Academic journal article Victorian Journal of Music Education

Pre-Service Teacher Beliefs: Are Musicians Different?

Academic journal article Victorian Journal of Music Education

Pre-Service Teacher Beliefs: Are Musicians Different?

Article excerpt

Introduction

There has been long term concern about persistent and widespread levels of student dissatisfaction and disengagement in music classes across the globe, as well as numerous calls for schools to adopt a broader and more inclusive pedagogy (DEST, 2005; Green, 2001; Kwami, 2001; Paynter, 1982; Ross, 1995; Swanwick, 1999). For example, based on information supplied by the Western Australian Department of Education and Training School of Instrumental Music, the National Review of School Music Education (DEST, 2005) found that more than 5000 instrumental music students were starting music in the middle years but by the end of Year 12 there were approximately only 300 students enrolled in classroom music. With information from other states, the researchers concluded that this level of attrition was almost certainly matched nation-wide. The question posed was "where have the music students gone?" (DEST, 2005, p. 52). There were a number of factors identified as contributing to the problem, one of which was "the differing views within the music education profession itself as to what constitutes an appropriate music education" (DEST, 2005, p. 107). Beliefs about what must be taught and learnt in music varied widely and that while some programs met the needs of their students well, others lacked relevance for students. It was suggested that a focus on a narrow range of genres and styles is not appropriate for all students and that a diversity of approaches to music education is necessary to engage a wider range of students. In conclusion, the report declared "a coherent approach to music in schools built on foundations of diversity, access, equity, participation and engagement is a necessary reform if music is to thrive" (DEST, 2005, p. 107). It also suggested that with a stronger emphasis on these principles in preservice music teacher education programs, future music teachers might better "meet the needs of contemporary students" (DEST, 2005, p. 114).

This conclusion is echoed elsewhere. Well over a decade ago, Drummond (1997) concluded after a five-year study of the work of music teachers in Northern Ireland that music had "lost its wider relevance beyond the classroom, and was failing to motivate some pupils within the classroom" (p. 28). Similarly, Ross (1998) and others (Kwami, 2001; Morton, 2000; Paynter, 1982; Small, 1999; Swanwick, 1999) suggested it was time for music teachers to reassess some conservative, teacher/content driven practices and programs in order to meet the needs of contemporary students; to better recognise and include students own musical cultures and interests and to ensure that practical and creative music making activities were placed at the heart of inclusive and diverse music education programs. It has also been suggested that music classes needed to accommodate informal learning and aspects of negotiated curriculum alongside formal practices (Burnard et al., 2008; Folkestad, 2005; Green, 2008). In doing so, music teachers would be better placed to facilitate peer-to-peer, differentiated and personalized learning. In summary, many music educators need to re-examine their educational objectives, lesson content, and teaching and assessment strategies, and focus on more student-centered pedagogies.

Preservice Music Teachers

Clearly it can be presumed that preservice education has a significant part to play in the preparation of musicians to become classroom music teachers. It might also be assumed that student-centred pedagogy, as well as the many other suggestions from the research about improving engagement in music in the classroom could be addressed and embraced within this preservice education. Our experience indicates that this is not as easy as it might appear. We have observed that many of these students enter teacher education with well-established beliefs about teaching and learning, a notion well supported in preservice education research. What has emerged for us is that many of these beliefs appear to be very conservative; resistant to change and in stark contrast to the last 40 years of research about what is best practice in the music classroom. …

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