The purpose of this study was to examine how eight high school students involved in traditional, notation-based band instruction experienced informal learning. In an extracurricular setting, the students chose their own groupings, selected songs, and created arrangements of their songs by ear without relying on direct instruction or notated music. A collective case study design was used to explore the strategies the students used to solve problems and how those learning strategies changed as students gained experience with informal learning. This study also sought to examine the benefits and challenges of informal learning with formally taught students and to determine how arranging songs in small group settings impacted those students.

While the students became more comfortable with informal learning over time, it was difficult for them to break free of their formal learning habits. Despite these challenges, the student participants reported improved listening skills, refined their musical problem solving approaches, were more willing to experiment to make musical decisions, and showed greater attention to the quality of their musical arrangements. The findings support the benefits of informal learning noted in previous research, though students enculturated in large ensembles may need additional tools in order to attain success.

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