Music in Early Childhood Education: Teachers' Levels of Confidence and Happiness

Article excerpt

Introduction

Music has been widely acknowledged as one of the essential components in early childhood education. Researchers have referred to several positive impacts of music on young children's development, including the enhancement of emotional well-being (Boston, 2000; Neelly, 2001), neurological development (Balaban, Anderson, & Wisniewski, 1998; Campbell, 1997; Pantev, Oostenveld, Engelien, Ross, Roberts, & Hoek, 1998), and enjoyment of learning (Moravcik, 2000; Simons, 1978). Snyder (1997) also highlighted that education without music is incomplete and indefensible. Indeed, music has been consistently included in many countries' preschool curriculum as a fundamental art form for young children. These countries include Hong Kong (Education and Manpower Bureau HKSAR, 2006), Australia (Department of Education Training and Employment, 2001), United Kingdom (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority QCA, 2000) and Singapore (Ministry of Education, 2005). Moreover, in most early childhood teacher training programs, music has also been commonly embraced as part of the core subjects with other creative arts forms (Jacobs, 2001; Lobman, Ryan, McLaughlin, & Ackerman, 2004). Hence, early childhood teachers are generally expected to integrate music into their programs to enhance children's holistic development.

The majority of early childhood teachers, however, are not educated and/or trained as specialist music teachers but rather as 'generalist' teachers whose teaching responsibilities cover all areas in their local curriculum. Some researchers therefore raised their concerns about these non-music specialist teachers' possible lack of confidence in conducting musical activities with children. Mills (1989; 1995/6) and Russell-Bowie (1993), for example, indicated that approximately 60 to 70 per cent of primary teacher education students entered their primary teacher training having minimal, if any, formal music education experiences and consequently having lower levels of confidence to conduct musical activities. Also, Hennessy's qualitative study (2000) indicated that pre-service primary teachers declared music as the subject in which they had the least confidence. Similarly, Holden and Button (2006) asked a sample of 141 British in-service teachers to indicate their levels of confidence to teach 10 national curriculum subjects, including music. Both quantitative and qualitative results showed that music was given the lowest ranking of confidence by generalist teachers. Within early childhood education, researchers also consistently raised their concerns of teachers' insufficient confidence in conducting musical activities for young children (Dees, 2004; Richards, 1999).

Researchers also found that generalist teachers' insufficient levels of confidence may lead to negative music educational outcomes. Bresler (1993), for example, found that generalist classroom teachers often do not have sufficient confidence to use music regularly. Giles and Frego (2004) have shown that they are unable to apply material learned in their music methods course to the elementary classroom. Even though some researchers (Glover & Ward, 1993; Tillman, 1988) tried to argue that teachers' own musical skills as well as their general teaching abilities could basically be sufficient to enable children to learn music, the majority of research in the field still tended to suggest that teachers' confidence levels could be one of the important factors for achieving high quality music educational outcomes (Kim, 2001; Lawson, Plummeridge, & Swanwick, 1994; Mills, 1989, 1995/6; Rainbow, 1996; Russell-Bowie, 1993, 2004; Sanders & Browne, 1998).

Besides the confidence levels, teachers' levels of happiness in conducting musical activities could also be another influential factor of their educational outcomes. Happiness was referred to as a predominance of positive over negative affect, and a satisfaction with life as a whole (Argyle, Martin, & Crossland, 1989; Diener, 1984, 2000). …