Preservice Music Teachers' Reactions to K-12 Field Experiences: A Qualitative Analysis of Discussion Board Posts

By Barry, Nancy H.; Caravan, Lisa R. | Contributions to Music Education, January 1, 2020 | Go to article overview

Preservice Music Teachers' Reactions to K-12 Field Experiences: A Qualitative Analysis of Discussion Board Posts


Barry, Nancy H., Caravan, Lisa R., Contributions to Music Education


Introduction

Classroom observation and teaching experiences are essential components of undergraduate music teacher education programs. Traditional music education programs culminate with a comprehensive student teaching, internship, or clinical residency lasting from several weeks to an entire academic year, but short-term field experiences prior to internship are also typical requirements in most music education programs (Dennis, 2016; NASM, 2016; Powell, 2020).

The National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) expects baccalaureate degree programs in music education to provide "opportunities for various types of observation and teaching" (2016, p. 116). NASM lists laboratory and field experiences in teaching among the "essential competencies and experiences for programs whose published purpose is to prepare teachers" (p. 118). NASM also recommends:

Institutions should encourage observation and teaching experiences prior to formal admission to the teacher education program; ideally such opportunities should be provided in actual school situations. These activities, as well as continuing laboratory experiences, must be supervised by qualified music personnel from the institution and the cooperating schools. The choice of sites must enable students to develop competencies consistent with standards outlined above, and must be approved by qualified music personnel from the institution. (p. 120)

Field experiences in K-12 schools are key components of university music teacher education programs and are required by accreditation agencies such as NASM. However, much remains to be learned about how best to support optimum preservice teacher learning through field experiences. The following section summarizes the related literature on this topic.

Literature Review

Short-term observation and teaching experiences can provide important opportunities for music education students' learning and professional development (Berg & Miksza, 2010; Campbell & Thompson, 2007; Fredrickson & Pembrook, 1999; Haston & Russell, 2012; Miksza & Berg, 2013b; Powell, 2014, 2020; Schmidt, 2010). However, simply placing university students in a music classroom does not guarantee that they will come away from the field experience with an enhanced general understanding of best practice or increased confidence in their own teaching abilities. Factors such as school setting (elementary or secondary, urban or rural, large or small program), infrastructure and university support (effective scheduling, supporting coursework, professor supervision), and cooperating teacher attitudes and professional practices are associated with student teachers' professional growth during field experiences (Emmanuel, 2005; Fredrickson & Pembrook, 1999; Yourn, 2000).

Reflective Thinking

Reflective practice has been an important topic in teacher education research for many decades, stemming from Dewey's (1933) work and continuing with many other scholars such as Schön (1983, 1987) and Van Manen (2000). Music teacher educators also acknowledge the importance of promoting reflection throughout the professional development process (e.g., Baumgartner, 2011; Conkling, 2003; Kruse, 2015; West, 2012). "Guided reflections that prompt students to recall prior knowledge may help to promote transfer to student teachers' classroom instruction" (Baumgartner, 2011, p. 2).

According to Lee (2005), "the content of reflective thinking addresses preservice teachers' main concerns, and the depth of reflective thinking evaluates how they develop the thinking process" (p. 701). Lee identified criteria for assessing reflective thinking at three levels:

Recall level (R1): describes what they experienced, interprets the situation based on recalling their experiences without looking for alternative explanations, and attempts to imitate ways that they have observed or were taught.

Rationalization level (R2): looks for relationships between pieces of their experiences, interprets the situation with rationale, searches for "why it was," and generalizes their experiences or comes up with guiding principles. …

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