Experiences and Understandings: Student Teachers' Beliefs about Multicultural Practice in Music Education

Article excerpt


In Australia in 2005, the National Review of School Music Education (NRSME) reported that music was poorly resourced and often neglected. The NRSME found that "there is a need for immediate priority on improving and sustaining the quality and status of music education" (DEST, 2005, p. v). Four years later the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) announced that music will be included as one of the arts in the second phase of the National Curriculum (ACARA, 2009). Curriculum review and reform is an ongoing global phenomenon from which Australia is not exempt. Tertiary teacher educators should respond to the societal contexts and expectations in which future teachers will find themselves situated. Baldwin, Buchanan and Rudisill (2007) point out that teacher educators are "charged with the complex task of preparing a teaching force with the skills for teaching to high standards while meeting the needs of all the learners in the classroom" (p. 325). Part of this complex task must consider the cultural diversity that currently exists in Australian classrooms. As culture is expressed through music, future teachers should have engaged, explored and experienced a variety of musics in their pre-service education. Jeanneret and Forrest (2009) confirm that there has long been debate about how and what musical understandings and skills should be present in teacher education and that there continues to be too little time and resources allocated to music education. They acknowledge that "there is little in the way of concrete recommendations" for hoped for improvement (p. 208).

This article focuses on one Australian state, Victoria, and the inclusion of music in both curriculum and in teacher education. In 2004 the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) was introduced. VELS is a curriculum framework for schools (years Preparatory to 10) that is organized under three learning Strands (Physical, Personal and Social Learning; Discipline-based Learning; and Interdisciplinary Learning) (VCAA, 2009). Each Strand is divided into Domains and the Arts are considered under the Domain of Discipline-based Learning. In VELS there are five mandatory levels and one additional optional level for extension. The Levels each cover one to two years of schooling. Levels 1, 2 and 3 comprise Preparatory, Years 1 to 2, and Years 3 to 4 respectively. Levels 4 and 5 encompass the middle school years, Years 5 to 6 and Years 7 to 8. Level 6 (Years 9-10) offers a curriculum framework that may be employed although at this level of schooling, it is common that program content is determined by the final years' curricula in which students specialize. It is only to be expected that school music educators would look to the requirements of the final year 12 external examinations to determine prerequisite knowledge and skills to be acquired in the elective years (years 9 to 12). Within Discipline-based Learning, the Arts curriculum framework offers, according to Southcott and Hartwig (2005), scant guidance for music teaching, with only "generic language with little real information to guide the teacher" (p. 147). It is acknowledged that VELS only offers a framework not a syllabus but, particularly in primary teacher education where generally there is little time allocated to music education in courses, more details would be helpful. With little direction, it is challenging for both teachers and tertiary teacher educators to develop effective inclusive classroom curricula. Further the issue of multiculturalism was not initially discussed in any detail in VELS. Australia has used the term 'multiculturalism' as part of official federal government policy since 1973 (Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Australian Government, 2005) and continues to do so (Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship, 2008). More recently in 2009 the Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority (VCAA) (2009) added that, "multiculturalism is an integral part of VELS and covers a range of knowledge, skills, values and behaviours". …