Academic journal article Contributions to Music Education

Second-Stage Music Teachers' Professional Identities

Academic journal article Contributions to Music Education

Second-Stage Music Teachers' Professional Identities

Article excerpt

The purpose of this case study research was to explore the professional identities of second-stage music teachers, or those in years 4-10 of teaching, focusing primarily on how their identities were sustained or neglected. Participants were two second-stage music educators teaching in middle school (grades 6-8) music classrooms and taught primarily instrumental (band and orchestra) ensembles. Data were collected in individual formal interviews and on a password protected blog. This article reports on the four themes developed through cross-case analysis: (a) Professional Development, (b) Parent Involvement, (c) Student Achievement/Enjoyment, and (d) Professional Peers. Participants experienced professional development dichotomously: informal/formal, choice/mandatory, subject-specific/subject-neutral, personalized/general, and perpetual/ bounded. Students and their parents played prominent identity-reinforcing roles for the participants. Student achievement and enjoyment, especially when recognized by others, also reinforced participants' professional identities. Participants' professional peers were almost exclusively other music teachers. Implications for research and K-12 and university practice are included.

Various stakeholders have focused on supporting teachers during preservice preparation and induction (1-3) years, but second-stage teachers-those in years 4-10-have garnered less attention. Researchers have speculated that second-stage teachers account for as much as 20% of the nationwide teaching force (Feistritzer, 2005). However, second-stage teachers leave the profession at high rates (Hancock, 2008; Ingersoll & Smith 2003), causing Huberman (1993) to have termed the 4-10 year career span the "danger zone." During this second stage of teaching, many teachers make choices about remaining in the profession (Hancock, 2008; Huberman, 1993), and retention rates of second-stage teachers have been only slightly better than those in their induction years (Arnold, 1993; Ingersoll & Smith, 2003; Marvel et al., 2007). Attrition risk has persisted despite having "survived" the first few years of teaching (Donaldson, 2005; Hancock, 2008; Leukens, Lyter, Fox, & Chandler, 2004).

Second-stage teachers' occupational identities may play some part in their decisions to remain in the classroom or pursue career development opportunities. Kielhofner (2008) described occupational identity as "a composite sense of who one is and wishes to become as an occupational being..." (p. 106). He suggested that active participation within one's occupation led to occupational competence thus contributing to an overall positive self-perception of occupational identity. Opportunities for professional advancement and continued learning have been of particular influence in second-stage teachers' career decisions, with inadequate opportunities in these areas often leading to frustration and eventual exit from the profession (Berg et al., 2005).

A recent initiative of Harvard University's Project on the Next Generation of Teachers has focused on second-stage teachers with research that examined issues such as professional development, teacher autonomy, teacher leadership, accountability and reform, and job engagement (Berg et al., 2005; Charner-Laird, 2007, 2009; Donaldson, 2005; Donaldson et al., 2008; Fiarman, 2007; Kirkpatrick 2007, 2009; Szczesiul, 2007, 2009). As a relatively unexplored group, many avenues of research with second-stage teachers, and specifically second-stage music teachers, remain open and in need of investigation. Because the profession may be in danger of losing second-stage music teachers and the expertise they possess, uncovering their understandings of their professional identities and how those professional identities are nourished or neglected merited attention. Therefore the purpose of this research was to explore the professional identities of second-stage music teachers.

Related Research

The following sections include a review of research in three areas: second-stage teachers, occupational identity, and professional development. …

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