Academic journal article Contributions to Music Education

A Special Needs Field Experience for Preservice Instrumental Music Educators

Academic journal article Contributions to Music Education

A Special Needs Field Experience for Preservice Instrumental Music Educators

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to examine the process of preservice music teachers providing assistance to a student with special needs. This process was examined from the perspective of two music education majors, a student with special needs, a music teacher, a parent, and the researcher. Research questions examined (a) the preservice music teachers' perceptions of assisting a student with special needs as part of their fieldwork experience in an instrumental music methods class, (b) the music teacher educator's perceptions of coordinating music majors to teach students with special needs, and (c) the challenges faced by a student and a family of a child with special needs in a junior high band class.

According to the National Center for Disease Control, the number of students needing assistance from public school programs for children with disabilities has increased in recent years. This is due to many factors including conditions such as childhood illnesses, injuries, and low birth weight, along with the growing ability of service providers to identify children with special needs (Pamuk et al., 1998, p. 56). This growing number of students, coupled with changes in legislation since 1975 (PL-94-142, 1975; PL 99-457, 1986; PL 101-336, 1990; & PL 101-476, 1997), has had a large impact on the education of students with special needs (Damer, 2001). As a result, music teachers are seeing a growing number of students (Birkenshaw-Fleming, 1993). Colwell and Thompson (2000) states: "This requires that music educators be prepared to accept and work with students with disabilities regardless of type or severity" (p. 206).

Many preservice music teachers have had limited contact teaching students with disabilities. Because of this limited contact, some preservice music educators have been unable to resolve their preconceived attitudes about children with special needs (Kaiser & Johnson, 2000; Wilson & McCrary, 1996). In addition, some studies have shown that inservice music teachers are not prepared to work with students with disabilities (Culton, 1999; Frisque et. al, 1994; Gfeller, Darrow & Hedden; Gilbert & Asmus, 1981). Researchers have found that there is a lack of special needs coursework in undergraduate music education, with most of this coursework appearing outside the department of music (Heller, 1994; Colwell & Thompson, 2000). In examining the preservice preparation of music teachers, there are a few studies addressing the implications of special needs fieldwork in music education (Kaiser & Johnson, 2000; VanWeelden & Whipple, 2005).

Conceptual Framework-Need for this Study

Including students with special needs as part of fieldwork and observations is essential in helping music methods teachers prepare preservice music teachers for mainstreaming and inclusion (Kaiser & Johnson, 2000; VanWeelden & Whipple, 2005). This type of fieldwork allows preservice music teachers to break down any preconceived anxiety and begin to understand the challenges and rewards of working with students with exceptionalities. In addition, this research also indicates that fieldwork in a special education classroom helps music methods teachers stay current with changing trends and feel more comfortable including mainstreaming and inclusion as a topic in their music methods classes (VanWeelden & Whipple, 2005). The purpose of this study was to examine the process of preservice music teachers providing assistance to a student with special needs in an instrumental music classroom. This process was examined from the perspective of: (a) two instrumental music majors; (b) a student with special needs; (c) a band director of a child with special needs; (d) a parent of a student with special needs; and (e) a researcher who was the music methods teacher, private lesson teacher, and coordinator of this fieldwork experience for the preservice teachers. The following research questions were investigated. …

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