>Preservice Elementary Classroom Teachers' Attitudes toward Music in the School Curriculum and Teaching Music

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to determine the attitudes of preservice elementary education classroom teachers toward teaching music and the importance of music in the school curriculum as they prepare to enter the field in an era of high stakes testing, state standards, and accountability. More specifically, responses to twenty-nine statements were used to determine attitudes toward the following three constructs: (a) academic and social benefits of music education, (b) inclusion of music in the curriculum, and (c) comfort in teaching and leading music in the classroom. The survey instrument was a modified version of that used by Lewis (1991); therefore the current study was a modified replication. Results were positive for all the constructs. Post hoc analyses indicated a strong relationship between prior musical experiences and the strength of positive responses.

Introduction

Research has indicated that elementary general classroom teachers have traditionally played a role in the musical education of children and have had musical training as a part of their professional preparation since the early 19th century (Birge, 1988; Gray, 2000). Elementary classroom teachers and school administrators have had extensive preparation in many areas for certification; however, their required study of music is often very limited (Stein, 2002). Their attitudes toward music in the curriculum become critical to decisions regarding the music education of elementary school students. Weller (1991) documented the subsidiary position of non-core subjects, such as music, in which informants associated non-core subjects with an attitude of devaluation. This devaluation had a considerable impact on curriculum and instruction in a junior high school setting. Similarly, elementary classroom teachers' attitudes toward the music program may be an indicator of the value they place upon the importance of music education and the manner in which they support music education (Stein, 2002).

The responsibility for the music education of elementary school children is assigned by administrators to either (a) the music specialists or (b) classroom teachers (Byo, 1999). The support for music and other arts in the schools is a function of community values and the availability of resources. Resources have been in increasingly short supply for music programs beginning in the 1980s (Mark, 1986). A further downward trend in music funding has been documented (Bresler, 1993; Leonhard, 1991). This trend appears to be holding in that budget cuts and shifting priorities are either being enacted or pending in school systems nationwide to adjust to new accountability requirements (American Association of School Administrators, 2009; American Music Conference, 2003; Van Harken, 2003).

Preservice and inservice elementary teachers, while pressured to meet many curricular requirements such as state content standards (Cooley, 2002; Frykholm, 1996), are potentially in a position to implement music activities in their classrooms. Research indicates that there is a correlation between the attitudes of preservice elementary teachers regarding music and their inclination to teach music (Gelineau, 1960; Kretchmer, 2002; Lewis, 1991, Siebenaler, 2006). Likewise, level of comfort in leading music activities affects inservice teachers' attitudes toward teaching music (Colwell, 2008).

Classroom teachers have the most contact time with elementary students and may be the sole provider of music instruction or complement the instruction of a music specialist (Gold, 1973; Gray, 2000). Thus, their attitude toward music in the curriculum and teaching behavior are pivotal in supporting elementary students' music education (Music Educators National Conference, 1986). It seems apparent that the attitudes of preservice elementary classroom teachers are an important component of supporting music education in the elementary students' school experience. …

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