Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

An Engaged Approach to Redesigning a Bachelor of Music Education

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

An Engaged Approach to Redesigning a Bachelor of Music Education

Article excerpt

Introduction

Education degrees are constantly evolving in order to remain relevant and valuable to political priorities and new educational paradigms. This evolution is vital to ensure university qualifications provide the skills and essential attributes to a practicing teacher in today's schools. It is equally vital to guarantee that graduating students enter the teaching professional with the necessary standards of professional knowledge, practice and commitment (NSW Institute of Teachers) to embark on their teaching careers. To accommodate for these shifting priorities and new educational foci, degree structures and content undergo periodical review and redesign. These are accepted motivators for change (Dubrin & Dalglish, 2003), but possibly a stronger motivator to change come when a degree is simply dying.

Dying may seem a strong word to describe what may just be the natural decline of a university award, after all, just as degrees are renewed through review and redesign, others are discontinued due to lack of interest or need (Yoshida, 2002). Yet this degree, a Bachelor degree in Music Education in Canberra, Australia, serves a great need within the educational community. Local music educators consistently bemoaned the lack of qualified music teachers available for the large number of teaching positions in the public, independent and private school systems in the region. So if it wasn't a lack of employment opportunities, what was it that was failing to attract students wishing to become music teachers and to study in Canberra?

Put simply ... neglect. The degree had no champion and therefore it received no marketing support, the content did not reflect the needs of a 21st century teacher, and relatively minor administrative problems, such as timetable clashes, were becoming so unmanageable that students were leaving the course in their first year. Consequently there were not enough graduating students to make the degree financially viable. The education community needed the teachers but the degree was not meeting the needs of community.

This paper will outline the context, research project and resultant findings from a committee review process aimed at revitalising the degree structure and attract more students to the music education profession. Yet this is only half of the story to the resurrection of this degree. The open and engaged approach used during the act of reviewing this degree has had a broad, deep and completely unexpected impact on the professional relationships of all involved. The associations between practicing music educators and their training institutions in the region have improved significantly. Furthermore through these relationships the capacity to explore an exciting model of professional and educational engagement has been realised.

Educational and professional context

The location for this study is Canberra, Australia. Canberra is part of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), the smallest territory in Australia and one that was specifically built to house the Australian Federal government in 1910. While it is the national capital of Australia it is a city of just over 350,000 residents.

There are three tertiary institutions in the city, the University of Canberra (UC), Australian National University (ANU) and Australian Catholic University (SIGNADO). The University of Canberra grew out of the Canberra College of Advanced Education in 1990 and was originally a vocational education institution. It caters mainly for undergraduate students but is moving to increase its postgraduate student intake. The Australian National University was established in 1946 and is ranked at number one in the 2010 Australian University Research Rankings. It has a significant focus on postgraduate study and research. The Australian Catholic University has a smaller presence in Canberra with a Faculty of Education. In a city with a population of only 350,000 supported by three independent universities, the market for students is fierce and inter-university relations ebb and flow. …

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