"Was My Whole World About To Be Turned Upside Down?": The Professional Socialization of Preservice Music Teachers into Elementary Music Education.

2017-02-04T00:00:00Z (GMT) by Martina Vasil

Preservice music teacher socialization is an important and well-documented topic in music teacher education research, but challenges to successful socialization persist. A review of the literature shows that preservice music teachers’ past experiences may fixate their beliefs about teaching, schools of music in the United States place a higher priority on musician role-identity than teacher role-identity, and a gap exists between theory and practice in music education. Further investigation of how undergraduates are socialized into the field of music education can benefit music teacher education programs (Woodford, 2002). It is important to investigate preservice music teachers’ early field experiences such as practicum placements, because many studies focus on the socialization of preservice music teachers when they are in the last stages of their music teacher education programs—student teaching (Conkling, 2003). Three studies explored preservice music teachers’ experiences in an elementary general music practicum (Campbell, 1999; Henninger & Scott, 2010; Robbins, 1993). These studies examined three aspects of preservice music teacher socialization: role-identity, perspectives of teaching, and closing the gap between theory and practice. Further research is needed to understand how preservice music teachers’ past experiences with music teaching and learning, beliefs about music teaching and learning, and experiences in an elementary general music methods course and practicum shaped their socialization into elementary general music education.

The purpose of this study was to investigate how four preservice music teachers’ past experiences with music teaching and learning, beliefs about music teaching and learning, and participation in an elementary general methods course and practicum shaped aspects of their socialization (i.e., role-identity, perspectives of teaching music, the gap between theory and practice) into elementary general music education. The research questions for this study were: 1) What are preservice music teachers’ past experiences with music teaching and learning?; 2) What are preservice music teachers’ beliefs about music teaching and learning?; 3) How do preservice music teachers’ past experiences with and beliefs about music teaching and learning influence their socialization into elementary general music education?; and 4) How do preservice music teachers’ participation in an elementary general methods course and practicum affect their socialization into elementary general music education?

The phenomenon of professional socialization was investigated within the real-life context of an elementary general music methods course and practicum; thus a case study design was chosen (Barrett, 2014). Specifically, a nested case study design was chosen in order to compare and contrast each participant’s experiences within the wider case of a single elementary general music methods course and off-site practicum (Thomas, 2011). Case studies require multiple methods of data collection (Glesne, 2006), therefore data were collected from observations, documents, interviews, and a social media site. Participants were four undergraduate music education majors enrolled in a general music methods course. Two were male and two were female; two were string players (cello and viola) and two were brass players (French horn and trombone).

Results indicated that participants who had prior experience working with children were more confident in the practicum. Two participants who had rich elementary general music experiences and opportunities to teach children prior to the elementary general music methods course and practicum were more comfortable teaching than one participant who did not have those experiences. One participant with a nontraditional background (rock musician) was also confident when teaching.

Participants with strong beliefs about music teaching and learning were more confident when teaching and vice versa. Half of the participants had strong beliefs about music teaching and learning and were clear in what they wanted students to learn and how they would facilitate learning objectives. The other participants did not seem ready to articulate clearly defined beliefs about music teaching and learning yet. One participant who was not certain of his beliefs about music teaching and learning was more nervous about teaching than other participants in this study.

Preservice music teachers in this study did not find a gap between theory and practice when it came to the traditional approaches to elementary general music teaching: Dalcroze, Kodály, and Orff. This was likely because the methods course instructor and the practicum music teacher communicated well and made an effort to cover the same concepts and use similar materials.

Preservice music teachers’ participation in an elementary general music practicum was influenced by their role identity. Three participants with strong teacher role-identities found it easier to socialize into elementary general music education. Of these three, one participant’s experience with role identity reflected the literature, which stated that preservice music teachers are socialized to be musicians first and teachers second in music teacher education programs (Woodford, 2002). One participant who was uncertain about his teacher role-identity openly discussed his nervousness for teaching at the elementary level. None of the participants’ role identities corroborated the literature, which stated that many preservice music teachers identify with the role of high school band director before commencing music teacher education programs (Woodford, 2002).

Participation in an elementary general music practicum affected participants’ perspectives of teaching. Participants had common concerns and broadened their knowledge about elementary general music teaching and learning: providing relevant instruction, communicating clearly and appropriately to children, and managing students’ behaviors. Participants discovered that children’s musical capabilities were greater than they originally anticipated; learned how to structure lessons in ways that facilitated children’s creative processes; and thought that it was crucial to observe and speak with in-service music teachers in order to improve their teaching.

Finally, participants’ experiences in the elementary general music methods course and practicum revealed a close connection between theory and practice. Preservice music teachers in this study did not find a gap between theory and practice when it came to the traditional approaches to elementary general music teaching: Dalcroze, Kodály, and Orff. This was likely because the methods course instructor and the practicum music teacher communicated and made an effort to cover the same concepts and use similar materials.

This study has several implications. First, results support the need to respond to preservice music teachers’ individual socialization needs in methods courses and practicums (Campbell, 1999; Robbins, 1993). Preservice music teachers who have vague memories of elementary general music and little experience teaching children may be less comfortable teaching in an elementary general music practicum. Efforts should be made to increase their comfort levels. Preservice music teachers with strong beliefs about teaching and learning were confident when teaching. Encouraging preservice music teachers to articulate their beliefs about teaching and learning may be beneficial. Second, the relationship between university and practicum is paramount to closing the gap between theory and practice. Communication and collaboration between professors and cooperating teachers are essential to closing the gap. Third, preservice music teachers need earlier immersion in the profession and interaction with in-service teachers. Last, this study suggests that problems in the socialization of preservice music teachers may be shifting, as only a few of the problems identified in the literature were found to be true with the participants of this study. Participants in this study discussed problems such as the lack of time to reflect upon their teaching and learning in the music teacher education program and the little time they have to observe and interact with in-service music teachers prior to student teaching.

References

Campbell, M. R. (1999). Learning to teach music: A collaborative ethnography. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, 139, 12–36. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40318946

Conkling, S. W. (2003). Uncovering preservice music teachers' reflective thinking: Making sense of learning to teach. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, 155, 11–23.   http://www.jstor.org/stable/40319420

Henninger, J. C., & Scott, L. P. (2010). Preservice music teachers reflect on first experiences in elementary classrooms. Journal of Music Teacher Education, 20(1), 77–87.

Robbins, J. (2003). Preparing students to think like teachers: Relocating our teacher education perspective. The Quarterly Journal of Music Teaching and Learning, 4(1), 45–51.

Woodford, P. G. (2002). The social construction of music teacher identity in undergraduate music education majors. In R. Cowell & C. Richardson (Eds.), Handbook of research on music teaching and learning (pp. 675–694). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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