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.
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?