Addressing Learning Theories through Adult Professional Development
A case study by Cynthia Howard
In October 2015, I presented a workshop at the National Australian Society of Music Education (ASME) Conference in Adelaide. I addressed a group of approximately 20 adult music educators from around Australia all who came with a broad range of knowledge and skills. My aim was to explore ideas with adults about how to create an accessible and enjoyable learning experience for primary aged students which encouraged the development of improvisational and compositional musical skills. The workshop was designed to give adult music educators ideas of a student-centred unit of work for children, using scaffolding techniques to encourage skill acquisition and foster motivation for further exploration and understandings. Adult participants were shown techniques to encourage, develop and extend their own ideas in a safe explorative manner until a whole musical work was composed. Through recognising these skills as adults it was hoped that the learning through the workshop was transferrable to their respective student cohort.
This workshop utilized many learning theories from behaviourist, cognitive, constructivism and ‘andragogy’. Both children and adults come into learning experiences with previous knowledge and this was accommodated so that all participants could contribute at their own level of understanding. Behaviourists and pedagogical theories were used to give participants the basic skills required to progress through the unit with scaffolding. As the work increased in complexity more cognitive and ‘andragogical’ theories were applied. At the completion of the workshop adult participants developed skills to work independently, made their own decisions when creating musical works, with the ability to offer similar learning experiences to their own students.
This is the first part of a two part series about learning theories. In this first TASME newsletter for 2017 I discuss learning theories starting with the behaviourist approach, through to cognitive theories and a theory many may not be aware of but is argued to be used in both adult and childhood learning called, ‘andragogy’.
In our next addition there are examples of how these learning theories have been applied in an adult learning environment at the ASME conference held in October, 2015 in Adelaide. This article was also recently published in the Journal of the Australian Council of Orff Schulwerk, Volume 21, No 1, 2015 MusicWorks.
Engerstrom (1994) claims that learning is a mental and practical activity and is far more complicated than students just receiving and storing information. Learners continue to construct a view of the world as they select and interpret information, correlate and merge information to form new understandings. This transformation of previous understandings is developed by constructing knowledge and is where meaningful learning occurs. According to Knowles, Holton, & Swanson (2005) learning theories fall into two main families, that of the behaviourist theories and that of cognitive theories.
Eggan & Kauchak (2001) state that behaviourism is a change in the observable behaviour that occurs as the result of an experience. Learning occurs when students give consistent, observable and desired responses to questions. The way students learn is determined by the notion of reinforcement and punishment which changes behaviour.
The behaviourist model is useful for gaining quick answers such as knowing multiplication facts or recalling notes on the musical staff but does not allow for deep understandings (Eggan & Kauchak, 2001). Behaviourism treats learners as passive recipients of reinforcers and punishers rather than as thinking and strategic learners. Freire (1993) discusses this notion as the oppressed and the oppressors. The oppressive teacher fills their student’s minds as receptacles with students as the depositories. This concept is known as ‘banking’. Freire (1993) states that the ‘libertarian educator’ drives towards reconciliation and engages students in critical thinking and mutual humanisation, with students and teachers becoming partners in learning.
While behaviourists’ styles of teaching are useful as they equip the student with basic skills and knowledge this theory alone does not promote deeper thinking and this has led toward the consideration of greater active student engagement (Eggan & Kauchack, 2001). Cognitive learning is an active process where learners aim to make sense of what they are studying by actively being involved in their learning.
Cognitive learning is complex and demanding and is more difficult than just lecturing facts to students leading to greater learning outcomes which is both rewarding and is a shared experience between the teacher and student. The construction of knowledge is strongly influenced by cognitive views of thinking where learners construct their own understanding with teachers progressively assisting their students to gain deeper understandings (Eggan & Kauchak, 2001).
Scheme theory, which was developed by Piaget assists humans to make sense of their world by gathering and organising information. Schemes are the building blocks of thinking and knowledge. Basic schemes can be built upon creating new knowledge and understandings, or new schemas (Woolfolk & Margetts, 2007).
The cognitive learning model uses this idea of building on previous understandings by the recognition of familiar patterns, links to previous experiences to gain deeper understandings. Students construct knowledge by actively doing and evaluating their environment. The teacher then guides the student to make sense of their world through exploration (Eggan & Kauchak 2001).
Vygotsky was the pioneer of constructivism and along with Paiget believed in developmental stages of development however Vygotsky also believed that all learning takes place in a cultural setting. Vygotsky puts a greater emphasis on the impact of learning through the interaction of others particularly in the interaction with people more advanced in their thinking such as a parent or teacher (Woolfolk & Margetts, 2007). This shared learning space where the student learns from a more experienced other is referred to as the ‘Zone of Proximal Development’ (ZPD).
Using Vygotsky’s approach, deep learning is limited without instruction or intentional self-instruction and instructors positioning teachers in an important role to guide their students. Such learning opportunities create motivating cognitive conflict (ZPD) which encourages the student to explore, experiment and problem solve. The teacher’s role becomes that of one who organises the context and community of learning, formulates the instructional objectives and contents, guides and monitors student progress, interacts and encourages conversation and plans and evaluates the student process (Engerstrom, 1994).
Andragogy – adult learning
Andragody is not a familiar term to many which refers to adult learning which can differ from traditional classroom teaching. Chan (2010) suggests that pedagogy (child learning) has provided educational guidance with little differentiation between child and adult learning.
Malcolm Knowles has aimed to address the distinct needs of adult learners through andragogy and uses six assumptions; (1) adult learners need to know, why, what and how they are learning; (2) the self-concept of the adult learner is autonomous and self-directed; (3) adults prior knowledge and experience is used to develop new understandings; (4) adults have a readiness to learn and learn what they believe they need to know; (5) adults have an orientation to learning for immediate purposes which is problem-centred, task-oriented and life-focused; (6) adults learn for internal motivation (Chan, 2010 & Knowles et al., 2005).
McGrath (2009) suggests that the pedagogical approach assumes that students will learn what they have been told and Knowles as cited in McGrath (2009) suggests that pedagogy is based on these assumptions
- Students only learn what the teacher teaches them.
- The teacher’s concept of the learner is that of a dependent personality.
- The teacher’s job is to fill student’s minds with information with students accepting this information as so.
McGrath (2009) states that the teacher does not need to have to be the holder of all knowledge and that all students need to be encouraged to participate in learning from their own knowledge and experiences.
However andragogy and pedagogy can work together as McGrath (2009) suggests when an adult presents with little or no experience in a particular area of study the instructor needs to revert to pedagogical and behaviourist approaches to develop the basics of that field of study. As the study progresses the tutor or instructor can encourage students to develop links from their own experiences encouraging greater independence in that particular discipline. Brookfield (1995) affirms this notion by stating that before students can critically engage in ideas and activities they need a grounding in the subject and skill area. Knowles as cited in McGrath (2009) states that the pedagogical strategy is an appropriate starting point.
Chan (2010) suggest a key component to adult learning is that andragogy recognises and utilises previous lifelong experiences. Instruction can create scenarios that encourage students to problem-solve by accessing their experience and knowledge. Brookfield (1995) backs up this claim as he encourages adults to utilise their previous experiences to better solve the problems they encounter and states that adults create new meaning schemes and perspectives in their attempts to make sense of the issues they confront daily.
Zmeyov as cited Chan (2010) suggests that andragogical principles of learning are needed now and not only in adult education. Once a person has a good grasp of both practical and social experience, has some goals and the belief in their own knowledge and ability with adequate background skills in the area of interest they are ready for a more andragogical and student-centred approach to learning.
Chan (2010) recommends that andragogy be applied to children and adolescents. Students learning passively is not an effective practise and even though children may not meet all the andragogical assumptions, they meet many of them through their own life experiences. Active learning is more effective than passive learning, regardless of age.
In this paper some basic learning theories are discussed along with the workshop presented at the National ASME Conference. An appendix has been attached with the remainder of the workshop and a YouTube link has also been attached with similar work I have prepared for adult music educators in Nepal.
Improvisation and Composition for upper primary students
The aim of this workshop was to create a learning experience where adult music educators could learn by doing, as if they were a primary student, to empathise and understand some of the various processors their students may encounter. As adult music practitioners I was able to work through the steps quickly, covering many concepts that would need more time and experimentation with younger students (this acknowledges adult prior experience and knowledge – a cognitive and andragogical approach).
Student’s prior knowledge
It was important for music educators to understand that their students need no prior musical experience for this unit of work. Students can participate at their own level of expertise with satisfying results and are encouraged to utilise their experiences to develop their own authentic piece of work (a cognitive and andragogical approach).
The unit is based on a 10 week program of 40 minute lessons. Listed are components of the unit rather than individual lessons as some sessions and/or concepts may require more time for greater understanding and competence.
- Teacher materials – Cordless mic (not essential but very useful), electric acoustic guitar (not essential), xyloglock (magnetic note strips that can be placed on a whiteboard – see diagram 1.1), whiteboard markers and magnetic dots (to show how chords are constructed).
- Student materials – Xylophones, marimbas, metallophones and glockenspiels – pencils paper or small whiteboard and markers.
- Additional (end of unit) – Any other instruments available such as recorders, guitars, ukuleles, djembe drums (or any drum).
Lessons 1 – 2 Improvisation Working in 4/4 time
- Teach a basic ‘bordun’ (drone) to accompany students – see diagram 1.2. This is an Orff Schulwerk technique and there is a selection of various bass drones – one main rule is that the tonic is always placed on the first and third beats of a four beat pattern (behaviourst theory, teaching fundamental basics).
- Select a few students to play the bordun and swap students around as this is a simple and important role but can becoming tiresome. When students play the bordun they are not creating but playing a repetitive drone.
- With the teacher using the xyloglock and students at their instruments the teacher sets up the xyloglock without F’s and B notes and asks students to make their instruments look the same.
- Teacher calls out a simple arrangement of notes in a 4 beat pattern. Start on one note (tonic) and show how this can be made interesting, slowly increase the number of notes used. Keep it simple (KIS). The teacher also points out with their fingers or mallets the notes on the xyloglock (behaviourist theory).
- Extend the duration to a two bar phrase – students copy (extending students skill base – behaviourst theory working toward a more cognitive student-centred activity).
- Take a moment to discuss the various patterns – were they tricky? Encourage students to listen to what they are playing – simple patterns are very effective (reflective practice – cognitive learning theory, developing and building schemes).
- Students play something different to the teachers calls (the teacher can sing in solfege or la, la so students don’t necessarily know the notes being sung) – no need to use the xyloglock. This is to encourage students to either to play the teachers part by recognising the pitch (not intentional but an advanced skill that if stumbled upon should be commended – cognitive, constructive & androgical), or by the main aim to come up with their own tunes on the spot or improvisation (cognitive, constructivist & andragogical).
- Make sure students on the bordun swap! Keep everyone engaged in this creative activity (everyone participates).
- Students are now ready to have an extended turn at making up their own melodies on the spot
- Students can play in small groups – back row could you please play for two bars, then middle row, then glocks – everyone together. This is allows everyone to feel safe and not vulnerable.
- As students develop confidence there will be some who will like to do a solo but not necessarily everyone. Move around the room so that these students can show and perform their solos.
- There also may be small groups of two or three who would like to perform, include these students as you move around the class (students perform and develop their skill at their own pace – develops self-confidence, problem solving and safe risk taking – andragogic).
Xyloglock – These are magnetic strips that can be stuck on a whiteboard. A small whiteboard on a music stand is very useful as you are closer and don’t have your back students
Examples of Borduns
The workshop I presented at the ASME conference in Adelaide was deliberately designed to be a student/participant-centred activity where participants could experience various techniques and explore new ideas. Participant prior knowledge was taken into account as either experienced educators, under-graduate teachers, studio teachers, academics, my mother and others. Even if someone had little knowledge this workshop was designed to be accessible to all. The workshop’s aim was to utilise previous knowledge and experience which could be included and expanded, allowing for the development of further discussion and ideas.
My view is it is not only valuable but necessary to reflect on one’s own teaching practice. Critical reflection is morally grounding as it allows people to learn to care for one another, bringing in values of fairness and justice (Brookfield, 1995). Critical reflection offers a space in which each person is respected, valued and heard and promotes critical conversation in the classroom. This process encourages students and teachers to become partners in learning where knowledge is not only received by students, but is actively transformed, where students can engage with others and be responsible for their own views (Freire, 1993).
Through my workshop, I tried to create an atmosphere where I acted as a guide. As a group we discussed and shared ideas and performed the work composed by various participants in the room. I initially gave participants basic skills and techniques (behaviourist approach) and as they developed in their confidence and competence participants were able to make their own decisions, sharing ideas with each other (cognitive, constructive and andragogical approach).
Kreisberg as cited in Brookfield (1995) suggests that instead of teachers having power over learners, teachers and students should share in the learning experience and as Brookfield (1995) states, is the first step in working toward a more democratic and cooperative environment with students and colleagues alike. This relationship allows for all to grow as the teacher now shares dialogue with their students.
Brookfield (1995) suggests through his four lens theory that by reflecting on ourselves, our practises and life-experience, in understanding others, namely our students, by working alongside colleagues and keeping challenged by literature we develop the first steps in creating a more democratic and cooperative environment for students, teachers and colleagues alike. For me considering new literature and gaining a deeper insight into andragogy I have questioned my own understandings of learning theories. I have gained a greater appreciation of the complex nature of learning beyond pedagogy. Pedagogy even through a cognitive point of view still considers the learner to be a dependent personality (McGrath, 2009) while andragogy removes this notion placing more weight on acknowledging an individual’s lifelong experiences regardless of age (Chan, 2010).
From a global perspective and global citizenship, by adopting student-centred approaches to teaching and learning people gain the opportunity to assert their sense of rights and responsibilities and be involved in governing rather than simply being governed (Giroux, 2010). Education should encourage learners to challenge and change the world and not adapt themselves to it (Freire as cited in Killen, 2003). This is an important point because we are all world citizens who have an obligation to each other within our local communities and beyond.
Dean & Fornaciari (2014) look at the design of syllabi and discuss that as educators, instructors must move beyond the syllabi and traditional pedagogically norms if the syllabus is to be a useful and relevant teaching and learning tool. Dean et al. (2014) argue that syllabis of the 21st century needs to adopt andragogical aspects to its implementation. Dean et al. (2014) argue for a more inclusive syllabus moving toward a more authentic creative learning experience where both the learner and teacher are involved in the syllabus design. Dean et al. (2014) encourages a more inclusive approach in the desired learning outcomes, which includes changing the words of ‘I’ as the instructor to that of ‘we’ as the instructor and student as partners in teaching and learning.
My workshop did not effectively achieve the goal of an inclusive syllabi and in reflection there could have been greater discussion at the beginning of the workshop where I gained input, such as; what issues do you encounter as educators when teaching improvisation and composition? And rather than saying ‘I’ have designed a plan, I could be more inclusive by considering everyone’s views and guide into the unit with a more collaborative approach. This approach would allow for greater dialogue, identify particular issues and address various learning needs. The workshop could have created deeper learning opportunities with agreed goals and a heightened level of motivation as participants would have developed a greater level of responsibility in a shared learning environment. However participants were still able and encouraged to make many of their own decisions about how their work would ultimately look and sound and from this prospective the learning experience became a ‘we’ rather than an ‘I’ experience.
To be aware of these limitations in my own practise is the first step to being able to make changes. In a publication about self-study, Samaras (2011) suggests that; one has to be able to accept oneself and ones views and to be confident to share ideas. Accountability begins with self and reflective teaching requires thinking with self-responsibility and the responsibility of others. Ultimately for my students to gain a sense of inquiry into their world I as a teacher need to inquire into my own practises.
Fornaciar & Dean (2014) state that andragogical principals move the power, responsibility and motivation toward the learner and away from the instructor where decisions about the outcomes of learning are shared between the learner and instructor. This shift in power creates less emphasis on ‘how’ to learn but to ‘what’ to learn where the instructor acts as a facilitator of learning, moving to the sidelines of learning, guiding rather than directing (Weimer as cited by Fornaciar et al., 2014). This allows the responsibility of learning to move toward the student with the assessment of learning becoming a more collaborative approach between the instructor and learner.
It is not sufficient to simply teach students what they should know, students need to know how they come to their own learning conclusions. Cognitive learning offers a framework for the development of higher order thinking and critical thinking skills which develops intellectual thinking and enables the learner to solve problems and make sense of their world (Eggan & Kauchak & 2001).
In my presentation behaviourist and cognitive theories are both present in my teaching practice. It is ineffective to have one theory without the other. Brookfield (1998) claims that each student experiences learning differently and suggests that this diversity in learning validates the need to use a variety of different teaching methods in the classroom and stresses the importance for educators to use a range of different learning theories in the teaching and learning process.
Chan (2010) states that learners need to be actively involved in their own learning process to construct their own knowledge and educators need to provide opportunities for learners both children and adults to be actively involved in learner-centred activities. Chan (2010) suggests that teachers and instructors need to move away from teacher-centred assumptions and adopt andragogical and learner-centred and constructivists approaches. Chan (2010) suggests that;
“The use of these strategies will create a more engaging and practical learning environment, which can lead to creativity and innovation in the classroom and, ultimately, competent individuals prepared to compete in the 21st century workforce.”(p. 34).
Andragogy is an extension of cognitive learning using many of the cognitive and constructive theories from Piaget and Vygotsky and while there are challenges within any teaching method Houle as cited in McGrath (2009) suggests; andragogy is the most learner centred of all theories in adult education. Learners should be involved in as many aspects of their education as possible and teachers should create a climate in which both the instructor and student can learn together. In this light and acknowledging that there is a time where behaviourist theories are appropriate for basic skill acquisition, andragogy has a valuable role and teachers need to understand this theory and implement it whenever they can to students, young and old.
As an instructor but also a learner I was given an opportunity to present a 60 minute workshop. From an andragogical perspective I was making decisions about what to include and how I was going to be present my ideas. In preparation I had to problem solve and question myself; how can I create a student-centred activity that is meaningful for participants? In reflection perhaps the adult participants in my workshop did not receive as much personal direction and choice into their own learning as I did but I did encouraged participants to explore ideas, make their own decisions and challenged them to think about allowing creative and student-centred opportunities for their students.
As a music specialist I do not have to meet curriculum or Naplan deadlines or goals, therefore I am in a unique position where I can maximise student involvement with a student-centred andragogical approach. This experience now challenges me to not only develop quality educational programs that maximises student learning but also on how I can develop my own skills and knowledge to be an effective facilitator of education regardless of age.
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Appendix 1 – Full version of lessons.
Appendix 2 – Diagrams of xyloglocks with chords
Appendix 3 – Current summary of work with Nepal which includes a YouTube video clip of a training video I prepared for the Music Art Society in Nepal in September 2015.
Lessons 3 – 4 Composition/Ostinatos
- Spend 5 – 10 minutes reinforcing lesson 1-2
- Discuss various borduns that can be used to support melodies/ostinatos made up in the last session
- Play some simple improvisations over different borduns. Encourage students to explore the various borduns so they can make choices at a later date.
- Encourage students to play and improvise for an extended period of time
- Ask students to listen to their improvisations and chose a simple pattern they like (2 bars in duration). These become composed ostinato patterns
- Teacher to select a 3 or 4 ostinato patterns and write down the notes and duration of notes on the whiteboard (use notation if students understand this concept, otherwise make lines defining duration of notes, such as; ______ for long and __ __ for short notes
- (Hint) write each ostinato pattern in a different colour for ease of reading
- Split the class into 4 different groups, each group plays one ostinato pattern with a chosen bordun accompanying.
- Play all patterns at the same time.
Construct/compose a piece – Here is an example
- Start with a Bordun 8 bars
- Layer in ostinatos 1, 2, 3 & 4 (8 bars each)
- All ostinatos together – play for 8 bars
- Pattern one only – 8 bars – Marimbas
- Tutti – 8 bars
- Pattern two only – 8 bars – Xylophones
- Tutti – 8 bars
- Pattern three only – 8 bars – Glockenspiels/metallophones
- Tutti – 8 bars
- Pattern four only – 8 bars – Bass instruments
- Tutti – 8 bars
- Layer out pattern 4, 3, 2, & 1
- Bordun – 8 bars (fade out) – fine
Add a contrasting section – Use body percussion or unturned percussion performing the rhythmical ostinatos. Or start the piece with un-tuned percussion on the rhythmical ostinatos.
Extend how you or your students feel.
Lessons 5 – 6 Composition – group work
- Go over the composed piece the class wrote last lesson
- Discuss how the ostinato patterns were made
- Discuss the various bordun’s that can be used to support the piece
- In groups of 4/5 students, one student plays the bordun and the other students develop their own ostinato pattern, follow the same procedure as when composing with the class in lessons 3 & 4
- Make sure the bordun part is shared amongst students
- Students need to notate their work either on paper or a small whiteboard
- Keep a record of student work as this is useful for assessment.
- Assessment items may include; team work, notation, negotiating skills, listening and ensemble skills to name a few.
- Each group to perform their piece to the class. – another useful informal assessment opportunity
- Film each group so they can reflect on their work and make changes if they chosen
- Students to offer constructive feedback on each groups performan
Lessons 7 – 8 Introducing Chords
- Discuss pitch and scales – what differs from the major and minor scales – play to students and ask this question. Most students will comment that the scales differ in a happy or sad sound
- Play through some scales and ask students to decide if they are major or minor
- Chords are no different – discuss and play the major and minor chords – students again listen and try to differentiate between the minor and major sounds.
- Show how a chord is constructed using a ‘xyloglock’ and magnets, e.g. place a magnet in C E and G of the xyloglock so students can easily see the tonic, the 3rd and 5th degree of the scale. Use this technique for Dm, Em, G, F, and Am. See diagram 1.3 below
- Use most of the diatonic chords, however avoid B diminished if you choose or experiment – depends on the desired effect of a composition – I tend to avoid.
- After demonstrating the chord in root position – students construct a chord on the xyloglock.
- Show students how to hold 3 mallets and explore the chords
- Following the teachers calls, students play a combination of different chords. I like to keep each chord to 2 bars playing on the beat
- Students can now choose some chord progressions. Start with C and end with either C or An easy pattern for a four chord sequence e. g. C x 4 b C x 4 bDm x 4 b Dm x 4 bAm x 4 bAm x 4 bG x 4 bG x 4 n – students chose the second and third chord, in this example that was Dm and Am
- Add some of the composed ostinato patterns to the chord progressions
- Layer in composed ostinatos – play 4 all ostinato patterns together – play individually – have a non-tuned percussion section – such as in lesson 3 – 4.
- Again here is an opportunity for small groups to work together as in lessons 5 – 6
Lesson 9 – 10 Introducing other instruments
- Once chords have been chosen on tuned percussion these can be transferred to keyboards, guitars, recorders, ukuleles, un-tuned percussion. In fact any instrument. For band students there may be some transposition required for various instruments. Once everyone knows the 5 pentatonic notes then anyone can join in.
- Students can either work in small groups or for assembly or performance items
- This unit can be presented three classes together on a range of different instruments which I have done as my larger school has to perform in year groups for their end of year assembly. This is tricky and requires other teachers to assist and support during rehearsals and the final performance.
Below is an example of showing a group of chords. This pattern is very easy for students to understand and covers chords C Major, D minor, E minor, F Major, G Major and A minor. I personally don’t use B diminished or half diminished.
and so on…..
Nepal and the Music Art Society
I have been working with a school in Nepal where the director of the Music Art Society, Sumit Pokhrel is wanting ideas on various pedagogical/andragogical approaches to music education with the aim to deliver quality music programs to both fee paying children and children from orphanages in the Kathmandu region.
TASME, the Tasmanian Chapter of the Australian Association of Music Educators have been developing and discussing this possibility since early 2014. On the 25th of April, 2015 Nepal had a devastating earthquake which left over 8.000 people dead and many more displace. On the 6th of May, 2015 Sumit wrote;
‘In our effort to rebuild our nation, we believe we can do so with the only thing we have, i.e. music. We are planning on helping the children who are orphaned by this earthquake to heal through Music education. We want to help the children that have been orphaned by the devastating earthquake in Nepal. We want to engage these kids into Music as a therapy that would help in easing their pain and give them a medium to express their emotion. At the same time, we believe that Music Education would enable them to develop their confidence and gradually help in becoming self-reliant in future’ (personal correspondence).
Since this time Sumit and the school have commenced their music program however their country has many obstacles to overcome; the rebuilding of their communities, ongoing complex political issues, and the continual struggle for basic everyday survival.
I have put together an impromptu music session for Sumit so that he and his school can develop ideas for their music program. I hope to visit Nepal in the near future and continue to develop our relationship and promote music education to some of the most vulnerable children in Nepal.
Feel free to visit this site https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlSXmOOk1HI
This is a long video and has three sections to it lasting approximately 20 minutes each. This was a fun project and I am hoping to do many more films in the future for Nepal and others.