Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

Mission Impossible or Possible Mission? Changing Confidence and Attitudes of Primary Preservice Music Education Students Using Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

Mission Impossible or Possible Mission? Changing Confidence and Attitudes of Primary Preservice Music Education Students Using Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory

Article excerpt

Introduction

Since the days of the Greek philosophers, music education has been considered an important part of a child's development (Gillespie, 1992; Kelstrom, 1998; Miller & Coen, 1991; Robitaille & O'Neal, 1981). Often music education has been left up to the school to provide for children, and in many cases, for policy or financial reasons, the generalist primary teacher is expected to teach music along with many other subjects. However, for over 45 years many studies into primary music education in Australia have found that generalist teachers are not confident or competent to teach primary school music (ASME/ACE, 1973; Bartle, 1968; Covell, 1970; DEST, 2005; Hobcroft, 1980; NSW Ministry of Education, 1974; Senate Environment, Recreation, Communications and the Arts Reference Committee (SERCARC), 1995).

Despite each of these reports' recommendations to increase the face-to-face hours in teacher education institutions, the number of hours in music education for preservice primary generalist teachers has decreased significantly (SERCARC, 1995). Added to this, many teacher education Arts educators are faced with ensuring their students can teach four or five art forms (music, dance, drama, visual arts and media arts) at the end of one or two units in creative arts.

This paper presents one approach to addressing this situation, based on Kolb's Experiential Learning Model (Kolb, 1984). A description of the approach is given, then results from a student survey and the students' online journals are used to evaluate the unit in terms of the students' developing confidence and competence in music education. Investigations will indicate whether or not the students developed their confidence in teaching music using this approach, and if so, what specific learning experiences helped affect their sense of competence in teaching music.

Background to the study

Many Australian state primary schools rely on a generalist teacher to teach music as well as many other subjects, with a strong emphasis on literacy and numeracy and basic skills testing (Russell-Bowie, 2002). However research indicates that most generalist primary school teachers do not have the confidence or competence to teach music and often do not see it as important or as a priority in their classrooms (Ballantyne, 2006; DEST, 2005; Duck, 1990; Ewing, 2010; Meiners, Schiller & Orchard; 2004; Sanders & Browne, 1998; SERCARC, 1995).

When completed and implemented, the new Australian Curriculum for the Arts will further complicate this situation as all primary school children will be expected to achieve set standards for each stage that will indicate their quality of learning in each of the five art forms (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), 2012). This will have implications for generalist primary teachers and teacher education institutions to ensure preservice and inservice teachers are provided with skills and knowledge to teach in each art form.

Further research indicates that, as well as inservice teachers not being confident to teach music, preservice teachers enter their initial teacher education course with little or no background in music education (Ballantyne, 2006; Conway, 2002; Jacobs, 2008; Jeanneret, 1997; Kim, 2001; Mills, 1989; Temmerman, 1997). This lack of a strong background in music relates significantly to preservice teachers' confidence in teaching music as students' prior experience in the subject has been found to have a significant influence on their confidence levels in teaching the subject (Bruce, 2001; Russell-Bowie, Roche & Marsh, 1995).

Added to this challenge to music educators, the amount of face-to-face hours in music education has rapidly decreased in primary teacher education courses over the past years (SERCARC, 1995; Jacobs, 2008). Prior to the mid-1990s music and visual arts were generally taught as separate subjects and as such had one or two units each in a teacher education course. …

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