Academic journal article Contributions to Music Education

Pre-Service Music Teachers Perceptions of Teaching and Teacher Training

Academic journal article Contributions to Music Education

Pre-Service Music Teachers Perceptions of Teaching and Teacher Training

Article excerpt

Introduction

Students often enroll in teacher education programs with strong ideas of teaching. Many students decide to pursue teaching as a career in high school after having identified with a particular music teacher and their professional role. As the result of spending thousands of hours observing teachers during their pre-college years, students may have already formed expectations of what a music teacher should know and be able to do before beginning a teacher education program of study (Woodford, 2002). These early experiences leave indelible impressions on students that persist throughout their teacher training and early years of teaching. It is important for teacher education programs to examine pre-service teachers' perceptions of teaching in order to gain better insight as to how to best align these perceptions with knowledge and skills that students will need to learn to be successful in school classrooms (Fajet, Bello, Leftwich, Mesler, & Shaver, 2005).

There tends to be some debate as to what pre-service music teachers should learn as they matriculate through their degree programs and whether their opinions regarding what knowledge and skills are necessary to be an effective teacher has value. While accrediting organizations such as the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) describe very clearly those competencies and attributes expected of an effective teacher, some researchers have been concerned with how teacher educators and pre-service teachers perceive the importance of these competencies. Research conducted by Forsythe, Kinney, and Braun (2007) revealed that a majority of the NASM competencies were perceived to be important by both teacher educators and pre-service teachers but not sufficient. In determining competencies that pre-service teachers will need in order to be effective during their first few years of teaching, Teachout (1997) suggests that it is important to ask experienced and pre-service music teachers. While pre-service teachers may be lacking in experience, a comparison of the two groups might provide a more clear picture of what pre-service teachers need as part of their preparation and what might be an appropriate starting point.

As students transition from the college classroom to in-service teaching, they often undergo what some researchers refer to as praxis shock, where there is a collapse in the idealistic beliefs formed during pre-service training when these ideals meet the realities of teaching (Ballantyne, 2006a, 2006b). Weinstein (1988) suggests that teachers have difficulty during their early years because they are under trained at the pre-service level. The effects of inadequate preparation become readily apparent to those teachers just entering the profession. They often find themselves dissatisfied with their pre-service training and have difficulty planning and teaching effective lessons, adapting their teaching to better address student needs, diagnosing problems, developing curricula, and managing students (Darling- Hammond, 2000). Many express feelings of isolation, loneliness and fear and describe their early years of teaching as a time to sink or swim (Ballantyne, 2007a; Conway 2001; Krueger 2000, 2001). While these factors and the praxis shock they precipitate are important, it would appear that attention should also be given to the way prospective teachers think about the work of teaching in general and the manner in which they are prepared to do that work.

Perhaps a more effective means of determining how students perceive teaching as a profession, and how successful music teacher education programs are in addressing these perceptions, is to ask those who are currently matriculating or have recently matriculated through a pre-service teacher education program, given that the quality of teaching in schools has been shown to be directly linked to pre-service preparation. (Ballantyne, 2006a, 2006b). Some researchers (Propst, 2003) believe that it is important to seek feedback from students regarding the effectiveness of their teacher training because there is often a disconnect between what teacher educators think that their students should learn in their pre-service programs and what they actually use once they become practicing music teachers. …

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