My Current and Future Teaching Practices

In Week 7, the final week of our Foundations of Music Education I: Philosophy and History course, we were asked to analyze our current teaching practices in light of all our learning over the past seven weeks. Here is the full prompt:

In this paper, consider how or if your beliefs and values have morphed since starting the semester. It's okay if they have not, but it is expected that having read many chapters/books/articles over seven weeks, you should now possess a deeper understanding about music education than you did on day one of the course.

The point of this exercise is not to produce a "philosophy of music education" — something antithetical to the spirit of this class (which is much more about philosophy as a verb), but rather, to provide a well-reasoned argument (a thesis) that demonstrates you understand the merits and pitfalls of various practices—the possible implications for individuals and for society by engaging in this rather than that, especially as these relate to the particulars of your own learning and teaching context. By way of example, consider the music teaching practices of Roberta Guaspari in Music of the Heart. One could argue in favor of what she did (e.g., bringing classical music to "poor black children" in Harlem), or against what she did (e.g., imposing Western European classical music and disregarding the existing musical values in the community). The strength of the argument lies in your ability to articulate relevant theoretical positions (e.g., strategic use of cultural capital as empowerment vs. culturally relevant pedagogy as empowerment).

In your paper, be sure to provide the following information and ideas:

  • a very brief description of your teaching context, including grade or age level, demographics, nature of the learning environment, and nature of the community (no longer than 100 words)

  • a description of what you consider the short and long-term benefits and challenges of your current teaching practices (about 1000 words)

  • a description of how you will consider or re-consider your teaching practices now that you've taken ME741 (about 1000 words)

While this set of prompts is meant to help you structure your essay, it is not intended for students to feel bounden to it in order to earn an A on the paper. The quality of your argument(s), especially regarding the second and third prompts, will rest in how you support your ideas (i.e., support your claims). This means that you need to use citations. Please do not ask how many citations to employ; every student will have a different way to address these prompts. Do not be mistaken, though, you need to cite your work and you need to support your claims/ideas with scholarly (and maybe not-so-scholarly) works.


Transformational Change: An Analysis of Current and Future Teaching Practices

Currently, my teaching context involves substitute teaching in central Virginia while searching for a full-time music teaching job.  For the previous five years, I taught in a professional learning community of six teachers in central Iowa across sixth through twelfth grade.  My primary responsibilities included assisting with the marching band, directing the tenth-grade concert band and top high school jazz band, providing low brass lessons, and teaching a non-AP music theory course.  Our professional learning community setup our teaching schedules so that the team of six could be in every rehearsal, pulling students out for individual or small-group lessons.  Students received lessons once every eight school days with the teacher that played their primary instrument.

This paper will analyze the benefits and challenges of the teaching practices our professional learning community implemented, as well as considering changes to those teaching practices.  To frame this analysis, I will look at what the class literature prescribes for quality music education.  Much of the literature defining good teaching practices studied in this course comes from Thomas Regelski.  Regelski (2012b) states that “good teaching” begins with a vision of “good ends” that advance life through music (p. 28).  After deciding on “good ends” or “right reasons,” teachers determine methods and materials that will produce tangible consequences of these “good ends” (p. 28).  He further develops this concept of good teaching in his five recommendations to help music education to be considered as a true profession: providing a service that has consequential impact on students’ lives, having observable evidence of the impact, seeing that impact on individual students and society, caring for students outside of the school music program, and improving teaching through reflection.  In a later publication, Regelski (2012a) measures the ethical virtue of a school music program by how the program enhances the musical functioning of its individual students and how it impacts the world of music outside the program.  

Other authors from the course literature detailed philosophical goals for music education.  Jorgensen (2002) lays out five aims for music education: developing musical communities, transforming musical traditions, enriching culture, benefitting society, and ennobling people.  She further advocates for incorporating societal institutions that are engaged in music education such as family, music professionals, religion, politics, or commerce (Jorgensen, 2003).  The Tanglewood Symposium (Choate, Folwer, Brown, & Wersen, 1967) called for students exploring new areas that allow them to discover new ideas and actions.  Further, the Symposium asked students to be able to compare, contrast, and evaluate these experiences by developing practical skills and abilities like identifying aesthetic elements and understanding musical works (Choate et al., 1967).  Bowman (2009) believes people can gauge the effectiveness of music education by the depth, diversity, frequency, and richness of their musical engagements, especially outside of our programs.

How do the practices of our professional learning community compare to the suggestions made by the class literature?  Regelski’s (2012b) concept of good teaching aligns with the four essential questions of a professional learning community (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2010) and the steps outlined by Heflebower et al. (2014) to implement standards-based practices.   Our professional learning community has prioritized standards—identifying what we want students to know and be able to do (DuFour et al., 2010; Hefelobwer et al., 2014) and identifying our “good ends” and “right reasons” for our students (Regelski, 2012b, p. 28).  We have also developed proficiency scales for students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills (DuFour et al., 2010; Hefelobwer et al., 2014) which provides the “right results” from our teaching (Regelski, 2012b, p. 28).  As our professional community reflects on our implementation of these practices, we are engaging in Regelski’s (2012b) concept of reflective praxis, working to improve our teaching.

The practices used by our professional learning community in determining curriculum and delivering instruction were grounded in developing music literacy.  Standards were prioritized in categories like tonal, rhythmic, expressive, and ensemble literacies (Ankeny Community School District, 2013).  Teachers used strategies like conversational solfege (Feierabend, 2005) and Takadimi (Hoffman, 2009) to teach pitch and rhythm literacy, respectively.  These strategies, in the short term, paid off by developing students ability to decode rhythms and determine pitches independently.  Long-term benefits are beginning to be recognized as students with several years’ experience in this curriculum participated in post-secondary ensembles and shared successes decoding music when peers could not apply similar strategies.  Students were also able to demonstrate the ability to identify tonal centers using key signatures, showing an understanding of major and minor tonalities.  Because students received the equivalent of private instruction in their individual or small group lessons with a teacher who played their instrument, a majority of our students were able to play with characteristic tone.

The Ankeny program fell short in the measures expressed by other authors and the depth to which we are accomplishing Regelski’s (2012b) concept of good teaching or ethical virtue (2012a).  Looking at Jorgensen’s (2002) aims of music education, we are developing a small musical community as our students only represent fourteen percent of the student population in our high school (Ankeny Community School District, 2018).  This narrow scope of students and repertoire does not enable us to use our programs to truly enrich culture, benefit society, or ennoble people (Jorgensen, 2002).  Nor do we move much outside of our program to incorporate other societal institutions invested in music education (Jorgensen, 2003).  While our students have developed practical skills in music literacy, these skills have not broadened their experiences to new ideas and actions (Choate et al., 1967).  I did not find our students’ engagement in music outside of our program to have much richness or depth (Bowman 2009).  Anecdotally, students’ participation after the high school program in Ankeny has predominantly been in collegiate marching bands, then collegiate ensembles. The program has not yet existed long enough to determine any long-term involvement in music after high school.

After taking this course, I believe Ankeny needs to broaden the scope of their curriculum.  The district offers general music through fifth grade, band beginning in fifth grade, and choir beginning in sixth grade. While the district is not very diverse (Ankeny Community School District, 2018), neither are the students served in band and choir, nor is the music studied in either ensemble.  Koza (2006) would not support our programs because she would not find them “culturally relevant, equitable, joyful, and sustainable” (p. 36).  Our current practices provided students with specific skills, knowledge, and dispositions about music that could potentially limit their future choices. 

The first broadening would be offering students within the Ankeny programs more choice.  Right now, Mantie and Tucker (2012) may classify their large ensemble music making as an unjust practice because their students’ individual right to choose is not always respected.  The vast majority of the literature studied in the Ankeny program is Western European-based and does not promote cultural pluralism.  I do not believe Regelski (2002) would classify their professional learning community as critical professionals that have identified forces preventing them from empowering students musically.  He would instead view their current contribution to student’s musical lives as limited (2006).  Instead of just developing music literacy, the Ankeny teachers should be developing musical self-efficacy, as Myers (2008) advocates.  They need to create more independent and authentic opportunities for students within but away from the large ensemble paradigm.  These could take the form of individuals selecting solo repertoire, students forming and rehearsing in self-selected chamber ensembles, or students having a voice in the development of concert sets and expressive components of large ensemble literature.

The second broadening would be offering students outside of Ankeny’s programs more opportunities to study music that is relevant and interesting to them.  During the 2017-2018 school year, the high school instrumental music program served 180 of the roughly 1,250 enrolled students (Ankeny Community School District, 2018).  Even including the students enrolled in choir, this is less than Elpus and Abril’s (2011) finding that twenty-one percent of high school seniors participated in school music ensembles in 2004.  I do not, however, believe that Ankeny should be providing more ensemble opportunities.  Instead, I would like to see courses offered in guitar, piano, bass, drums, music production, and music technology.  Through these offerings, I believe Ankeny can reach more of their student population with music that is relevant and interesting to them.

In order to accomplish both the broadening of choice within the current paradigm and broadening the opportunities available to all students, the Ankeny teachers as well as any future music educators coming to the program would need further training.  Abrahams (2014) expresses a new definition of musical literacy based off the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (2012) conceptual framework: students are able to engage in creating artistic forms indicated by the ability to create, produce, present, perform, connect, and respond in ways that make meaning.  Koza (2006) desires closer cultural connections between the worlds of music inside and outside of the classroom.  Regelski (2006) calls for a complete rethinking of what music “is” and is “good for” in life and society (p. 10), focusing on a more praxial approach, similar to Elliott’s (1995) four-dimensional construct of music viewed from multiple perspectives.  Specific to the Ankeny program, current teachers and future colleagues need training in the artistic processes outside of performance (National Coalition for Core Arts Standards, 2012).  

How can we help students be both “musicer” and “listener,” able to “music” and “listen” in a variety of contexts from multiple perspectives (Elliott, 1995)?  By broadening the scope of literature studied within our current and hopefully expanded courses, how can we make better connections between the music in our class and the music of the outside world (Koza, 2006; Regelski, 2006)?  How can we engage students in more artistic processes (Abrahams, 2014; Elliott, 1995)?  The future of music education lies in our ability to reach more students with music that is relevant and interesting to them.

References

Abrahams, F. (2014). Starbucks doesn’t sell hot cross buns: Embracing new priorities for pre-service music teacher preparation programs. In M. Kaschub & J. Smith (Eds.), Promising practices in 21st century music teacher education (pp. 41-60). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Ankeny Community School District. (2013). Music curriculum review summary. Retrieved from https://www.ankenyschools.org/Page/18000

Ankeny Community School District. (2018). Ankeny centennial high school. Retrieved from https://www.ankenyschools.org/domain/2559

Bowman, W. D. (2009). Professional knowledge: Imagining the obvious as if it weren’t. Action, Criticism, & Theory for Music Education, 8(1), 1-12. Retrieved from http://act.maydaygroup.org/articles/Bowman8_1.pdf

Choate, R. A., Fowler, C. B., Brown, C. E., & Wersen, L. G. (1967). The Tanglewood symposium: Music in American society. Music Educators Journal, 54(3), 49-80.  Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/3391187

DuFour, R., DuFour, R., Eaker, R., & Many, T. (2010). Learning by doing: A handbook for professional learning communities at work. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Elliott, D.  J. (1995). Toward a new philosophy. In D. J. Elliott, Music matters: A new philosophy for music education (pp. 18-46). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Elpus, K. & Abril, C. R. (2011). High school music ensemble students: A demographic profile. Journal of Research in Music Education, 59(2), 128-145. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/23019481

Feierabend, J. M. (2005). Conversational solfege, level 3 - Teacher's manual. Chicago, IL: Gia Publications.

Heflebower, T., Hoegh, J.K., Warrick, P., Hoback, M., McInteer, M., & Clemens, B. (2014). A school leader’s guide to standards-based grading. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research.

Hoffman, R. (2009). The rhythm book(2nd ed.). Nashville, TN: Takadimi.net.

Jorgensen, E. R. (2002). The aims of music education: A preliminary excursion. The Journal of Aesthetic Education, 36(1), 31-49. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/3333624

Jorgensen, E. R. (2003). Creating alternatives. In E. R. Jorgensen, Transforming music education (pp. 118-146). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Koza, J. E. (2006). "Save the music"? Toward culturally relevant, joyful, and sustainable school music. Philosophy of Music Education Review, 14(1), 23-38. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/40316826

Mantie, R., & Tucker, L. (2012). Pluralism, the right, and the good in choirs, orchestras, and bands. International Journal of Music Education, 30(3), 260-271. https://doi.org/10.1177/0255761411433724

Myers, D. E. (2008). Freeing music education from schooling: Toward a lifespan perspective on music learning and teaching. International Journal of Community Music, 1(1), 49-61. https://doi.org/10.1386/ijcm.1.1.49/1

National Coalition for Core Arts Standards. (2007). National core arts standards: A conceptual framework for arts learning. Retrieved from http://www.nationalartsstandards.org/sites/default/files/Conceptual%20Framework%2007-21-16.pdf

Regelski, T. A. (2002). On “methodolatry” and music teaching as critical and reflective praxis. Philosophy of Music Education Review, 10(2), 102-123. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/40327184

Regelski, T. A. (2006). Reconnecting music education with society. Action, Criticism, & Theory for Music Education, 5(2), 2-20. Retrieved from http://act.maydaygroup.org/articles/Regelski5_2.pdf

Regelski, T. A. (2012a). Ethical dimensions of school-based education. In W. Bowman & A.L. Frega (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of philosophy in music education. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195394733.013.0016

Regelski, T. A. (2012b). Musicianism and the ethics of school music. Action, Criticism, & Theory for Music Education, 11(1), 7-42. Retrieved from http://act.maydaygroup.org/articles/Regelski11_1.pdf


As I wrap up in the paper, I believe music education needs to broaden the how we do our current paradigms (band/orchestra/choir/general music) to incorporate music that is more relevant to our students and communities. This is not to say that I am advocating for throwing out the established repertoire from our paradigms. Instead, how can we incorporate music our students enjoy into our learning? I put forth our ensemble project as one such answer. How can we incorporate more student agency in our programs? Choosing literature, practice and rehearsal strategies, expressive literacy, or my flexible ensembles could be good methods of providing students more voice in the process.

I believe music education also need to broaden what we offer in terms of music education in our schools? Our course discussed “modern music” as one such offering: guitar, piano, bass, drum set. I could see similar courses in music technology or production. If we look at the strands identified in the National Core Arts Standards, we see opportunities like composition, theory, music technology, guitar, keyboard, and harmonizing instruments.

Broadening these course offerings beyond our current paradigms will also require rethinking how we currently do music education. My experience was K-7 General Music, 5-12 Band, and 6-12 Choir. I have taught in relatively similar scenarios which have also included 4-12 Orchestra, Music Theory, AP Music Theory, and Music History/Appreciation. However, my Bachelors and Masters degree programs are specific to band. My Iowa teaching license certified me for K-12 Music with no specification for instrumental or vocal. My Virginia teaching license certifies me for Music: Instrumental PreK-12 with no specification for band or orchestra. I had little to no training in either of my degree programs or any of my professional development outside of the band world. I did have to take a string methods course at Iowa State, and I elected to take a MECA course on sound reinforcement and recording techniques at VanderCook. The point I’m getting at is our preservice music teacher preparation programs need to better prepare future educators to think about how we do music education and what we offer. As we broaden the scope of both, they need training in how to provide broader experiences to their students.

I do not yet have a big picture in mind for what I think an effective K-12 music education would look like. However, I do know I want to reach all students in our schools and provide them with the skills to continue to enjoy music (listening or making) well after their time in school. How do we increase this musical self-efficacy—the awareness that one is able to make satisfying music and share it with others—in our students and community?

Comment

Burton Hable

Burton Hable is an instrumental music educator from Central Iowa. In 2013 he helped open Centennial High School in Ankeny, the first time in forty years that a school district in Iowa expanded to two high schools. He served there through 2018 as Assistant Director of Bands: conducting the 10th Grade Symphonic Band, directing the varsity Jazz Collective, co-directing the Centennial Marching and Pep Bands, teaching music theory, and providing individual and small group lessons to brass students in grades 6-12 at Prairie Ridge Middle School, Northview Middle School, and Centennial High School. During his tenure in Ankeny, enrollment in band grew from 450 to nearly 700, the jazz program expanded from four to seven ensembles, and ensembles under his direction were invited to perform at Iowa State University, Harper College, and the Veterans Day Parade in New York City.