of affiliation across cultural divides, the participatory and civic virtues of engagement, dialogue, respect, and community building inculcated through improvisatory practices take on a particular urgency.’ [2]

Improvisation, inspiring and encouraging students to improve unexplored spaces or relationships of their artistic practice, can be achieved through inquiry based artistic activities and labs. 

The Lab 6’s experience raises students to be lifelong learners and above all to become independent thinkers. 

As David Scott Ross has focus in his parallel[3] between the development of science in the 20th century and improvisation, according to the philosopher Steven Goldman (2004) identified six themes which are central to the scientific developments, ‘the theoretical centrality of indeterminacy in current scientific views is entirely concordant with the emergent, processual nature of improvisation”.



In 20th century science



Relationships are increasingly perceived to be the ultimate reality, with natural phenomena seen as a system

Foreground relationship, as it is integrally grounded in the context from which it grows


Dynamism - accepting change as normal and not trying to reduce it to stasis, with a concomitant focus on non-equilibrium system, which reveal nature to be self-organising

Eschews the security of stasis for flux, in which emergent phenomena are shaped and organized


Information as a feature of reality

Is constructed via the dialogic exchange of information


Emergence of complexity out of simplicity

Yields high degrees of complexity derived from minimal, simple constraints


Recognition of subjectivity and objectivity as co-defining

Recognizes the interdependent mutability of both performer and content


Science was increasingly seen as cross-disciplinary and collaborative ventures

Involves a collective exploration of borders and conventional assumption


Improvisation introduces to an exploratory way thinking that guides participants reliably within the reflectiveness and introduces them to the world outside their own artistic practices too. 

The engagement in Lab 6’s working group activities/performances/discussions support students to develop their collaborative skills as they interpret the performative and discursive space surrounding them. improvisational experience arises from the creation, maintenance and enrichment of an associated knowledge base, built within the combination of short and long-term memory so this is crucial not only in the artistic professional practice but in all fields of knowledge. 

The Lab 6 explores the specific pedagogic culture that surrounds improvisation with the aim of better understanding the outcomes of their artistic professional practice as well as research training and the relationships with other educational prerogatives and external reference points, including the epistemological challenges of creating contexts that are relevant to their professional environment.

The Lab 6’s pedagogical framework can be defined as follow:

  • Contextual focus
  • Exploration
  • Production
  • Performance
  • Reflection-in-action.


Spiral working cycles of going back and forth among: Contextual focus, Exploration, Production, Performance, Reflection-in-action, both individually and together with other participants, let participants become aware of creation and collaborate processes that in their artistic community are often tacitly known.

Reflecting on their artistic professional practice through participating in the Lab 6, students develop their metacognitive strategies too, because they consciously reflect on what their thought processes were and how to improve upon them next time.

Moreover, the Lab 6’s interdisciplinary environment, increasing students’ natural curiosities, improves their understanding and attitude towards research in their performative/artistic professional practice, because improvisation fosters an awareness of unexpected understanding as well as develops an array of cognitive and social skills, through the negotiation of difference.


[1] David W. Johnson & Roger T. Johnson, The impact of cooperative, competitive, and individualistic learning environments on achievement. In J. Hattie & E. Anderman (Eds.), International handbook of student achievement (372-374). New York: Routledge, 2013.

[2] Ajay Heble and Ellen Waterman, Sounds of Hope, Sounds of Change: Improvisation, Pedagogy, Social Justice, at the Second Annual International Society for Improvised Music conference at Northwestern University, December 2007.

[3] Improvisation-based Pedagogies Changing Thoughts on Learning, in the Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, p. 54, vol. 28, n. 1, 2012.